the joy of doing nothing

This sounds impossible. Unless you spend time in meditation every day, then you probably never do nothing. You are always moving from one thing to the next – wake up, use the bathroom, make coffee, eat breakfast, check your email, drink coffee, work, eat lunch, work stop working, have dinner, watch tv, read, go to sleep.

Look back upon your day and tell me if you ever just stopped and did nothing? That you put your phone down, or put your remote down (after you turned off the TV), or put your book down, and sat there, closed your eyes, and did nothing? You either cleared your mind entirely or focused on a specific word, phrase, or breathing pattern.

When was the last time you did nothing? My gym’s Bootcamp sessions always used to finish with a few yoga poses, and the very final pose was the corpse pose, and on the best days, they let us lie in that pose for up to 5 minutes. Lie on your back, close your eyes, breathe and do nothing. Attempt to empty your mind completely.

Sure, some folks’ brains might still have been buzzing with work and other thoughts of life – but I used those moments to clear my mind and do nothing.

In some of the sessions I run, we use a similar exercise to “cold start” people’s ideation process – we stop and close our eyes and think about nothing.

We spend a few minutes before starting the ideation process, clearing our minds completely. We do nothing. It’s a welcome break for most people who usually feel like they can never stop moving – never stop doing. I wonder why we spend so little time doing nothing and so much time doing something (probably because we have this notion that if we just did a little bit more, we’d be able to take a break and relax, but that never happens). It’s part of our go-go-go culture, especially in some major corporates.

We go and go and go and never catch a break. Well, now is the time to stop – I’m officially telling you to stop reading right now and do nothing for 5 minutes. OK, maybe you can start at 1 minute and move up from there – set your timer – close your eyes and go.

Seriously. Set your watch or phone to time you for 1 minute, close your eyes, and empty your mind, just for one minute.

[60 seconds]

It is now 1 minute later. How do you feel? Do you feel more stressed and behind because you spent 1 minute doing nothing? It’s possible for some of you. But for others, it was a break.

Test your thinking right now – go ahead and do something creative. Rapidly jot down and many ideas as you can think of on sticky notes. Then put the notes away for a few days without looking at them. Then come back to them a few days later – I’ll bet that you’ll find that a number of the ideas that you came up with even after that very brief moment of doing nothing were probably excellent ideas.

Think about how you can incorporate doing nothing into your day and your ideation sessions.


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