from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

The “Art” of Doing Nothing

LeisureI have long been an advocate for not over-extending oneself and trying to do too much. There is a difference between that concept and being lazy. But I have to say there are times when I wonder if I’m not pushing myself, or others in some cases, enough. Since becoming unemployed, I’m much more conscious of my how I spend my time. I struggle with free time, thinking I should be doing something, preferably to generate income, all the time. Last week I read two articles that brought me encouragement and confirmation on this issue.

The first was by Kristin Tennant for Relevant Magazine. Here are a few quotes.

Do Americans ignore one of the most important things we should be doing with our time: nothing? More space in your life can help you uncover and better understand who you are. Listening to God, following His detours, and being available to His people—they all require more open-ended time and space.

The second article was by Cal Newport based on a German study of budding violinists and their practice habits. The study looked at two groups, elite players and average players, and what made one better than the other. Here are some of the findings and conclusions.

The time diaries revealed that both groups spent, on average, the same number of hours on music per week. The average players spread their work throughout the day. The elite players, by contrast, consolidated their work into two well-defined periods.

The elite players slept an hour more per night than the average players [and] were significantly more relaxed than the average players.

Hard work is deliberate practice. Hard to do work, by contrast, is draining.

Whether you’re a student or well along in your career, if your goal is to build a remarkable life, then busyness and exhaustion should be your enemy. If you’re chronically stressed and up late working, you’re doing something wrong. You’ve built a life around hard to do work, not hard work.

The solution suggested by this research is as simple as it is startling: Do less. But do what you do with complete and hard focus. Then when you’re done be done, and go enjoy the rest of the day.

Both of these articles suggest creativity thrives on doing nothing. Remember when you were a kid with absolutely nothing to do, bored out of your mind? Your imagination really went to work then dreaming up something to do. Granted, there is a danger in that. It certainly got me in trouble more than once.

But this isn’t just about creativity. Our relationships with God and others relies on it. Our health and well-being relies on it. Now to find the right balance…


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