Doing Nothing is Productive!

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Are you one of those people who needs to be productive?

I certainly am. Not from any external pressure –  I just LIKE getting stuff done, and I always have several projects on the go, a big fat to-do list, as well as a schedule that stretches out towards the horizon.  Life, and its possibilities, lights my fire!

But there is nothing like a good dose of burn-out to help you realise that less is more, and a dose of near-death really does help you to clarify your priorities.

Where one upon a time I worked endlessly, I now work in bursts, and then have some time out that is totally unscheduled.

Before my big cycles of crash and burn, repair, go full tilt, crash and burn, repair, go full tilt, crash and burn – okay, you get my drift – my life looked like this:

Image from freeicons.eu

I was a busy little robot working harder and harder, doing more and more, and somehow expecting that I could just carry on that way forever.

I actually thought that if I worked harder and harder I would achieve more and more, ad infinitum.  But of course you end up working with the Law of Diminishing Returns.  More does not make more.  More becomes less.

More work means less sleep. Less fun.  Less clarity.  Less inspiration.  Less connection.  Less well-being. Less healing capacity.  Less opportunity to be spontaneous. Less flexibility.  Less ability to cope with the unexpected. Less true creativity. Less chance of seeing new possibilities, meeting new people and expanding in new directions.

When you keep trying to fit more and more in, something will inevitably break, and that something might be you.

I know this, because I’ve been there.  More than once.  And most of it has been self-inflicted.

I’ve had to ask myself the big questions in life.

I am okay with diminished output if it means better quality of life, and a longer life. I mean, realistically, how much can you get done here if you’re dead? And in the end, does any of that stuff on your to-do list really matter?

So now my life looks much more like this:

Image by Lecsmile – Photobucket.com

I have periods of deep rest, relaxation and doing totally NOTHING.  And then I have periods of doing things, being active, connecting, learning and being crazy-mad infatuated with taking up all life has to offer!

Truth is, I’m more productive than I ever was, in the areas that matter to me.

I hadn’t expected that.

Oh my goodness I wish I’d know this important little nugget of wisdom years ago.

Less is more.

Image from msugradwellness.wordpress.com

That’s right.

Doing nothing is good for you.

If you don’t know how to do nothing, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Naps.  Napping is awesome!
  • Curl up on the couch with a magazine.
  • Go to bed early or sleep in.  Sleep all day if you feel like it.
  • When something frees up in your schedule, don’t fill that spot with another task or expectation.  Let yourself luxuriate in that new spare time.
  • Dawdle. Potter along on a nice slow walk, amble through a park or shopping mall.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Read a book.
  • Nap.  Did I say that already?  Oh well.  Have another one!
  • Lose yourself in a book.
  • Hang out at the library.
  • Go for a surf.
  • Get a massage.
  • Take a bath.
  • Quit something so you can free up your schedule!
  • Say no to things you don’t want to do.
  • Have an early night and bunk down with some tasty treats and a good DVD.
  • Go on holidays.
  • Have a phone free, computer-free day.
  • Stay home and do… nothing! No housework, no odd jobs. Do what makes you happy. Maybe some craft, or cooking, or just hang out.
  • Spend time with the ones you love.
  • Sit in a coffee shop and read the weekend papers while having a long breakfast or an extended brunch/lunch.
  • Go window shopping, just to pass the time and fill yourself up with images, ideas and dreams.
  • Sunbake.
  • Sit by the ocean or the river.
  • Perch on top of a mountain.
  • Fluff around, not getting anything much done, but not minding that either.  Some people call this procrastination – I call it exploring my desk or kitchen drawers to see what’s really in there…
  • Spend time with the family pet – these guys really have relaxation down to an art!

Magic happens when we give ourselves down-time. And a magical life is definitely one worth living. You never know what might happen if you just create a little space in your day…

Image from The Fox and The Child, Hopscotch films, 2009

 

45 thoughts on “Doing Nothing is Productive!

  1. I’m delighted to hear that you’re taking a breather when you need it, I think it’s absolutely vital for long term success. I’m a big fan of mooching, browsing, pottering, staring into space and generally blobbing about. There’s a lot to be said for it. It’s a bit of a joke to my family and friends how early I go to bed, or get ready for bed, but I just love it, getting into my jimjams and suggling into bed with a good book. I’m off to do that right now, in fact. Bliss!

      • It back-fired on me last night – too warm to sleep! That’ll teach me to be so cocky about my early bedtimes 🙂 It is weird that we’re always at opposite ends of the day.

  2. This one really hit home. I was just like this in my younger days. Now, in my old age, there are fewer and fewer spurts of energy and beaucoup diminished outcomes. It’s difficult, but you do what you have to do. I’ll try a few of your ‘do nothing’ activities. Enjoyed your post very much, Nicole.

  3. Funny…big smile…and I’m learning. Tomorrow is my day off….today is ‘Sew & Tell” Fair at the A & I Hall in Bangalow and I have a stall. Thanks again for the inspiration & lessons…..X

  4. Nicole I allowed myself to do nothing yesterday afternoon. Well nothing amounted to what I wanted to do, I repotted some plants and read the paper and enjoyed a cuppa while observing my garden. It felt like the first time in along time that I can say that I’ve done that without feeling that I should be doing something constructive.

    The reason for my new found pondering I feel was that I’d attended a morning tea earlier in the day and listened to a cancer survivor share her story. This young mother of 5 had endured 9 months of being in Brisbane for treatment chemo etc plus 500 hospital meals…. Here she was a picture of health and so grateful to those that supported the cancer foundation in raising funds.

    Tomorrow is promised to no one so its so important to live in the now time. I count my blessings everyday.

    Thank you Nicole for your blog I really enjoy reading it!

  5. ha ha…I’ve been preaching this for awhile now and I’m amazed at how many people are horrified at the thought! Not me. I like doing nothing. I’m good at it! 🙂

  6. I agree! This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn. I went into my graduate program right after undergrad and I. was. burnt. out. I was so burned out. But I didn’t even know what burnt burnt out out was until I started teaching on top of my own studies (they call it teacher training, but I call it indentured servitude). It has taken me years to recover, and I am still dealing with it every day.

    I am also learning to listen to my body more. Yeah, you get work done by not sleeping as much up to a point. And then your productivity goes down down down.

    Thank you for this, Nicole!

  7. Ahhhh, YES! I’m glad you are putting this out there for folks to read. We live in a mainstream culture where DO DO DO is prized. I like to be active and on the go. BUUUUT I learned years ago when I was pregnant with my first little honey that I HAD to rest. EVERY day. Not just on silent retreats. Not just after collapsing b/c I had been out and about “working for social justice” across the globe. Nope. My kiddos taught me that every day there need to be pauses — SACRED pauses (as I say and Tara Brach says) in the day of doing NOOOOTHING. This is weaved into all that I am about now. It was tough at first. I tell my clients in psychotherapy that it took me a YEAR to really just SETTLE and give myself permission to tend to myself and do nothing. Taoist adage — when in doubt, do less. I really try and live this way now.
    Love to you! Lisa

  8. Love this post and of course agree with you completely. You might remember this recent post on my blog dealing with the same idea- “Doing Nothing is Doing Something Very Important” – http://notinindia2012.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/doing-nothing-is-doing-something-very-important/,
    but I like your long list of suggestions for those who haven’t really figured out what “doing nothing” involves. 😀
    Great post! (as usual)
    with love light and JOY

  9. Yes, yes, and yes! Today’s choices are, hit the “to do list” thats ‘s a long as my arm, even though I’m tired, or, experience what it’s like to sit on my now two month old sofa, and read that book I’ve been trying to read for the past month? Mmmmm! Ok, sofa and book win! Thanks for the nudge in the right direction Nicole. I was definitely going to do the former until I read your post. LOL! Hugs. {{{}}}

  10. oh nic, did you write this one for me?!?!!?!?! hehehehe i slowly learning how to have time out, and wonderful it can be, to just be xx

  11. It’s the Tao of Pooh, you know. 😉 This is a terrific post, with spot-on images! Why is it, that we need to give ourselves permission to “do nothing”? I do, at least, and I need helpful reminders like yours to keep me on track! I can relate to everything you wrote here, and now is a good time for me to hear it again.

  12. When working in the corporate world in NY, I used to put so much pressure on myself for years and I felt very unbalanced. Now that I live in a semi-rural town, life is much simpler. However, I feel guilty, when I don’t do anything. I know it’s silly, so thank you for this reminder to do NOTHING. 🙂

  13. What a fantastic post! I really need to get better at doing some of the things on your list. I think the saying no one is so important. Today is just so fast-paced, it can be hard to say no for fear you’ll fall behind. There’s no shame in saying no to something so you can have some quiet, re-charging me time.

    Love the picture of the polar bears 🙂

  14. How adorable, the kitty…i am a huge lover of cats. I am glad you will relax, we women seem to do it all! My daughter did graduate HS today and it was a huge success! I raised her alone as single mom… Tears of JOY…bless you-Jackie

  15. I have a very busy life. I have two jobs. I work from 7:30 am until 8:30 pm. A demanding husband, three kids, house chores, and all the shopping. I can do all that, and still find time to rest. My resting time? visiting and commenting on the blogs I am subscribed to (almost 120 email notifications everyday). I wish I can have any of the different points you mentioned Nicole, but it’s OK. All I need is calm and silence that lead to peace.

  16. Pingback: Remembering to take care of YOU! | Cauldrons and Cupcakes

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