I am the laziest workaholic that I know. Always sniffing out what I can do next because, without work, I feel a little lost. I get stuck between so many options — personal projects, work assignments, house chores, catching up with friends, etc — that I end up sitting around.
As someone obsessed with productivity, I am severely uncomfortable with nothingness. And I don’t consider this discomfort healthy. I’m of the opinion that getting comfortable with discomfort is a vital skill. I also believe that doing nothing can inspire and calm a person, and therefore it is a worthy discomfort to “get to know.”
My problem resembles that of a person unable to sleep. Exhausted and desperate for sleep, this person can’t seem to nod away. They persist and lay in bed for hours, shifting around, not sleeping. Instead of wasting time trying the same thing while getting no results (layman’s definition of insanity), one solution is to get up, do something, tire yourself out, and try the pillow again later.
The solution is to do something different. Similarly, in order not to burn out at work, the solution is switching things up — also known as doing something different. Balance work and play with down time.
When I force myself to work without breaks, my system gets tired of the same motions. Cut to: me, sitting and staring at my to-do list, trying to figure out what to do first, next, and last. Cut to: The headache has started to settle in with its insidious beating pulse. Cut to: my 4th cup of coffee. Instead, the answer is — if I’m truly uninterested or really that tired — then I need to — say it with me this time — do something different.
But, what about the things you absolutely must do? Then shouldn’t force be used? To that, I say this:
- Forcing a task into execution can lead to half-assed results. When your hands, head, heart are doing the same thing, focus is easy and results are amazing. But when your (respectively) body, mind, and soul are detached from each other, quality productivity is impossible. When you’re into — and by into, I mean attracted to — the activity, you are immersed and your whole system (mind, body, whatever) is at work. Considering that the quality of your work will be of a higher caliber, why not enjoy what you’re doing?
Sometimes, there is no urgent task. Other times, all your tasks are urgent. For those who literally schedule time to relax, doing nothing spontaneously is as amazing as finding water in the desert. Doing nothing refreshes your mind.
Now, here’s my problem (what with me being the laziest workaholic and all): My discomfort with nothingness contradicts my desperate need for a whole lot of “me time.” I am lazy, yes, but I can’t stop thinking about work. So, I go to grab my phone (even when it’s not around). I think about tasks ahead and appointments for the week ahead. I look around to see that everything is where it should be. Even when there is no urgent task, I have trouble detaching myself from work mode.
Instead, take a moment to pause, to breathe, to look around. Doing nothing is a luxury to be taken advantage of. If you have that time, savor it. Use that time to not only de-stress, but also to step back, to get inspired.
Although I am uncomfortable with doing nothing, I am confident that doing nothing is a worthy skill to master.