So many of us fall into the trap of believing that our work is our worth and that doing “nothing” is a waste of time. Whilst it can feel amazing getting carried away in creative flow or being super motivated to tick of everything on the To-Do-List, there is a subtle art in being able to do nothing. But why do we find it so hard?
Your productivity doesn’t define your worth
I do know some people that have absolutely no qualms with lying in bed all day watching netflix, spending hours simply gazing at the clouds or meandering through city streets for hours on end with no set destination and no particular desire to get back home for anything. However much I sometimes wish I was able to do that, it doesn’t come naturally.
Unconsciously, I seem to have strict rules with myself about everything I choose to do. The only series on netflix I’ve allowed myself to binge watch in the last 5 years was in Spanish so I could file it under “useful” because it was helping me learn a third language. Downtime gets put in my schedule not as something valuable on it’s own but as a means to an end. Because I understand the science of stress and the benefits of rest, I schedule downtime in with the goal of making me more productive in the long run.
Is there anything necessarily wrong with this way of thinking and doing? I’m motivated, determined and usually achieve my goals. But if I’m being completely honest with myself, there’s something slightly problematic about how I seem to tie up my self-worth with my levels of productivity.
Embrace doing nothing
Growing up in a patriarchal capitalist society that pushes for growth, profit and productivity above all else probably has a lot to do with this deep rooted belief that being productive is valuable and doing nothing is useless. In that sense, it dawns on me that being okay with doing nothing and being able to embrace the empty moments is actually a radical act of defiance against a system that would have us all destroy ourselves, each other and the planet before embracing a more cyclical, sustainable approach to life.
The truth is being human isn’t easy. Each of us are juggling our own challenges, pressures and personal set of obstacles to overcome. Even the basic survival of cooking food and drinking enough water can be hard enough to get right, without the added crack of the whip of our inner critic telling us we haven’t “got enough done” today.
The fear of being unproductive seems to be pervasive in today’s purpose driven world. Here at Ardea, we talk a lot about purpose and it is really important to us to have that drive motivating us but it’s a delicate balance between feeling purposeful and allowing space for simply being, existing as we are without any need to have a “why” behind our “what”.
Being unproductive is not a personal failure
The feeling of not being productive enough can lead to shame, which Brené Brown defines “as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging – something we’ve experienced, done, or failed to do makes us unworthy of connection.”
In our approval seeking, climb the career ladder, thirst for success society it’s no wonder that being unproductive can end up feeling like a personal failure. So, as I write this I challenge myself, and you my lovely reader, to experiment with guilt-free doing nothing. It could be a morning set aside to embrace the simplicity of nothingness or it could be a day of silence to simply be. There are so many ways we could get creative with this so please share your reflections, ideas and personal practices with us in the comments!
We delve deeper into why rest is a key element of productivity and how to make sure you aren’t burning the candles at both ends with our online course Meaningful Marketing for Freelancers & Changemakers launching January 2020. Click here for more info.