Are you frequently overwhelmed by how many things you have on your to-do list?
You work all day, have too many tasks to complete within a single work day, and then have another big to-do list waiting for you at home?
Do you feel like there is always something piling up that needs to be done? That it is impossible to ever get to the bottom of your ever-growing to-do list?
If it is hard for you to slow down and leave that pile of work in the office to go home…
Or to leave those dishes in the sink to go to bed…
Then keep reading.
Learning to master the art of doing nothing is exactly what you need.
Like myself, this may be a journey that you have been on already for a long time. For over 15 years I have been gradually trying to become okay with doing nothing.
This seems counter-intuitive.
Isn’t this what we all crave? Shouldn’t it be easy to just… do… nothing???
Doing nothing does come easily to some of us. But if you are anything like me, you know that this is not true for everyone.
In fact, many of the clients who work with me also find that they get so caught up in everything that needs to be done, that it can become hard to prioritize downtime for themselves.
I remember the first time that my husband caught sight of me doing nothing. I had experienced a severe tailbone injury that left me on a disability leave from work for 2 years. My journey of recovering from my injury extended beyond physical recovery. My husband and all of my friends were at work while I was alone all day. I had gone from having a full-time job, a private practice on the side, working out regularly at the gym plus running marathons, and having an avid social life to being able to do almost nothing.
Not being able to do anything was soul-crushing for me. My recovery from this injury included learning mentally and spiritually how to just be with myself.
Life had forced me to begin to learn about the fine art of doing nothing.
In hindsight, this is one of the best lessons that life could have forced upon me.
That being said, this was not an easy journey for me. Just being is not in my nature. I’m all about setting goals and getting things done.
Sound familiar at all?
The problem is that this can be a quick path to burnout. Or, at the very least, a quick path to leading a life that is full of “shoulds” with little space to simply enjoy.
At the end of the day we have one life, and we have one chance to make sure that we are spending our time doing things that bring us fulfillment.
A life that focuses solely on doing is a disconnected life.
I would know. I was leading a disconnected life back then.
And thus began my journey towards learning the fine art of doing nothing.
I clearly remember a defining moment during this time in my life. My husband had just arrived home from work and I was sitting on the couch, reading a magazine. He rushed up to me. « Lindsay, are you okay? What’s wrong?”.
This is how often I simply sat and flipped through a magazine back then. The sight of me sitting and relaxing worried my husband because this was something I never did. He had known me to read a magazine while in the car, or while also folding laundry. But not to simply sit and relax.
It has taken me a lot of work to gradually become ok with not always accomplishing things.
What I have realized through his journey is that the more we allot time to doing nothing, the more productive we actually become at work. This again seems counter-intuitive. However, it gives our brain gets a chance to recharge, leaving it in a more optimal state when we do work.
The more we allow ourselves to simply be, the more present we are able to be in our interactions with others. Taking time away from our life obligations enables us to re-centre ourselves and to step out of the reactive communication zone.
If you are someone who has a hard time slowing yourself down:
- Carve out daily time where you can simply sit with yourself and do nothing. Prioritize this by booking this time into your agenda before anything else.
- Start with small increments of time, perhaps 5 minutes/day and gradually expand as this becomes easier.
- If you struggle to implement, note the types of excuses that you give yourself to prioritize other things ahead of giving yourself this 5 minutes each day.
- Note that 5 minutes a day is 0.34% of the time that you have each day. If you cannot commit to this, ask yourself why. Instead of looking at external circumstances that prevent you from doing this, turn within.
- Remember that practice does not need to make perfect. Inconsistently practicing the fine art of doing nothing is better than not practicing it at all.
Becoming ok with doing nothing truly is an art, particularly in today’s society, where so much value is placed on achievement. But sometimes, the most important thing to do is to simply do nothing at all.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d invite you to share it with a friend who could use a break today.
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