Be honest: are you busy?
In a world where people wear busy like a badge of honor, not being busy can feel awkward and unnatural. Like you’re a slacker. You’re afraid to be perceived as lazy. You worry that you should be accomplishing something.
But busy does not equal productive.
Worse, constantly grinding and churning leads to burnout, anxiety, and stress-related illnesses. Our immunity weakens, we age faster and we become more susceptible to colds. News flash: you can’t be productive if you’re running on fumes and stressed out.
The counterintuitive solution to productivity may lie in the very thing we fear will impede it: slowing down.
In its “Smarter Living” weekly newsletter, The New York Times recently shared a story extolling the benefits of doing nothing. Yep, nothing.
The article suggests that we take a cue from the Dutch and practice what they call “niksen” by intentionally taking time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless.
The benefits of slowing down are numerous. Research has found that when we’re idle, we allow our minds to wander. And that daydreaming makes us more creative, better at problem-solving and better at coming up with creative ideas.
Slowing down can also be a great productivity tool, says Chris Bailey, a productivity expert and author of the blog “A Life of Productivity.” Bailey reminds us that when our energy is depleted, we can’t possibly be as productive because we’ll be out of fuel to burn. Practicing “niksen” can we recharge our batteries.
If you’ve been busy being busy, going cold turkey into niksen might be tough. Here are several suggestions on how to jump off the hamster wheel and begin to slow down:
Order that latte for here.
Instead of grabbing yet another to-go coffee, switch things up and order that caffeinated beverage for here. Sit down and allow the warmth of the porcelain mug to envelope your hands. Savor that first sip. Resist taking out your smartphone, and instead, look up, quietly noticing the world around you. Use your awareness to become more in tune with your surrounding.
Go old school with a pad and pen.
As a writer, I love my laptop for its speed and efficiency. But when I’m brainstorming, I’ll pull out a pad and one of my trusty blue Pilot G-2 .07 pens. There’s something about capturing ideas with pen and paper that drives my creativity. Does it insert another step into my process? Yes, but I’ve found the extra few minutes to transfer handwritten scribbles to my computer is worth the boost in creativity the old school method provides.
Schedule time to do nothing on purpose.
Unless you carve out time and permit yourself just to be, your busy schedule will get even more hectic. When you master your time management, you’ll naturally build into your calendar space to think, observe and listen to your inner voice. And when your time is spent on those things you most value and are beneficial to your wellbeing, you’ll better focus on what matters most.
Change your environment.
It’s hard to slow down when your surroundings are urging you to do otherwise. At home, try finding or creating a comfortable space away from distractions like devices and TVs. In your workplace, changing your environment might mean leaving your office and heading outside to a park. (If you work from home, as I do, simply going outside can work wonders.) And if you can’t leave your workplace, close computer tabs, turn off notifications, silence your phone for a few blissful minutes of stillness.
Engage in activities that invite you to participate at a slower pace.
Do you fear that your monkey mind will never stop racing? Offer it fewer stimuli and swap Netflix binge-watching for quiet meditation. Are your workouts frenetic kickbox sessions? Try mixing in some yoga instead. Avid runner? Channel your inner Einstein, who relied on his daily walk to boost his memory, creativity and problem-solving.
Lose the guilt.
Shift your perspective to resist feelings of guilt when slowing down. Remember that taking short breaks and vacations are elements of—not detractors from—success. By unapologetically incorporating periods of stillness, you’ll ensure enhanced productivity—and wellbeing.