When the pressure from work and social responsibilities hits, it’s important that you find some time to do nothing at all. No, I’m serious! This is a controversial piece of advice on how to make the most of the day - even though, sometimes ‘slacking’ is the most productive thing you can do.
The purpose of doing nothing is to put your mind at rest, helping you to think clearer and be more efficient. It gives you the time you need to catch up with events and comprehend to what’s really going on. If you come to think about it, your mind is very much like a computer system; it has a shutdown button for a reason.
Let’s face it; like it or not, creativity runs out pretty quick and easy. At some point throughout the day your body starts to feel heavier than before and makes it more exhausting for you to get up and do real work. This lack of creativity leaves you nothing to work with and pushing yourself too hard just causes more damage. Even though you can overcome creative burnout, you won’t be able to achieve the same results when you’re tired as when you are well-rested and relaxed.
So when is it the best time to…do nothing? James Altucher, a successful author, and entrepreneur speaks from personal experience when he says you should avoid doing anything when you are angry, anxious, paranoid, tired or when you want to be liked. Simply because that’s when you are more likely to act on impulse, take quick decisions or make mistakes that you will regret. If you only want to be productive, it is always best that you calm yourself down first and eliminate stress.
This works quite well as it’s when you are feeling most relaxed that you get the most amazing, revolutionary ideas. Just think about how many times you had those ‘eureka’ moments while in the shower, and felt like rushing out to write your idea down so that you do not forget it? Or how many times you wished you had your notebook on a day out to write down ideas before they slip away? Yes, that’s the kind of [genuine] creativity that I am talking about.
Why Work Less
Working overtime doesn’t mean that you are being more productive. It merely means that you are working more hours. You are helping no one by forcing yourself to work more in order to supposedly achieve more. That will never work. It’s the same with working for 8 hours without a break; what you are doing is essentially killing yourself.
Whereas most productivity experts would talk about the importance of managing time, CEO of The Energy Project, Tony Schwartz insists on the idea of managing your energy. Instead of counting hours, he insists on working on yourself. Adapting to this philosophy Leo Widrich suggests there are the four elements you need to focus on:
- Physical Energy: how healthy are you?
- Emotional Energy: how happy are you?
- Mental Energy: how well can you focus on something?
- Spiritual Energy: what’s your purpose?
These questions should help you get to the root of discovering how prepared you are to take on a new task; and whether you are in the right mood to do so. If you aren’t physically, emotionally and mentally healthy, you may struggle to find the energy or the focus you need to develop.
The Other Side of Procrastination
How often have you read that it’s absolutely essential to beat procrastination in order to be more efficient at work? While it can be self-limiting, sometimes procrastination can be a good thing. When completing a never-ending To-Do list, you may find yourself wanting to do anything else than what you are supposed to be doing. Even though this could make you feel guilty, 99U suggests that you should in fact ‘give in to your inclination to procrastinate’.
When you feel like you don’t want to do that ‘very important task’ on your list, just don’t do it! Instead, focus on the other stuff that isn’t as big and urgent. This trick to getting more done is a mental one, and it’s called structured procrastination. It requires you to convince your mind to start doing a task that is less important than others just to get the motivation of doing something. As a procrastinator himself, John Perry, a professor at Stanford University, supports that structured procrastination helped him to not waste time while avoiding important tasks and focusing on smaller ones.
The Joy of Saying No
Saying ‘yes’ is way easier than saying ‘no’ and as such it’s always harder refusing a night out with your friends when you don’t really feel like going. However, there is an undeniable sense of joy in saying no; it’s liberating as it frees you from your obligations.
Nevertheless, it’s of huge importance to learn how to say no to yourself as well. Working on multiple projects simultaneously is one of the most common time management mistakes you can make. While multitasking can be effective, it can also make life more difficult by adding more pressure to your workload. So as far as it concerns productivity, you know that there are certain limits that you must respect in regards to your workload. You just have to be able to prioritise your work effectively, to figure out what you actually have time for and avoid wasting your time on projects that are sucking your energy.
Working less or doing nothing at all definitely won’t work for everyone, but it could be worth trying out, just to see if it can help you become more productive.
It’s useful to remember is that you have 24hours every day to get your work done so doing nothing at all can be more productive than you think. So, go on and slack your way to success – but be careful, you don’t want to overdo it!
So, have you ever felt more productive while doing nothing at all?