Doing Nothing

I am currently reading two different books about doing nothing.*

Yes, I do see the irony in that.

I’m really interested in the idea of doing nothing and what “doing nothing” means for different people.

I rarely, if ever, do literally nothing.

My ADHD brain won’t start for it.

BUT that doesn’t mean that I am always working or always being “productive.” (Blech)

I make a distinction between work (for pay or for purpose) time and my other time. I spend my other time in a variety of ways but I have almost always planned what is going to happen during that time.

I might be doing a household project or I might be reading. I could be drawing or going for a walk.

Knowing the plan and how long I will spend at something is a crucial element in my relaxation. If I don’t decide in advance, my brain will keep trying to figure out if I am spending enough time at the activity or if is time to switch to a different one.

I’m not stuck with the plan once it is made either, I can choose to change it. But the choice has to be conscious or I will not stay relaxed.

So I may have chosen to lie on the couch and stare at the ceiling for 20 minutes. (Which is technically doing nothing but for me is an activity I chose in that moment.) At the end of 20 minutes, I can choose to spend another 20 or 10 or an hour. That will all still feel relaxing.

But, if I try to just lie there for an indeterminate amount of time, my brain will be full of questions “Is this what you should be doing? Have you forgotten something? Have you been lying here too long? Are you done yet?”

For me, lying on the couch for a specific amount of time is not ‘doing nothing’ – it’s lying on the couch.

Anyway, I do understand that there is a lot of pressure on all of us to be working hard and being productive all the time and I can just as easily fall victim to it as anyone else can.

But I also resist the idea that having a plan or a schedule means that I am not relaxed ‘enough’ or that I am ‘always working.’

I’m interested to see what the books have to say about ‘nothing’ and what insights they might have for my busy brain.

These flowers have nothing do with this post. I just think they are pretty.

A patch of small purple flowers surrounded by green leaves
Image description: a patch of small purple flowers surrounded by green leaves.

*The books are ‘How to do Nothing’ by Jenny Odell and ‘The Lost Art of Doing Nothing’ by Maartje Willems.