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?