In a well-known 2009 experiment, Ira Hyman, a researcher at Western Washington University in Bellingham, instructed a clown to ride a unicycle in a busy part of campus. Of the pedestrians who were using cellphones, only 25 percent noticed him. When Hyman informed them that they’d missed the cycling clown, who was hardly inconspicuous with his big red nose and purple-and-yellow suit, they were surprised.
“People think they’re fine, but when they’re distracted, they miss all sorts of things,” Hyman says. The same is true with downtime. We’re so busy and so sidetracked that we don’t realize how the lack of reflection affects our mind.