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In history lesson when I was about 10, we had to draw a diagram of the crop rotation system in the Middle Ages. The teacher explained the system and then we drew or sketched what she described as The Story of The Three Fields
A farmer has 3 fields. Each field is allowed to be fallow every three years which means it is allowed to do nothing. No work. A year of holiday!
No crops to nurture. No one to think about.
The soil could get R and R and so be much more fertile when it came to the end of it’s year off.
It made a strong impression. It seemed a very wise idea. A sacrifice of land. A bold risk though. One field in three is a lot of land to leave unfarmed.
It’s a brave idea also to decide on any given workday, that it’s OK to forget about deadlines and lists and give the brain a break from dutiful work.
Instead it can be that fallow field for a day and take time out.
I don’t usually plan to have a fallow day. But it will be on a day that I had a really good nights sleep. There’s an air of excitement about the day. It’s a gut feeling and often not conscious but before long I realize that I have decided to have a fallow day.
It’s often triggered if there is some fascinating story idea of organization or writer that I have discovered by accident. And the new information is so exciting that I have to shove away all obligations and go down rabbit holes.
It has to be a day when I have nothing scheduled and no crucial deadline.
Once you tell your mind don’t stress yourself, nothing to do today, it will relax. But you are not meditating. You are not moving from your desk. You are starting to play. Ideas pop up, jump around and leap.
Ignore the inboxes. Just sit still and wait. Perhaps start reading links in tweets that seem to be worth opening. You start randomly reading and then you are darting from one idea to another. You bookmark a newsletter to subscribe to and then you follow an influencer that you’ve just read about. You take cards and different pens and you start sketching out a storyline. Or you make a moodboard. Or you start putting all the new information gleefully into folders. It’s playtime. You are racing and it’s heady. You’re a mental magpie. Or maybe this particular fallow day is more like an adventure park ride.
At the end of the day you wonder what you have ‘achieved’. It hasn’t been a day when you could log time spent on different clients or different projects. It isn’t easy to assess the success of this kind of fallow day. Some of the many ideas may bear a shoot or take root and often you won’t remember when you first came across them.
It’s very likely that the next day will feel much less of a routine workday.
You feel you have been on holiday.
It’s worth taking the plunge once in a while and in my opinion, the best fallow days are not planned. They’re totally spontaneous and you don’t know how the day will play out or where your mental gymnastics will take you. Give yourself over to at least six hours so you can dive in deep and forage wide.
Try it and let me know how it was for you.