Why I Make Time To Do Nothing

So today, on the 30th of July, I did nothing.

Just like almost every other day for the past two months, I’ve been sitting my ass at the dining table, feasting on garlic pesto and grilled chicken, playing Pokemon, working out, walking my dog, reading stories on Medium. I’d sleep at three in the morning and wake up at noon, “wasting the day away”, as my mom calls it.

I’d always believed I’d be wasting time if I wasn’t writing, studying, or doing all those adventurous things the rest of my generation broadcasts on Instagram. (I would, too) What I came to realize was that, by doing nothing, I’ve made some of the most important decisions in my life.

You know how CEOs have these Think Weeks, where they spend a week or two doing anything but work? Of course, you don’t have to be one to do that for yourself. The essence of a Think Week is to simply recharge, and it’s way more than catching up on Netflix series and sleep hours.

I allotted two months for me to do just that and a little more. It’s been a thing of mine lately to just sit down with a cup of coffee and a plate of cookies—thinking, reading, street-watching, or anything else you may consider “doing nothing”. Amidst the stillness in motion, the sought-after silence, I could finally hear my own thoughts, particularly all the questions I’ve been avoiding.

“Is this what I really want?”

“Should I really be doing this?”

“What am I getting out of it?”

“Are there better things out there for me?”

Take a break, re-evaluate

We could spend years doing all the wrong things, and only realize it mid-life, or when it’s too late. We get so caught up in our work that we hardly ever take the time to reflect—like, really mull over the Whys to our Whats.

I’m seven days into my 19th and here I am, looking back as though I’m in my late 80s. They all say it’s a waste of time to keep looking back, but in this sense, the past is now—right now. I know it sounds a little metaphysical, that at this very moment, I could be 85, re-evaluating all the things I’ve done in my life and at the same time, knowing I still change it.

I’ve been weighing the pros and cons, considering the trade-offs of a few opportunities that are still in the cards for me, and admittedly, it wasn’t easy.

Productivity isn’t all work

Strangely, I’ve gotten more things done by doing nothing at all. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you think about it— most of our greatest ideas come to us when we’re idle, when we’re detach ourselves from the fast-paced city life and take everything in—slowly but surely.

Doing nothing is easier said than done. While the whole point is to simply sit back, relax, and clear our minds, a lot of us beat ourselves up for being “unproductive”.

Another important thing I realized was that all this time, I’ve been forcing myself to be busy. Never mind if the quality and value has gone to shit, as long as I get my work done and say, “Hey, I finished up a lot today.”.

I’m sure it’s not just me here. I think we all tend to confuse busyness with productivity, basing our success on the number of hours we work, or the number of things we get done. It’s an all-famous misconception.

“Hustle kahit hassle”

“Keri lang yan”

In the second semester of my college freshman year, I was promoted to VP for External Relations from AVP for Content Management in my one of my orgs. Did I hear a wow? Not from myself.

Ideally, VPs are supposed to be spearheading and overseeing, not doing all the goddamn work. But back then, I felt like if I didn’t do a lot, I wouldn’t deserve the title. I prepared all the MOAs, wrote the articles, went to all the meetings, did all the everything. The value of my work slowly dwindled, up until I started asking myself why I kept at it.

I resigned.

Work Work Work. The more work I get done, the more productive I am. The more I work, the more I’m worth. There are many flaws in that mantra.

While there’s nothing wrong with the mindset of hustling and perseverance, we should ask ourselves how we’re going to actually benefit from our work. Is it a need? Is it something that we enjoy doing? Is it something that we need to get where we want? Work without value is technically a waste of time and energy, at least for me.

We’re so afraid of complacency that we preoccupy ourselves with, god forbid, things we thought mattered. Can we blame us? We’ve grown to associate productivity with wealth and success.

Like they say, we’re worth more than our productivity. So much more.

What matters vs. what we think matters

I joined seven orgs in my freshman year. Sure, I’ve done a lot—became VP in one org, performed a little in the other, wrote articles, managed partnerships. But did any of those matter in the end? Nope. I was working mindlessly, blinded by titles and positions, cliques and connections.

Sometimes, it’s better to do less than more, because well, less is more. Best we put more thought and precision into fewer, yet more substantial projects than to half-ass more seemingly important ones. In the end, it’s all about what you want and what you have to do to get there. It’s about what will help you grow and hone your skills.

In the shortness of life and our smallness in the world, all I could really care about now is how I’m going to achieve love, happiness, and fulfillment. My newfound goal is to simply make each day memorable, because we’ll never know when our time is up. Today will be part of the past, so will tomorrow, and the next day and so on. If you find yourself awake at 4am, dwelling on some dumb things you did recently or when you were younger, remember that nobody really cares. We have our lives; this is yours. What matters to you is all that should matter.