On the importance of doing nothing


So, how often do you do nothing?

There was a time, a couple of years ago, when my standard answer to “what are you doing over the weekend?” was “Nothing”.

Of course, doing nothing is never really nothing. It’s what the Italians call “Dolce far Niente”, which translates to “the sweetness of doing nothing.” It’s not about being lazy, rather, it is the pleasure of savoring moments of idleness. There are a lot of simple things that we do when we are doing nothing – reading, dreaming, taking a nap, going for long aimless walks, watching the changing shapes in the clouds, having a leisurely brunch with friends.Checking email for the tenth time and scrolling through social media don’t count, though! These things are more like “busy work” – they make us either numb out or feel like we are being productive when we really aren’t – and are the complete opposite of Niente, nothing. Neither does watching TV count as doing nothing, for that matter. While an hour or so of television could be relaxing, there’s enough research to prove that binge watching TV serials or watching more than 3 hours of television a day can increase stress levels.

Finding the time to do nothing

Now, you may be wondering, “why would I want to do nothing when there are a million chores clamoring for my attention?”

And I will let the famous Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu answer this:

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” ~Lao Tzu

But the dishes must be washed, the shelves must be dusted, and the house must be tidied, you think. And yes, they must! But do you have to clear the table and do the dishes as soon as dinner is done? Can’t you, instead, linger over the table, talking with your family, or enjoying some dessert? Instead of dusting the shelves every day, spend an afternoon reading or take a nap instead. The world won’t come crashing down if you don’t do the dishes as soon as you finish eating, or if you don’t dust the shelves one day!

The importance of doing nothing

“But, I need to check my email! And track my social media analytics and reach! Who has the time for this do-nothing nonsense,” you think.

Well, would you rather mindlessly scroll through social media or flex your creative muscles and come up with new ideas and creative solutions to problems?

There are a number of research papers that have found a direct link between doing nothing and an increase in creative problem-solving skills. After all, we have all had eureka moments when we are in the shower or taking a walk and not actively involved in finding a solution already!

Moreover, one of the best ways to incubate new ideas is to – you guessed it – give yourself some time to do nothing!

It’s also well documented now that multi-tasking is a myth – we never really do anything well when we multi-task.

In fact, when we think we are multi-tasking, what we are actually doing is task-switching. And even though we may switch between tasks very rapidly, in terms of productivity, it is equivalent to playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga!

If that wasn’t enough, there are a number of research papers that prove multi-tasking reduces our productivity by 40%, makes it difficult to filter out irrelevant information, and we have a much lower retention rate for the things we learn while multi-tasking.

So dusting the shelves and listening to a podcast or ecourse lesson may not be the most productive use of your time! Why not single-task and use that 40% of reduced productivity time to do nothing?

So, what are you doing today?

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I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?


  1. These days, doing nothing is an art. Indeed we get the brightest ideas when we are calm and relaxed or doing something normal like a shower. Loved the quote by Lao Tzu. ?

  2. You are right, Shinjini. All those brilliant ideas strike us when doing nothing! I can rattle off a million things I end up doing even when I’m doing nothing! I used to get really worked up earlier because even when I had the best of intentions to loll about doing nothing, I used to end up doing quite a bit of stuff in the house (it’s a thankless job we do 24/7, I know) I think I’d really love to spend one weekend actually doing nothing and then, perhaps write a post about it. Someday, for sure. 😀

  3. Yes yes… totally agree with you. We need that time to do nothing— and nothing at all. Off social media, television, and gadgets of all sorts. Just sit by yourself and stare out of the window. One of the best ways to increase productivity.

  4. In the past I never did nothing! I always, always had at least one task on the go at any waking moment. As I’m getting older, there are times I realise I’m sitting staring at the TV and I’m doing NOTHING. (Okay, so I’m watching the TV – but it’s not as if there’s anything worth watching.) Trouble is, when I realise I’m doing nothing I feel so guilty and usually leap up and get myself something to do! Thankful Thursday Week 6

  5. Haha.. enjoyed your post, Shinjini 🙂 M a lucky mom that I every day get to say this once- m doing nothing. of lately I have realized how important doing nothing is. Of course, as you say, technically doing nothing does involve doing something, but the crux is to not do something you want to do. Your post is amazing, it so subtly tells us how important is doing nothing. Loved it. 🙂

  6. I love Pooh wisdom. Makes so much sense. And I loved what you said in your post. When we were young lingering over the lunch or dinner table was standard practice. We’d be talking or arguing till the food dried on our hands! Oh and we get the best ideas in the loo don’t we :-)? Because that’s perhaps the one place our minds are free to wander. Of course these days people are taking in books and phones to keep themselves busy even in there. Such a pity!

  7. The sweetness of doing nothing, just taking in the world, how beautiful that is. In December we went away with our children and we lay on the grass and just watched the clouds, that moment has stayed with me, it felt like magic. So happy you could link up with #mg

  8. I just love this and I must admit to practising the art of doing nothing quite often. It’s a hard concept sometimes but one that is overlooked. I believe we all need to start this movement to enable us to live.a happier life. I also love the Pooh cartoon you included, it’s just perfect. Fab post ?

  9. I gave up trying to multi-task a long time ago – too stressful! Today I might throw in a little bit of doing nothing while I wait for my daughter at her ballet class. I might grab a coffee and sit reading or maybe just chat with the other parents as they also wait. Until then I’m hanging out with my BUYB friends! I think that’s much more important than doing housework – mind you, the windows could do with cleaning!! 😉

  10. Love this! So true that inspiration and creativity comes when you are doing ‘nothing’. I try to schedule down time every week, usually on a Sunday, when I read and chill and just be.

  11. Loved your post! I am the one who doesn’t run off the clear the table after dinner but there are times I spend time multitasking so much that nothing productive comes out. As I read your post, I realized being in the moment is so important. Thanks for the nudge.

  12. In this busy world it’s amazing how some time alone can do wonders for us. It may just be a bit of reading or for that matter a lil introspection. Enjoyed this post a lot!

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