In Praise of Doing Nothing

We live in a culture that prizes busyness — as if, the more busy we are, the more important or valuable we are. That’s a fallacy.

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. You can be busy doing almost anything. I know one woman who managed to make cooking and cleaning a 3 bedroom apartment a full time job — for over a decade. And that worked for her.

But if you are continually doing something, and you’d rather be doing something (anything?) else, then you need to compare how you are spending your time, to see if it matches what is important to you. Try keeping a diary of how you spend your time for a couple of normal (i.e. non-vacation) weeks. You can do this easily by keeping a small (2″x3″) notebook with you, and noting the time that you changed activities. You might learn some really interesting things about yourself.

At a minimum, you might figure out what to let go of. Do you need to change the sheets every week? Would every other week be okay? Do you have to do the laundry? Can someone else do that?

On the other hand, productivity can look very lazy. Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, TV’s The West Wing) recently said that when he writes, he spends a long time, months even, pondering all aspects what he’s going to write before he puts pen to paper. And that pondering can look like a lot of watching ESPN.

Even when you’re not pondering, sometimes there’s just nothing to do. You’ve done all the prep you can, you’ve made all the calls, and you have to wait for an answer, whether it’s from a huge potential client or the universe. You can make yourself crazy while you wait — or you can relax and do nothing.

So what looks like doing nothing can be a precursor to something big.

Hollis Polk is a personal coach (, who has been helping people create lives they love for 15 years, using neurolinguistic & hypnotherapy techniques, decision science, clairvoyance & the common sense learned in 20+ years of business. She is an NLP Master Practitioner, hypnotherapist & has a BSE in engineering from Princeton & a Harvard MBA. She is also a successful real estate broker, investor & business owner.