The Sound (And Value) Of Silence When You’re Juggling Multiple Jobs

I love podcasts. There’s a list of my favorite ones at the end of this article. If you read my Friday recommendations, you know I learn a lot from them. I also find them entertaining. The same is true for audiobooks.

Not only can podcasts and audiobooks be fun or entertaining or both, listening allows me to make good use of time spent doing mindless tasks like scanning records to store for my law practice, putting away clean dishes, or sorting through and disposing of emails in my spam inbox.

Being able to multitask that way is particularly helpful for anyone juggling writing and other types of work and obligations. Otherwise, many of us would never have time to hear or watch, for instance, a 30-minute explanation of how best to use Facebook ads to sell books.

Recently, though, when a couple of my favorite shows ended, I briefly found myself listening less. To my surprise, I discovered that sometimes silence is better. Better for my creativity, better for my health, and better for my peace of mind.

Here’s why and how:


While doing mindless tasks like folding laundry in silence, I often come up with good ideas for plots, discover the backstory of my characters, or solve problems I’m facing in fiction or life. But I don’t do those things by trying. Instead, as I smooth out the wrinkles in a T-shirt or fold sheets, my mind wanders. Soon, without any real effort on my part, ideas and solutions filter into my consciousness.


Because most of my work for writing, teaching, and law involves using my laptop, I get a lot of neck and upper back strain. I also tend to sit or stand in the same position for long periods. To ease that, I do a series of stretches at night before I go to sleep. I discovered that doing those in silence, while it can be a bit tedious, helps me sleep much better.

Instead of feeding new information into my brain right before trying to sleep, I let my brain slow down along with my body. That means I’m much less likely to wake during the night or to wake in the morning feeling stressed.


Multitasking should make a person more efficient, particularly when it involves learning and listening while doing tasks that truly don’t require a lot of attention. Paradoxically, though, when I was listening to audiobooks or podcasts all the time, I felt more stressed and busier. I think it’s because that added to my feeling that I must be productive times two every minute of every day.

It was as if I was sending myself a message that I could not spare even five minutes to unload the dishwasher or make a cup of tea without also learning something new.

When I allowed myself instead to do some of these tasks in silence, I actually felt like I had more time. And when I did sit down to do tasks that required mental effort, I felt less stressed and so was able to focus more, think more clearly, and accomplish my goal more quickly.


This reason is really a combination of all of the above. When I let myself do just one thing, whether it’s stretching before I go to sleep or unloading the dishwasher, I can actually feel my muscles loosening and tension draining from my body.

Given all of the above, will I stop listening to podcasts or audiobooks when I’m folding laundry? No, not entirely. I love learning and I love listening to stories. Sometimes the prospect of one or the other is the only thing that motivates me to do tasks I’d otherwise put off, like cleaning out the email inbox.

Also, I live alone and work mainly from home now that the bulk of my workday is writing. On a day when I haven’t gone out, which occasionally happens, it’s nice to add some other voices besides my own and that of my parakeet (who does talk) to my day.

I have, however, stuck with leaving the phone off for 30-45 minutes before I go to bed. I also do at least one task during the day, whether it’s cooking or scanning documents, without any audio accompaniment.

Already because of this I’m making better progress on the first draft of The Worried Man, the first novel in my new mystery series. I’m feeling more relaxed while accomplishing as much or more than before.

What’s your experience with multitasking? Please share in the comments.

Until Friday –


L.M. Lilly

P.S. Here’s the list of my favorite podcasts:

The Journeyman Writer (no longer being produced, but many great episodes are available)

Self Publishing Formula

The Creative Penn

Sell More Books Show

Dusted (analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer from a story perspective episode by episode through the middle of Season 6)

Still Pretty (picking up where Dusted left off)


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