We all need a day a week to do nothing. A day where we rest our bodies and sure them up against winter viruses, but more importantly a day where we rest our brains so they can continue to knock it out the park for us when we need them too. If you google ‘hoe to do nothing’ you’ll see all sorts of science-y reports telling you how doing nothing boosts creativity, your attention span and focus. However, if you’re anything like me, doing nothing is…difficult. Your brain is always on, always thinking of new things to do, and the more you try to do nothing the more it starts itching to just send an email or get out the planner.
In my Slow Living Intentions post last week, I wrote about how wanted more balance and rest time in order to do more of the life stuff I’d been putting off. So far in January I’m playing catch up a bit and I can feel that my old habits of always being ‘on’ are still holding on strong. So I thought I’d write about a couple of ways those of us with restless brains can do nothing while tricking ourselves into thinking we’re productive.
You’ll never do nothing well if you spend the whole time feeling guilty. So look back over the week and count up the hours you spent resting that wasn’t sleep. Don’t look at what you did or how many things got ticked off the to do list; how long did you spend at rest? I’m betting that it wasn’t long. Remind yourself that your brain needs this rest to carry on. Read up on how doing nothing will benefit you. Recognise that the demonising of laziness is a societal function to keep us busy. Banish the guilt.
Curl up with cookbooks
Who doesn’t have at least one shelf full of cookbooks? And when was the last time you opened them? I’ve chosen cookbooks here rather than fiction or more artsy books because they’re probably the ones you browse through the least, and they can be quietly productive in lots of different ways. The first is the most obvious, in that you can meal plan and rediscover recipes to cook that week. But more than that, we all know that consuming a wide variety of content is the best way to produce better content. Browsing the beautiful food photography and reading the dish descriptions (which are often unlikely most writing you’ll encounter day to day) is a nice quiet way to restock your brain’s creative juices.
Also, have you ever read three cookbooks cover to cover? It’s a great way to kill several hours.
I’m a bit of a documentary nerd, and like watching them as opposed to drama or serials because they feel more productive (and also I’m a big baby and most dramas make me really stressed). I love knowledge, and knowledge you can get whilst spread out on the sofa eating ice cream is the best. Browse iPlayer for what’s been on BBC4 in the week and you’ll definitely find something to make your brain tick.
Walk without purpose
Doing nothing inside is super easy on a rainy day, but how do you do it when it’s a beautiful day and you feel the need to be out? Try bumbling – slowly walking without purpose. Head out of the house with no end point in mind, walking at a slower pace that allows you to take note of the bugs on the ground, the birdsong, the interesting features of the buildings. When you have nowhere to go you can let your mind wander while you do.
I’m talking here about all the learning things we want to do on our working days but don’t because they feel like a waste time. So catching up with podcasts, reading favourite blogs, getting started on a book – all of these are fairly passive ways to consume information, but are also really effective ones too.
Occupy your hands
I hold a lot of nervous energy in my hands, and often find that as long as my hands are doing something my mind becomes quieter, as if the action in my hands provides some sort of meditative focus. It’s why I have pebbles on my desk, so that when I’m on client calls I have something for my hands to play with to I can focus on the conversation.
Try different ways to keep your hands busy while you’re doing nothing. Maybe doodle in a notepad, colour in, stitch or knit, paint your nails, do a jigsaw puzzle, journal – whatever floats your boat and helps to focus your mind.
If you get really itchy or don’t quite have the self-motivation to do nothing, then make it physically impossible for you to start working. Let your phone run out of battery and get someone to hide your laptop, or run yourself a long hot bath where you physically can’t work.
Spend time with loved ones
A great way to motivate yourself to stop thinking about work is to promise that time to your family. Hang out in a pillow fort with the children, making up stories and adventures. Or, if it’s just the two of you, commit to spending the time reconnecting – whether you’re talking about plans for the future, curl up with a movie marathon or show each other funny videos. Whatever you do, do nothing together.
Catch up on engagement
Ok so this isn’t strictly ‘not work’, but if you must do something to do with work then catching up with your engagement is your best bet. It’s the sort of thing you can legitimately do while doing nothing, whether curled up on the sofa, lazing in bed or relaxing in the bath, yet it still feels like you’re doing something productive. Catch up on your DMs, return your comments or browse the hashtags and make some new friends.
What are your favourite ways of doing nothing?
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