Why You Should Spend More Time Doing Nothing
September 3, 2018
My best ideas come in the shower. And, right before I go to bed, my mind often becomes flooded with thoughts.
Because those are really the only two times in my day I’m not doing anything. I’m not on the Internet, I’m not talking with someone else, I'm not doing work, I’m not reading or watching TV.
I’m just doing nothing. And my mind finally gets a chance to think about everything that has happened that day.
These are the few times where I am the most introspective, the most creative, the most aware of myself.
Dave Crenshaw, a time management expert and LinkedIn Learning instructor, says I’m hardly alone. People today feel pressure to always do something, he said. And that’s holding us back.
“There’s so much value in doing nothing,” Crenshaw said in his LinkedIn Learning course, Time Management Tips Weekly. “This space of nothing gives you opportunity to be more creative, it gives you space for personal reflection and it can have the side benefit of reducing stress in your life.”
How to Fit More Nothing in Your Day
The bigger problem here is that we resist the idea of doing nothing. People say they don’t have time to do nothing in a day – if we are being honest, it’s more likely we schedule our lives so tightly to avoid doing nothing because we feel guilty doing nothing at all.
So, how do you bring more nothing into your day? In his course, Crenshaw made these four suggestions:
1. Leave open space in your day.
In your work day, block some time off to do nothing.
It doesn’t have to be an hour. Even 5-10 minutes of doing nothing but thinking and reflecting can actually help you become far more productive throughout the day. This is particularly true if you have back-to-back-to-back meetings.
"There's value in processing what happened in a previous appointment, before you go into the next,” Crenshaw said.
2. When you do have the opportunity to do nothing, do nothing.
Probably the most important on the list. If there is some dead time, rather than jumping on your phone or diving mindlessly into email or watching something, just do nothing. Embrace nothingness.
This will give you time to think, process and reflect. This is a good thing – not a waste of time.
3. To help with #2, try this exercise.
Doing nothing is actually harder than it sounds. We’ve conditioned ourselves to occupy our minds every second of the day.
To help embrace nothingness, set a timer for five minutes. Just five minutes to sit and do nothing.
“Doing this will help condition your brain to be less used to constant stimulation — and conditioning is the most important tool that you have for productivity,” Crenshaw said.
4. After you do nothing, write down your thoughts.
The first few times you do nothing, write down your thoughts afterwards. Even if you did nothing for just five minutes.
“Often, people are shocked at this process,” Crenshaw said. “In just those five minutes, they've learned things about themselves, about their career that they weren't even noticing before. Why? Because they were so used to constant stimulation. Some of the best business ideas my clients have come up with have come from a result of doing nothing.”
That'll show the true power of nothing.
Want to learn how to get the absolute most out of your time? Watch Crenshaw’s course, Time Management Tips Weekly.
Other LinkedIn Learning courses you might be interested in are:
- Time Management Fundamentals
- Leading Productive Meetings
- Time Management for Managers
- Improving Your Focus
- Getting Things Done