Doing nothing — the first step to productivity

Seem like a contradiction to you? That’s because we‘ve grown up in a society where being busy equates being productive. And, where being a sloth is considered one of the seven deadly sins. Now I thought these were just a series of Magnum ice-cream flavours, but apparently they’re considered serious offenses by some. Likely to be right up there with nabbing the best parking space at the office or constantly leaving the toilet seat up.

But being a ‘bum’ as some may see it, needn’t be a luxury afforded only to the retired, the pre-age-six population sector, or the periodically unemployed (I think the preferred term here is “between jobs” but let’s face it- you’re unemployed.) Giving ourselves time off from the slog is something we all need to do whether for a matter of minutes or months at a time.

When we indulge in supposedly mindless activities, is when some of our most mindful moments occur. For instance, Velcro was beget by George de Mestral after a walk through the countryside left a cluster of cockleburs clinging to the fibres of his trousers. And Newton’s Theory of Gravity was spurred by the simple sight of an apple falling from a tree.

Call it divine intervention, inspiration or just ole daydreaming, whatever it is, there is endless magic that can be invited into a quietened mind.

Now I am not suggesting we all quit our jobs and saddle up the pooches for a lifetime of countryside rambles, or sit in an orchard poised in perfunctory anticipation for a scientific theorem to hit. What I am suggesting, is that we give our brains a break from the constantly churning cogs of what society has labeled “productivity”.

Get up from your desk and get outside. Even if it’s just to walk to your car and back again. Breathe in clean oxygen and creativity as you breathe out frustration and apathy. Let your mind empty itself of to-do-lists, meetings and unanswered e-mails and revel in the essence of just being.

When we stop being busy and let our minds unwind we allow inspiration to filter in and a renewed energy to surge up inside. Energy and ideas, without which this so called thing — “productivity” — can’t even exist!

So next time you berate yourself for doing nothing, remember that this is when your mind is in fact working at its best. Your brain is at peak performance, digesting information, making new connections and bringing you the fuel you need to keep on going.

At the moment the apple fell from the tree, if Newton had been doing anything other than nothing, he would have missed it completely. So go on, give doing zip all a try and see just how much more productive you can be.

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