The title of this post may sound counter intuitive to most, but that is precisely why it is so important. Doing nothing is often frowned upon. This is especially true in this material driven world we live in. We are made to believe if we are not working away on some chosen project, we are somehow guilty of a modern world sin. This could be housework, physical fitness, grocery shopping or pretty much any goal-driven activity. Even worse, we were told for a while that we should be a great multi tasker. Further research shows this is not only bad for productivity, but can lead to burnout. That is a subject for another post.
Even relaxing has us searching for distraction. We have our Ipods, books,tablets or phones. It feels we have to be doing something even when we are doing nothing. We can’t even relax completely. It is in this world of never ending motion that we find ourselves in a constant state of physical and mental stress burnout. This leads to a loss of productivity. It also suppresses our immune system. This, of course,leads to illness.
What can we get from doing nothing? How on earth can it be productive? So glad you asked. Doing nothing gives our brains a chance to cleanse themselves. It gives our bodies, and our minds, a chance to decompress. This allows us to return to our busy bee life with more energy, and more importantly, more resilience. It gives our immune system a chance to repair and re-energize. This keeps us healthy. It can refresh our spirit. In addition to reducing the likelihood of burnout, it also helps reduce the risk of depression and overwhelming.
As amazing as all of those benefits are, to me, they are not the best thing one can get from doing nothing. My favorite benefit is the creation of great thoughts and ideas. When I wrote my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, I had plenty of time to think. It took me roughly a year. After which, I started writing for several magazines, a food review site, and my blog. All this while working full time at the post office and working as a DJ. Factor in a relationship with the world’s most beautiful woman and my dance card was full.
With six jobs and a great relationship, my second book, Living the Dream, took 5 years to write. The funny thing was that was not due so much to lack of time writing, but lack of time just being. When we are alone with our thoughts, that is when they seem to appear. You can’t call someone if the line is always busy. If it is busy long enough, you stop calling all together.
Leading up to my heart surgery, I wrote like a man possessed. I wanted to get out as much content as possible in case I found myself on the other side of the great divide. I feel the quality suffered. Without time to sit and think, my brain could not come up with any new brilliant ideas. If it did, I was too busy to hear them.
After my surgery, I was forced to take 3 months to do nothing. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t go to the gym. I was instructed to just relax. Guess what happened? Ideas started to come to me all day long. Perhaps they had always been there, but now I was free enough to notice them. My third book was written in 6 short months. (It should be available late July/early August) I also started to think of new ways to improve my life…in all areas.
My favorite thought happened when I began to write. Often, when I sit down at a coffee shop to write, my mind is filled with thoughts that have nothing to do with writing. Most often, those thoughts are of my beautiful Margie. Either I am missing her because we have not seen hardly enough of each other, or I am missing her because I just had some amazing moments with her. Before my surgery, I would try to focus and ‘persevere’. After my surgery, I thought to myself, I’m going to enjoy these thoughts.
What happened next was a miracle. My love for my beautiful woman began to increase exponentially! Just when I thought I could not love her more, a new reason, memory or idea how would pop in my head. I began to think of new ways in which I could both make her happy and improve our relationship. The best part was,once my heart was full of love, the writing just flowed.
I went home to my little miracle more in love and excited to share my life with her than when I had left. All of this was made possible because I took the time to do nothing. Can you imagine the positive impact that had on our relationship? Think of the impact it could have on yours, or any area of your life you stop and think about. Do nothing for a little while today. It might be the most productive thing you do.