Strive to be a Do Nothing


It’s a slur against someone. You’re such a do nothing!  

And yet, I strive to do nothing. Oh, how I love me some irony.

I try to do nothing every morning for ten minutes; it never works out. I spend the time – usually capping out around four minutes – worrying about what I have to do. Blog. Work out. Plan lessons. Check messages and email. Meetings.

Doing nothing is hard work. When we do nothing, we tell the world that we aren’t playing by its rules for a little bit and we go against our instincts and our guilt. This morning, in an effort to do nothing, I made a list of ways to do nothing. Again, irony.

Go to a Café on a Weekday Morning  

One of my students told me that every morning he sits in a café downstairs from his flat. He gets a coffee, leisurely scrolls through his phone or reads. Sometimes, he said, he just sits there.

I was almost as impressed as I was incredulous. On a weekday morning!?

This seems the most defiant of Do Nothing activities. With a whole day of responsibilities ahead of me, my brain and fingers are on overdrive. I can’t stop moving or thinking. If you can enjoy a cup of coffee on a weekday morning without guilt or stress, then I will gladly suffix your first name with Lama.

Day Drink

The rules state that we spend the day sober, productive, and dealing with all the bullshit that comes along with the fun of paying bills and showing up to work in pants. There’s something to be said for these rules.

In college, I was a lay about and a party guy, who spent most nights in bars. On Fridays my friends would finish a long week of school and be ready for a well-deserved night of partying. When they were doing that, I was “enjoying” my fourth day of drinking of the week.

Like many party people, I eventually realized that a good night out is made much more enjoyable by first accomplishing things and working hard. I still strongly propagate this rule.

However, rules are meant to be occasionally broken like a cheap toy during a tantrum. Now and again play hooky and spend the afternoon sipping on beers with a buddy or a good book. Don’t allow yourself to be hit by buyer’s remorse, rather embrace the whole experience – the extension of the number of drinks, the inevitable shots, the fast food on the way home, the next day hangover.

Be strong. Breaking the rules is hard and doing nothing is harder.

Log the Eff Off

First, guilty.

Second, log the f*** off.

Third, I know that first + second makes me a hypocrite, but I don’t care.

I spend my week standing in front of young people, many of whom literally – yes, I know what literally means – can’t stop looking into their phones. Things that happen in class are secondary to those that happen on their phones. I won’t bore with you more of this discourse.

Technology is a succubus and its desired fruit is your attention. Facebook Messenger’s call can spur me to put down my book and find out who’s attempting to engage me. I don’t need to tell you the result, distraction lead to less engagement in the world around us, whether it’s my book or a class. We are there, but we are not there.

A byproduct of always being logged in is that it eats up our downtime, our Do Nothing time. A friend of mine once said that he believed that technology was killing our inspired and eureka moments. He suggested that people often have those moments in down time, when they are not applied to any task, such as in the car or in the bathtub. His hypothesis was that if we’re filling that time with screen time, it’ll abort ingenious book ideas, lyrics, or the spark for another Facebook. Gotta be some irony in there somewhere.

Log off and enjoy down time. Just sit somewhere and think or breathe. Watch people walk past, eat some ice cream. Be with yourself. But, you know, not like that.

Walk. Just Walk.

The second part is pretty important. I walk to the metro or to the store, I walk home everyday. I suppose the idea is to take a walk without a goal or reason, to enjoy it in the words of Thoreau, as “a spiritual endeavor undertaken for its own sake.”

I have two problems with this. First, I usually have a goal (as mentioned above) when I walk. Second, I my mind is usually busy while I’m walking. I bat around an argument or a class plan, mentally ask for a raise or outline a story.

Use your walk to clear your head, allow the things that are weighing on your mind to slip in and then out of your head. A walking meditation, as it were; perhaps just walk and look at things. To succeed at this do nothing activity maybe you should skip the music or the podcast. Turn off the tech.

On the rare occasions I am able to accomplish this deceptively simple task, I feel as though the everyday litter and minutiae oozes out a bit more, and my legs reward my brain with a few moments of blankness and relaxation.

On other days, I follow this piece of advice in conjunction with one above: I walk to a pub.

If you have any good idea on how to nothing, I’d love to hear them.

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