7 Ways Doing Nothing Will Make You More Productive

by Beth Buczynski on 11 June 2014 0 comments

We take classes, read self-help articles and drink energy drinks just to push ourselves to the next level of performance. Time is money, and we only have to much of it in a day, so we take calls on the bus and bring our laptops on vacation. We assume not working is the opposite of productivity, but that's not always true. Sometimes, doing absolutely nothing is the best way to achieve your goals. Here are a few reasons why.

1. It Gives You a Choice

The executive gets up and goes to work because he has to. The freelancer sits down at her laptop because she has to. The stay-at-home parent does the dishes and laundry because they have to. We rarely think about work as a choice, but that's exactly what it is. When we entertain the option of doing nothing instead, it has a positive effect. A recent study showed that "simply having the choice to sit back and do nothing during your day-to-day grind actually increases your commitment to a certain goal, and may even boost your likeliness to achieve that goal."

2. It Allows You to Rest

So what about going beyond just the option? What happens when we actually step away from the grindstone and do nothing? We may become quiet. We may daydream or (gasp!) take an actual nap. We might pick up a book or play with the cat or Netflix that sit-com everyone's talking about. All of these things reduce stress and allow the mind and body to relax — something that's becoming increasingly difficult in our always-on world. (See also: How to Do Less — And Why You Should)

3. It Gets You Outside

If you're feeling really adventurous, you just might choose to do nothing outside. You might even take a walk. Taking 10,000 steps a day (preferably outside) unleashes an abundance of health benefits, from weight loss and a better sex life to decreased risk of dementia and cancer. Spending just 30 minutes in nature also delivers brain-enhancing benefits like positive mood and better memory — all things that boost productivity.

4. It Opens the Door for Creativity

Feeling stuck in a rut? Having trouble coming up with new ideas? "[B]eyond a certain point, doing more or working harder is actually counter-productive. Your energy and concentration levels dip, your frustration increases, and if you're not careful you could be on the slippery slope to creative burnout." Giving yourself permission to walk away is an opportunity for the mind to get its mojo back.

5. It Reveals Priorities

When you have the option of doing nothing, it allows you to zero in on what really matters. When you're resting, what do you find yourself thinking about? What ideas surface? What issues tug at your heart? Those are probably the things that should be at the top of your to-do list when the break is over. (See also: Simple Living: Determining Your Priorities)

6. It Reinforces Your Goals

Researchers say that "by selecting to choose a goal or task over doing nothing, you're giving it value and you reinforce that it must be a good goal or task for you to take on — so you put in more work." Then, when you see progress, it's motivating and your productivity goes up.

7. It Diffuses Fear

One of the reasons we procrastinate is because we're afraid. Really important tasks or big projects are fraught with uncertainty. We hate failure: Even the prospect of it can paralyze us. So instead of backing yourself against a mental wall, acknowledge that you always have the option to do nothing. While doing nothing, take the time to examine your fear (and the task that caused it) from all angles. Look at the pros and cons. It's likely you have very little to lose from trying. (See also: 9 Techniques That Can Help You Conquer Any Fear)

How has doing nothing helped you? Please share in comments!

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