P is for The Power Of Pottering Around


Some people divide their day into purposeful time and pottering around time. Both activities provide their own kinds of insights.

Purposeful activity can be inspiring, but you can only ride the wave for a certain length of time. Sometimes you need to rest, reflect and regain your energy.

Different people do this in different ways. They may walk, run, sleep, play, listen to music or whatever. Some people relax by simply pottering around. One definition of pottering around is:

‘To move about without hurrying and in a relaxed and pleasant way.’

Some people do physical activities such as gardening, fixing cars or doing chores. Some do intellectual pottering around. They let their minds wander, explore books or pursue interesting ideas without an end goal in mind.

There is a power in pottering around. People may find that it enables them to pause and let things fall into place. Sometimes their unconscious works on finding solutions to problems.

Looking at your own life, when have you engaged in pottering around? What did you do to pursue this approach?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you have done in the past to potter around.

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of you pottering around.

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People can benefit by switching from purposeful activities to pottering around. Let’s explore some of these benefits.

People can pause

Sometimes it is important to simply pause. This can help to refresh the mind, body and soul.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed that sometimes we learn by developing the art of losing time rather than saving time. We can become absorbed in pursuits we find interesting. Sometimes the adventure is simply pleasurable, sometimes it provides revelations.

Carl Honoré has described the value of pausing in a fast paced world. He popularised this approach with his book In Praise of Slow. In the United States this was called In Praise of Slowness.

Fast thinking can help to generate the pieces of the jigsaw. But slow thinking may be needed to make sense of the whole picture. Many of our epiphanies come from slow thinking.

Here are seven tips that Carl provides for people who want to create time to pause in their work. You can discover more about his approach via the following link.


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People can see
things in perspective

Pottering around can help us to reconnect with the important things in life. Sometimes we need to take time out to see the big picture.

Looking at my own life, during the late 1960s I spent a lot of time meandering around the streets of London. During that period I was working intensively in therapeutic communities.

On my days off I would catch the tube, get off at a station and simply wander around the streets. Sometimes I went to a football match or explored bookshops.

Most of the day was spent walking, however, and reflecting. This produced a sense of gratitude. I was in a job I loved where I got paid for encouraging people.

Nowadays in my seventies I still potter around, but this normally comes after spending time writing. This was a lesson learned from Rollo May, the psychologist and author of The Courage To Create.

Rollo encouraged people to make good use of their prime times. These are the times of the day when they feel most creative and have most energy.

Creative people protect these prime times. They aim to catch the wave and do good work, because otherwise the wave is gone forever.

Rollo describes how it is also important to accept that the day has certain cycles. Contributing to the first edition of The Ageless Spirit, he explained:


I stay in my studio each day for four hours, but the last hour and a half isn’t worth very much. It was hard for me to accept, but what can I do? All I can do is make the most of the creative time I’ve got.

So for two and a half hours I’m moving marvellously; the rest of the time I’m simply fiddling around. But I find joy in fiddling too. I have to accept the fact that I’m not a God. I have to accept my destiny.

I have to accept the fact that I can only do creative work for a few hours a day, but that does not diminish one iota the joy I get from those two hours.

People can sometimes
find solutions to problems

Pottering around involves moving in an overall direction, but it does not always have a specific aim. On some occasions, however, it can result in a person solving other problems that are on their mind.

Kevin Cashman has described how people often get their best ideas in his book The Pause Principle. He does not talk about pottering around, but the principle remains the same.

People sometimes make breakthroughs when taking time out. They may be exercising, taking a shower, driving or doing activities unrelated to the problem they are exploring.

Below is a video in which Kevin describes the pause principle. You can discover more via the following link.


Looking to the future, would you ever consider taking time to potter around? If so, how can you make this happen? What might be the benefits for you and other people?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do in the future to potter around.

Describe the specific things that may happen as a result of you taking time to potter around.

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