jetti at sunset

Tomorrow, I am entering the final week before vacation. I’m bracing myself for the usual tornado of things I need to do in order to leave with some sanity.

At the same time, I am looking forward to the slowness of the beach. The breathing space. I am thinking about the value of rest. Not sleep, but that space between activity that feels so awkward at first.

“Doing nothing” is becoming a lost art. Unless we make the time for doing nothing, we can be engaged from waking to sleep, always filling our thinking from the outside-in.

Why (Re)Gain the Ability to Do Nothing?

The top complaint I hear from my clients is that they do not have the time to think. And yet, the same leaders fill their plate and terrorize themselves with their ever-present email and task list. Not one of them would say they are looking for time to do nothing.

Here’s my point today. In order to really think deeply, you have to create some space. In this context, space is defined as unfilled time. There are at least three key benefits from creating this space:

  1. Greater presence with people who matter.
  2. Brilliant insights to difficult problems or people.
  3. Creative or innovative ideas.

Without space, our decision-making is limited to our usual thinking and readily available strategies.

Is “Doing Nothing” Something?

You might have already caught me. Isn’t doing nothing actually doing something? Yes, it is. Staring at the wall for 20 minutes is staring at the wall. So, what am I talking about? When I say doing nothing I mean slowing down, allowing quiet, and cultivating low-thought. Try one of three simple practices:

  1. While waiting for a meeting to start, simply look around.
  2. On the train, put your phone away and on silent. Then, stare out the window.
  3. Take a walk outside and just walk.

Notice how uncomfortable you are; how prone to “do” you are. Notice the space you create when you actually allow yourself to be still. The more space, the more opportunity for unexpected brilliance or presence. Let me know what you find.