In defence of doing nothing

2nd September 2018

I’m really bad at doing nothing. I work full time and when it comes to the weekend, I promise myself that I’ll have one day to ‘get shit done’ and another to actually relax. Unfortunately the day of rest very rarely actually happens. Don’t get me wrong, I start off with the best of intentions but I struggle to get rid of the nagging feeling that this needs doing or that needs seeing to and before I know it, I’ve created a list of things I need to do. Now that’s all well and good but by the time Monday morning rolls around, I don’t feel like I’ve really had the time to rest and recuperate for the week ahead.

Now I don’t know about you but when I’m asked what I’ve been up to over the weekend on a Monday, I like having ‘something’ to say. Very rarely does anyone like to admit ‘Erm, nothing really.’ Maybe it stems from nothing being associated with boring but frankly, that’s ridiculous. Nothing means taking some time for ourselves, in whatever way we deem fit. Nothing very rarely means nothing, it simply means we are not doing anything particularly useful and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

A few weeks ago I read this really interesting piece by journalist Vicky Spratt for Grazia, Has Being Busy Become a Warped Status Symbol? and I have to be honest – I completely agree. I like having a busy day (providing it doesn’t include the dentist, a smear test or something equally horrendous), moaning about the fact that I’m ‘soooo busy’ and yes, it does give me a bit of a buzz. But are we inadvertently damaging ourselves by insisting on such a frantic lifestyle which we are actually forcing on ourselves rather than for any real need?

Having no agenda can be a great thing, truly. Studies have found it can actually boost creativity, with your mind a blank slate instead of whirring with your day’s to-do list. It’s like when you take some time away from a project – usually, after your break, you return with a fresh mind. Now apply that to a few hours or, better yet, a whole day and imagine how great that is for your mind, body and soul.

It’s easy to think that by working harder and by doing more, you’re achieving, being productive and carving a better life for yourself. But at what cost? We all know about the buzzwords that are self-care and mindfulness by now and doing nothing certainly sits somewhere within that.

Living in the age of social media and with the world wide web available instantly at our fingertips, you’ve probably found that you are very rarely actually bored and are instead overwhelmed constantly with information overload. When you are on a train or a tube,  people aren’t just sitting and being. They’re wired into phones and iPods and tapping away at laptops. Because quite simply, what else would one do with that period of time? Imagine!

Admittedly, very rarely have we been told growing up to ‘do nothing.’ In fact, we are told the opposite. To work harder, to not waste time. In our careers, those who are seen to be working way past their contracted hours tend to be rewarded. So why would we ever choose to sit back and take stock, when it is so often criticised, made out to be something so negative.

Being busy is part of life. We all have periods of time where we just have to accept that it’s a wave we have to ride, but the key is that this must be temporary. Because busyness can be great but it can also be a defence strategy. It can suppress how we are feeling and the problems that trouble us. It prevents that time which our minds need to offload and to let our subconscious take over. Nobody is too busy to do nothing. We all need it.

So hopefully, as you read this, I’m going to be taking the time to do nothing. And I suggest you do the same too.

If you liked this post, why not read: So when are you getting married? And other questions not to ask.