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:

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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:

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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

 

The Broken Robot Repair Shop

There is an alarming trend I’m seeing, of broken people wanting to be fixed so that they can keep doing the things that broke them.

I call it Broken Robot Syndrome – people so busy, so stretched, so weighed down by debt and responsibility and complexity that they are deep in fatigue, immersed in exhaustion, and no longer capable of recognising that they have become robots.

Does any of the following definition apply to you?

Definition of ROBOT (from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

  1. a : a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being; also : a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized    b : an efficient insensitive person who functions automatically
  2. : a device that automatically performs complicated often repetitive tasks
  3. : a mechanism guided by automatic controls

Lack of sleep exhausts us. Having a too-busy schedule with no down time, play time or rest time fatigues us. The combination of the two breaks us.

There are warning signs of being in that robotic place:

  • Lack of libido.  Libido is about joy of life, not just sexual drive. But the two go hand in hand.
  • Creative and original thought dries up. We struggle to be innovative and to come up with fresh ideas.  At worst we think through a fog.
  • Health decline. Vague symptoms of weariness, sleep issues, digestive issues, aches and pains that gradually build into definable illnesses and burnout.
  • Inability to make even simple decisions. Suddenly a menu with 50 choices and a need to pick something satisfying becomes an event capable of reducing you to tears because you no longer recognise what you want, let alone what you need.
  • Everything is scheduled. Everything.
  • Tired all the time, and doing the usual things – coffee, sugar, pick-me-ups, naturopath, gym, diet, counselling – make not a jot of difference.
  • Overwhelm, depression and negativity are regular companions.

So, what to do?

First of all, understand that fixing a broken robot so that they can keep functioning as a robot is really not a suitable solution for a human.

Here are some tools from the Robot Repair First Aid Kit that might work for you:

  1. Get more sleep.  Go to bed earlier.  Create days where you can have sleep-in catch ups, or lie in bed all day reading, resting and relaxing.
  2. Simplify. Cut back on your activities, responsibilities and involvements, and make sure that the kids don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of over-achievement and over-commitment either.
  3. Get help for the things that are stressing you. When we go to bed worried and wake up worried, and are kept up nights by worry then something has to give. If your worries involve money see what you can do to cut down the debt mountain – speak to your lending organisations or the places you owe and get an easier ‘hardship’ repayment scheme. Sell something. Downsize. Simplify. Put your hand up and ask for help. Make sure that your household are all committed to the same plan.
  4. If your worries involve relationships, get some time on your own, even if this is just a cup of coffee at the local cafe. Use that time to think about where you are, how you got there, and what your next move is. Staying in a relationship that is unloving, unsupportive, or where there are serious issues can be enough to bring any sane person to their knees. Find a good counsellor to help you work through your options. If you’re a carer, find a support group.  If you already know what you need to do, then act.  Staying and not doing or saying anything, hoping for change, has seldom proved to be a winning strategy. Only action brings change.
  5. Ask yourself the big question, “Does this relationship/job/choice/decision honour me?” Maybe it’s time to change jobs, move house, stop studying, start studying, have the conversation…
  6. Know that wherever you’ve ended up, it can change.  There is a road ahead of you to lead you back to yourself and to a place of content and security.

Here are some things to help Robots turn back into humans:

  • Time with friends
  • Time alone
  • Time in nature – walking, surfing, cloud busting, playing with pets in the backyard, gardening
  • Time for yourself and your own interests
  • Sleep
  • Relaxation time with NO expectations, goals or objectives
  • Music
  • Making art
  • Good food and good company
  • Emotional connection
  • Hugs
  • Spiritual connection, meditation, prayer or other practices that help you connect to your inner wisdom and to a Higher power.
  • Movement – not going to the gym because you have to – walking in the rain because it’s fun, dancing in the lounge room in your pyjamas because you love the music, playing with the kids or the dogs in some silly run-around game that makes everybody laugh

Life is short.  Life is precious.  When you become a Robot you miss everything good. Don’t fix yourself up to keep doing the thing that broke you. Allow 2012 to be the year where you create real, lasting and positive change.  Bless xx