On Doing Nothing

In Essays, Self Improvement

I was feeling a little guilty the other day when I started watching a movie at home at around 4pm.

After all, surely I could do better things with my time, such as reading philosophy, exercising, learning a new skills, etc.

Surely I could spend this time improving my life?

Then I realised that I was already improving, even by doing nothing in particular and just watching a movie.

Having decided to give up both coffee and alcohol simultaneously (so no more Espresso Martinis!), I realised that every hour that passes, I am getting closer to my goal of completely giving both of these things up for one hundred days.

The mere act of not doing anything, is actually helping me to do something.

This felt like it could be a really powerful principle for transformation in life. After all, it is easier not do something, than to do it.

I started to wonder if this principle would make changing habits so much easier.

Obviously, I’m not the first person in history to think along these lines, and you could argue that the ancient Chinese essentially built a philosophy around this.

However, this doesn’t stop it being really interesting, the fact that we can create change, without actually doing anything. 

You can make far more progress in your life by stopping your negative habits than trying to start positive ones, and it can take far less effort to.

Cutting out the daily soda is far better than just adding an apple to your daily diet.

The Art of Doing Nothing.

It can be a tricky balancing act between actively scheduling in time to do nothing, and just being generally a lazy sod.

However, if we can reach the conclusion that doing nothing isn’t as bad as it is often made out to be by the productivity gurus who tell us that we should track every waking minute, then an entire new world of possibilities opens up for us.

It’s then fine to make Wednesday a day of relaxation, it’s fine to skip breakfast every so often, and it’s fine to occasionally watch TV at 4pm in the afternoon.

I use this technique of doing nothing to ensure that I wake up early in the morning. I simply make sure that I stand up, and then simply wait and do nothing, or just some light stretching. Before I know it, I am actually awake. I also use this principle when I want to skip breakfast, I just think about how easy it is not to eat breakfast, and then simply wait until midday.

This is because the real way you can add value to the world and to yourself is not by a either a sudden “Eureka!” moment where everything suddenly clicks together, nor is it by working ourselves to the ground.

It is by consistent dedication over a long period of time. 

Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success. Biz Stone

The most impressive people I know spent their time with their head down getting shit done for a long, long time. Sam Altman

So, with that in mind, it becomes clear that actively seeking time to do nothing is a strategy to make sure that we can stay consistent when we are doing something, with the added bonus that even in doing nothing, you are still adding value to yourself.