The Art of Doing Nothing

The Art of Doing Nothing

The sky is still blue, the air has cooled down, the children are in bed. I’m doing as close to nothing as I get. If I weren’t writing this, I’d probably be on social media, mindlessly scrolling. 

Which leads me to think do I ever do absolutely nothing?

We’re conditioned to believe that it’s good to be busy. “I’m too busy to fit that in” becomes almost a badge of honour. Worn with pride and boasted about. Surely spending all of our time being “too busy” will eventually have an impact on our health? Whether that’s mentally, physically or both. 

Doing nothing is easier said than done. Even without the badge of honour with a job, kids and a house to look after doing nothing falls way down the list. Taking time to do nothing isn’t something that I’m very good at, and I’m sure many others feel the same! Sitting still feels unnatural, and the guilt about the ever-looming to-do list isn’t far away! Is doing nothing something that can be learnt? 

What is nothing?

Gosh, I’m sounding very philosophical now! If we should be taking time to do “nothing” we need to define what is meant by that. I don’t know about you but I’m not sure I could sit for very long and do absolutely diddly squat. I’m sure that before long I’d start thinking about work or an issue in my life, which would defeat the object of taking time out! Maybe what we mean is something that will help us switch off from our daily lives. 

Social media scrolling

Hi, I’m Becky and I’m a social media addict. 

I constantly find myself picking up my phone and checking out Facebook before I’ve even thought about it properly. I know that there’s no need for it. Nothing will have changed in the 5 minutes since I last checked. But I justify it because it’s a distraction, or it helps me switch off. I know it’s a feeble excuse. There’s so much research that social media simply adds pressure to our lives. I think if we’re trying to encourage ourselves to do nothing then we should all agree that social media doesn’t count. 

Mindfulness

This is something which has sprung up in recent times. The idea that we should be focusing on the moment, clearing out heads. Maybe taking it one step further with meditation or yoga. I do have a mindfulness app on my phone, and yes, I have used it! The first few times I felt a bit stupid, and even though it was only for 3 minutes at a time those 3 minutes felt like an eternity. But I did feel better afterwards. Slightly calmer, more focused. The question you’re all dying to ask is when I last used it. I’m ashamed to say I’m not sure! That’s not to say that I don’t want to use it, it just continually falls off the priority list. As someone who’s proud to be self-employed and have a fully flexible working life the fact that I can’t find 3 minutes in my day does start to ring alarm bells!

Burnout

As a business owner allowing yourself time to switch off is hard. There’s the constant fear that all work will dry up if you take time off. That leads to working increasingly long days, without a day off. Even if you’re just checking your emails, one thing leads to another and three hours later you log off. We need to encourage ourselves, and each other, to get into the way of thinking that this is not ok. There are so many analogies going round about this but let me summarise some of them here:

  • You should put on your own oxygen mask before other peoples
  • You wouldn’t let your phone battery die so make sure you’re charged

Maybe the art of doing nothing ironically needs to be scheduled in. It needs to be added to the to-do list, as a way of giving yourself permission to take that time to focus on you. 

Me time

In my highly expert opinion (please note the sarcasm) the art of doing nothing comes down to taking time for you. It’s not something that you’re obligated to do, or that you’ve finally found 5 minutes to slot in. It’s taking time to go above and beyond your normal schedule. Bonus points if it’s something you really enjoy. The phrase is used so much but in essence, it’s creating ‘me time’. 

Now my version of that, and your version of that will be different. That’s ok. As long as I’m doing what I enjoy, what relaxes me and what allows my brain to switch off from the must do’s then I’m going to count it as doing nothing! Today, for instance, my do-nothing time was sitting on the sofa and watching ‘Say yes to the dress’ for half an hour while eating a penguin. That might be your idea of hell so please don’t copy it if that’s the case! But it allowed me 30 minutes away from looking after the children, tidying the house, the never-ending washing, writing social media posts and all those other obligations. So maybe I have perfected the art of doing nothing? Maybe all I need is some trashy TV and a chocolate bar and my world is a better place! 

Words N Stuff

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