Change Everything by Doing Nothing

June 23rd 2016

3 minutes read

Change Everything by Doing Nothing
Written by LiveLink
June 23rd 2016
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The tea break, once sacred in British work culture, has been pushed almost entirely out of office workers’ schedules. Just a few years ago, these few minutes were set aside for silent contemplation. Now we grab a cup of tea on our way to the next meeting or fumble with a cardboard cup on our way back to our cubicles. What was once an excuse to indulge in 10 or 15 minutes of complete idleness, has become fuel for jittery overwork. This is not just a crisis of caffeine, nor does the stress of the office stop at the office door.


Thanks to the smart phone, many of us no longer spend our commutes reading the newspaper or staring into space. Instead, the pressure is on creative workers to create without pause, turning out a steady stream of work – from public transit or during what used to be a lunch break.


In our current culture of ultra-productivity, we lack the opportunities to daydream. Even our personal lives, which should be relaxing, are hyper-connected, stressful, and unreliable. We don’t just have to stay connected to our bosses and coworkers – we live in a world of last minute plans and equally abrupt cancellations. Between happy hours that we start planning at 5PM and work that may start remotely a little after 5AM, only sleep offers us a respite from increasingly busy lives. Even sleep isn’t reliably restful when we fall asleep answering emails, planning the next day’s work, or trying to unwind with a TV marathon.


In an economy and a world driven by creativity, even in fields one might not regard as creative, this poses a problem. Without mental rest, we can’t work up to our potential – or, just as importantly, be our best selves.


To recharge our mental batteries and guard against mental exhaustion, we need to reclaim doing nothing, even if we have to do it piecemeal.  How can you do this, though, in an ultra-connected, to-do-list driven world?


Work Purposefully

Instead of working all the time, try, when possible, to work more efficiently. Shorter periods of greater focus produce better work than all-day work punctuated by ten-minute email checks, restless naps, and furtive cat video binges. If you set aside time to devote to a particular project and schedule your time well, it becomes easier to set aside time to daydream.


Unplug and Undo

We’ve all read articles about unplugging from our smartphones, our iPads, and our computers and the benefits we can glean. But can you do more? There’s no time to let ideas percolate and minds recharge if you switch a screen for a hard copy of papers or replace emails and texts with phone calls. Don’t just set time aside to spend away from digital stimuli. Take time to check out from work for 10 minutes or so every day.


Some eyebrows in the high-pressure office may raise if you go out for lunch without a client or take a walk, but you will be able to demonstrate the benefits in your work and in your cheerier office presence.


Set Aside Me Time

Whether it’s on your commute, over breakfast, or in the middle of your workday, it’s important to set aside a few periods of time every day in which you can just be with no obligations.  It’s time in which you can do whatever you want. Stare into space, knit, or read a novel, and come back to your obligations refreshed. It won’t just make you more productive. It will make you happier and healthier for the rest of the day.


The idea that it is important to take some time every day just to let your mind wander is a vital one. Some call it day-dreaming, but let’s call it creativity.

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