Doing nothing

by Admin
Updated: May 11, 2019

Doing nothing is essential for creativity and can generate powerful natural motivation

Stress, whether externally imposed or self-driven, can severely reduce personal productivity and creativity.

The main exceptions to this rule are where productivity is associated with physical effort that serves as a release or escape from the stress. However, the path to wealth involves considerably more than physical effort and it’s not unusual to find some tasks more frustrating than others.

This is especially true when under pressure to meet quotas or deadlines.

One possible solution is to deliberately frustrate the creative process by doing nothing.

Remember what’s possible

A useful initial approach is to try to remember occasions when the task in question was easy.

Alternatively, try recalling something similar you’ve been good at or try to think of other people who are not so different from you and who do this quickly & easily.

The key is to recognize at a fundamental level that what you’re attempting is perfectly possible.

It’s difficult to make progress if you’re stuck on “I can’t do this.”

Step away

How would you advise someone under similar circumstances? Probably, “Take a break” and “Don’t put yourself under so much pressure” would form part of that advice.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to switch off the pressure on yourself and taking a break often does little more than add to it.

The essential adjustment here is to require a break as a positive strategy: “Don’t come back until you have something...”

  • Turns a shortfall into part of the plan
  • Provides space for objectivity
  • Produces better decisions

This works provided you don’t do anything else. The only rewards must come from the task at hand and it’s essential to avoid alternative rewards.

Stay away

The normal approach is to get back to work based on the slightest glimmer of inspiration but a glimmer is rarely enough to see a process to its next stage. You end up getting stuck again.

Instead of forcing yourself to return to the task, force yourself stay away. In due course, your creativity will generate its own opposing pressure and you’ll be compelled to get back to work.

This powerful natural motivation has additional benefits:

  • Turns bad stress into good
  • Gets tasks done more quickly
  • Produces higher quality results

Mediation?

Is it meditation? It could be, depending on your definition. Usually, meditation requires you to limit your conscious thoughts.

The process referred to here is essentially not physically doing anything productive while letting your mind wander freely - so walking and thinking around a problem would qualify.

Watching TV does not qualify.

Work ethic

I grew up with the idea of a good work ethic where hard work is respected independently of the results it achieves. It took me a long time to learn that this is wrong - the truth is the opposite.

More info

“The Case for Doing Nothing” at nytimes.com “... doing nothing. Or, as the Dutch call it, niksen.”

“Five reasons why we should all learn how to do nothing” at theguardian.com.

“10 Ways to Enjoy Doing Nothing” at realsimple.com.

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