Note from Brett: sorry for the inactivity for the past week, everyone. I managed my time and energy poorly and made a mistake in scheduling this post, which is why it’s running today instead of last Thursday. I couldn’t correct my mistake since I was out visiting the University of Pennsylvania and didn’t have a computer.
As much as I like to be productive, sometimes itâ€™s productive to not be productive at all.
Our busy lives and all of our obligations threaten to swallow up every last second of free time that we have. If youâ€™re not actively doing something, everyone preaches, youâ€™re wasting time.
Sometimes the best thing to do when you have a free moment (or a thousand) is to do nothing at all. To pause and reflect about the direction your life is headed. To take a deep breath. To relish the feeling of being alive.
Keeping Your Head Down and Never Changing Course = Zombie
Our system of working – and living – has made it so we spend all our time doing things. We are always doing an activity, whether itâ€™s sleeping, eating, driving, working, reading, or watching TV. Weâ€™re always doing.
When youâ€™re busy occupying yourself with too much â€œdoingâ€, thereâ€™s no time to just â€œbeâ€. â€œBeing timeâ€ is when you sit and reflect on whatâ€™s going on in your life – where you can take the time to actually think about those things you spend all of your waking hours doing. You wonâ€™t be able to change anything that youâ€™re doing if youâ€™re so preoccupied that you canâ€™t even think; just allowing yourself to be and assess where youâ€™re going in your life can save you hours of mindless drudgery.
Imagine if, while youâ€™re sitting there, thinking about things, that you discover a new or novel idea that will fundamentally change the way you work. Maybe itâ€™s a realization about how to approach a particularly difficult project or problem that youâ€™re facing. Maybe itâ€™s a way to make yourself more efficient because youâ€™ve identified a major distraction that disturbs you all the time when youâ€™re working. Maybe itâ€™s just realizing how grateful you are to live the life you lead, and you end up changing the way you live for the rest of your life.
All of those are the benefits – none too farfetched – of giving yourself time to just be. Scheduling in a period of time where your object is to do nothing allows you to pick your head up from the grindstone and ask yourself, â€œWhy am I doing this? Am I getting what I want out of my life right now?â€
If the answerâ€™s yes, youâ€™ll get back to work.
If the answerâ€™s no, youâ€™ll probe further, examining your work, relationships, health, and everything in-between. That kind of self-examination is what you need in order to catalyze personal change and/or improvement.
However, itâ€™s up to you to stop working and take a look around once in a while. Even if youâ€™re not hell-bent on changing your life because youâ€™re satisfied with yourself, lifeâ€™s a lot sweeter when you take the time to smell the roses. Trust me – Iâ€™m feeling the impermanence of my own life now that Iâ€™m officially an adult, and all the days that I thought would never come have already passed me by.