Doing nothing as an antidote for burnout

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“It seems obvious, but when did you last take time out of your busy day simply to sit and think?” Asks Greg McKeown in Essentialism. “I’m talking about deliberately setting aside distraction-free time in a distraction-free space to do absolutely nothing other than to think.”

With everyone walking around with a portable computer in their back pocket, constant distraction is at your finger tips every single second of the day. It now takes more willpower and intention NOT to touch your phone when you’re bored than it does to be fully immersed in your daily surroundings during ‘waiting’ periods. Distraction or entertainment – however you wish to frame it – allows you to soothing escape whenever you feel the pang of boredom. McKeown argues that people don’t enjoy being bored “But by abolishing any change of being bored we have also lost the time we used to have to think and process.”

Zooming out from our smart phones, the ‘busyness’ epidemic is currently rife via the rat race, multitasking and being available to everyone at all times, to name a few. Jonathan Fields in How to Live a Good Life explains “By the time we reach adulthood, we’re so distracted by the pull of speed, connectivity, expectations, and rules, we lose the ability to see and experience what’s right in front of us. We become 99 percent unaware, and in doing so we lose the ability to choose and to act rather than react.” Fields suggests mindfulness as a antidote to this lack of awareness. “Mindfulness is about slowing down, noticing and seeing what is really happening in front of you in this moment, without the anxiety of expectation or the haze of regret.”

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi in Creativity echoes the idea of slowing down: “You should just indulge in the luxury of reflection for its own sake. Whether you intend it or not, new ideas and conclusions will emerge in your consciousness anyway – and the less you try to direct the process the more creative they are likely to be.”

Regularly taking pauses to stop and think will also long term allow you to avoid future burnout. When you get completely cooked you’re forced to take a giant break – one that makes up for all the times your subconscious asked for a break and you ignored it. Save yourself that cooked feeling and allow yourself to regularly slow down.