The Art of Doing Nothing

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    Key Points

    • Productivity, contrary to the popular belief, is NOT your ability to manage time. Productivity is actually your ability to produce something.
    • "Doing nothing" can really have a big impact on how you think mentally. It gives you a time to just relax and think things through. To think about anything.
    • Once your break from blogging is over, you should return with an eagerness to get to work and feel energized to get that work done.


    Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing at all. In this article, the idea that doing nothing can actually boost your productivity later on is talked about, as well as the benefits of having some downtime as a blogger can be.


by Alex

Good productivity is a complicated thing to explain. How does one get into a productive mood and stay that way? As a blogger with a goal to accomplish and a vision for success, you probably have a lot of things you need to get done to get to where you want to be. How do you find the motivation to do it all?

Productivity, contrary to the popular belief, is NOT your ability to manage time. Sure, being able to manage your time can help you become more organized, which can help you become productive. But, productivity is actually your ability to produce something. A simple concept, right?

As simple sounding as it is, being productive is not easy to achieve. With other things to take your time up, like schooling or a job, sometimes when it comes to blogging – you just burnout. When you burnout, you lose that productiveness; the will to keep producing.

I have written quite a bit here on productivity and how to stay in a working mood. I’m sure you have read plenty of articles on productivity as well. But the idea I want to suggest to you here probably goes against every productivity tip you have ever read. It even makes quite a contradiction to the term as well.

Today, I want to talk to you about doing nothing. My favorite thing for getting into a working mood.

The Less you do, the More you want to do. Later.

Sounds crazy, but hear me out first. I wrote a pretty powerful article on acting now to find distant success last week, and I really believe in that concept. Put in the work now, enjoy the reward later. But I want to go back a step and figure out what we can do to get us in the mood to work hard.

First of all, when I say “doing nothing,” what do you think I mean? Believe it or not, I think there is more to nothingness than the definition of the word might say. Below are a few words I associate the phrase “doing nothing” with:

  • Relaxing
  • Laziness
  • Peace
  • Enjoyment
  • Appreciation
  • Tranquility
  • Calmness

Why do you think so many of us would rather sit around and do nothing rather than work? I’ll bet that if you give it just a few minutes of thought, you can see how I made the words above connect with doing nothing. When you’re hard at work, you may be stressed out with a mind running wild. When you’re doing nothing, you’re more at peace with nothing to worry about. You cannot tell me I’m wrong.

Why do you think sitting on the beach is so enjoyable? It’s not because of the sun, the warm weather, or even the views (whatever/whoever you’re looking at). It’s because you’re doing nothing in an environment that gives off a vibe which can be explained with every single word I listed above.

What I achieve by doing nothing at all

I think it’s fair to say that sitting down and just letting your mind run free can be considered a form of relaxation. Your mind is completely different when you’re in a relaxed mode than it is when you are in the middle of working your butt off.

I get some of the most important things I can think of done when I’m not doing anything. Obviously it’s all intellectual, but it really helps me for later on as it gives me a chance to think things through and see something for what it really us. Or, what it could be.

A few of the most important things I accomplish when I sit around doing nothing would have to be:

Getting in a good break

We all need to enjoy some rest and relaxation every once in a while. Some of us don’t consider blogging to be work as we see it as more of a hobby, but that doesn’t mean it can’t cause stress. It can’t be healthy to the mind if you are constantly thinking about your blog, so this downtime may be just what you need to take your mind off of blogging.

The great thing about taking an hour or two (or maybe just the day) off is that you will more than likely be in a great mood to get some work done. If you really enjoy the time you spend on your blog, then coming back from break will really be enjoyable and you will have this sort of eagerness to get back to it all.

Just last weekend I relieved myself of any writing time I usually have to work on school projects. Of course, I would much rather be writing than building molecular compound models for my Chemistry class, but I was away from the normal routine and when I got back – I felt great about it.

Thinking about the past and what the future holds

If you do choose to spend some of your downtime thinking of your blog, that’s fine. There are plenty of times where I have just sat down and thought of the things I have done over the last few days.

Self-analysis is always a beneficial thing to do. If you want to really dig deep into your head and see where you really are with your blog, just thinking about everything that you have done or haven’t done for your blog can give you a great idea.

Breakthroughs & Revelations

As I have mentioned already, a relaxed mind is the best kind of mind to have. You never know what you will come up with if you’re just in your comfort zone letting your mind roam free.

Relaxation can really open your mind up to a lot of emotions. The one emotion that it brings me, and I’m sure you can say the same for yourself too, is happiness. I think happy bloggers are the best bloggers, and you can really be surprised what you can think of when you are just thinking positively.

Does nothing sound good to you?

Have I surprised you in telling you that you should be taking time to sit around and do absolutely nothing? It may sound crazy, believe me. I just wrote an article last week about acting now for success, and a lot of what I talk about there may just go against a lot I talked about here today. It just proves two things: 1) I can’t get my idea of productivity straight and 2) Blogging is full of contradictions.

What do you think about doing nothing? Honestly, I don’t care if you call me an idiot for suggesting these things in this article. I really look forward to some of your insight here.

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Liane January 29, 2010 at 12:46 am

Is use the 80/20 rule that I’ve learned from Yaro. True enough, the things you spend less time on could usually be those that are more productive than the ones that takes a great deal of effort.

As for letting the mind run free, my best time of the day is in between my class breaks (which could be around 2 hours). I just go back to the dorm, have a nap and feel re-energized for the rest of the day. Helps A LOT to just ‘do nothing’ once in a while ;)
.-= Liane´s last blog ..Rebuilding Lives: Continuous Support is Needed for Haiti Disaster Relief Operations =-.

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Helmi @ Huzzer Magazine January 29, 2010 at 3:56 am

I totally agree the way of thought of the 80/20 rule. Sometimes, by doing less, we can see something else that we fail to see while we are busy catching up date lines and busy doing works. Being busy, it will force us to be under ‘tunnel vision mode’ i.e. to focus on what we do and ignoring anything else.

With doing ‘nothing’, it will let us to clear our mind ,let us to see our environment clearer and therefore let us to get new ideas and think of new projects that could bring bring us great returns and satisfactions.

But there is always 2 side of a coin. Everything has its pros and cons. The main thing we should know is balance is the key of success. We can be too relax or too tense with what we do. We must balance them up.

In contrary with the 80/20 rule, Einstein once said people will only show the best of themselves when they are in tense ;)

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:02 pm

The 80/20 rule is definitely something I agree with. Probably should have mentioned it in the article, but you just about summed it up. ;)

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Steven Corbett January 29, 2010 at 1:11 am

For me, relatively short periods of intentional down time can be incredibly stimulating! I get the greatest brainstorms (the ones that actually work) when I’m away from the computer, either drinking a cup of coffee, or listening to some good instrumental music, or just sitting outside watching people walk by.

Keep the contradictions coming- they’re great! ;)
.-= Steven Corbett´s last blog ..Free Flash Contact Mod for PHPmotion =-.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:04 pm

Definitely Steven.

This is my perfect brainstorm session:

Turn off all of the lights in my room, turn on the lava lamp and get that cool little glow just to have a little light and a cool feel. Have a hot cup of tea, and just chill on my cool little chair. It works amazingly, and I come up with the best ideas there.

Yeah man, the best post seems to contradict another one, so I’m definitely not stopping here.

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Chris Palmer January 29, 2010 at 2:34 am

This is something that is actually very important in my mind. Let me give a few examples.

A. A while back I was at a family function. All of my cousins were there and it was quite hectic. The only other entrepreneur in my family sat down at our table and we talked for a good while about the things we were both doing, how they were going, and sharing other bits of information with each other.

He said a few things that really stuck out to me. First, he said “Never talk business at family gatherings. Make it a rule that if we are going to talk business, we just won’t come anymore”. This, I consider to be ‘time away’.

Second, he said, “Sometimes I take about a year break from a company and just think about it. I don’t do anything but sit there and think about it”. I found this to also be a great piece of advice (if you had the luxury to do so and the business could be maintained by others).

B. I find that the greatest ideas come when I am out doing just normal, everyday american things, like buying dinner at In-n-Out Burger or going Ice Skating at the Olympic Oval. Sometimes when I’m just sitting there laying in bed.

I’d say the third most used app on my android phone would have to be my ‘notes’ app, which I write thoughts down when they come to mind (only third to the phone and SMS).

C. Heck. After a long 10 hour day, I just want to wind down with a good video game. Recharge my batteries and just have a bit of fun.

Great post! Simple, but great.
.-= Chris Palmer´s last blog ..PMDG talks FSX vs. FS9 =-.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Awesome input Chris!

I really like that idea of not talking business at family gatherings. I mean, it would be tempting to want to talk to another person who is doing the same thing as you since you are so closely connected right? If there was someone in my school who was an online entrepreneur like myself, I would probably want to talk to them about it. But, school is for school, and it’s just another place I can go to get away from all of that, so it would probably be a bad idea for my workflow.

A year break is a really long time…I don’t think I could take a year off and just think, because whenever I think and come up with something great I get really excited for it!

Again man, very cool story. We need to chat on Skype sometime. :)

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Palabuzz January 29, 2010 at 2:56 am

Sometimes we really d need a break. Too much of eerythign is bad for us.
.-= Palabuzz´s last blog ..This is it (Michael Jackson) =-.

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Helmi @ Huzzer Magazine January 29, 2010 at 4:05 am

Sometimes, we definitely need a break with what we do to let ourselves to be more relax and fresher. It would then be easy for us to get new ideas and see something from the different perspective.

However, what we should realize and I believe Ales is trying to say is ‘doing nothing’ is not exactly means doing nothing. While having a break, we should keep our mind sharp and let it open to new ideas.

Set Godin once said in his book, The Big Moo if i’m not mistaken. He said to make us a better person we should not confine ourselves to our own circle.

He said that if all this while we keep reading non fiction books, we should give a try on fictional books. If all this while we read computer or gadget related magazines, we should then try to read women or gardening magazine.

Through this he said will let us to be more open to our environment, will easily get new, creative idea, bring new perspective to our way if thinking and let us to be a better person – personal and professional point of view.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm

I consider thinking as not really doing anything because your best thoughts come from your relaxed mind. When you’re not doing anything you’re relaxing, hence a clearer mind, and of course – good ideas. Kind of see what I’m getting at?

That’s definitely true, you can’t always think about just blogging and work related stuff. Like I mention in the article, sometimes you want to take a break and think about work, other times you want to think about nothing. Either is fine, and you should try to balance them out.

True words though, no doubt they came from Seth Godin

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mohsin January 29, 2010 at 4:28 am

I agree with you 100%, doing nothing and taking a thought provoking job is one of my best kept management secret till now ;)
.-= mohsin´s last blog ..New Opportunites with Google Social Search =-.

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Dave January 29, 2010 at 6:28 am

Lots of great points. I definitely come back refreshed when I have taken a few days away from the online world and gone outside and done something physical to get back in tune with nature and the real world.
.-= Dave´s last blog ..Get Paid To Take Paid Surveys Online =-.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Sounds like the perfect plan Dave! Good luck. :)

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Chris Peterson January 29, 2010 at 6:47 am

It’s some time happens, when we invest time and money to achieve something and we wouldn’t get. That time we should quit for timing. And try to find out the problem.

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scheng1 January 29, 2010 at 8:49 am

haha, it seems you have learnt a lot from the lazy cats
.-= scheng1´s last blog ..Diagnosis for kidney stones =-.

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Loxlee January 29, 2010 at 9:45 am

I get distracted so easily, I found myself looking at Cars for sale in Australia the other day! I live in the UK and have no money, so why was I doing that?!?!
.-= Loxlee´s last blog ..Australian Muscle Cars =-.

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Chris Palmer January 30, 2010 at 5:22 am

Because you’re passionate about it; that’s why! What’s wrong with that?
.-= Chris Palmer´s last blog ..Curiosity Killed the Pilot =-.

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Nick Tart January 29, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Hey Alex! I’ve conceived the best ideas I’ve ever had while laying in my bed before I go to sleep. There’s something to it. There aren’t any distractions and it’s the most comfortable you will be all day. Doing nothing can do some good, but don’t get used to it!
.-= Nick Tart´s last blog ..Interview: Philip Hartman, 2008 Young Inventor of the Year =-.

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Chris Palmer January 30, 2010 at 5:23 am

Me too, man! Same exact thing works for me.
.-= Chris Palmer´s last blog ..Curiosity Killed the Pilot =-.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Hope you don’t forget those while you sleep! I try not to think when I’m trying to sleep because it will keep me from actually sleeping….but when I do, I know I come up with some great stuff. Hopefully, nothing I forget…

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Nick Tart January 31, 2010 at 9:40 pm

I always used to forget them until I started keeping a pad of paper next to my bed. Now I get to write them down in the dark and try to decipher them in the morning!
.-= Nick Tart´s last blog ..Interview: Alex Fraiser, World’s Most Successful 16-Year-Old Blogger =-.

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oscommerce templates January 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Alex by reading your article only I am feeling fresh … lolzzz

But my case is different for me my work gives me relaxation and I really enjoyed it.

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Derek Jensen January 29, 2010 at 2:51 pm


When I read “The Less you do, the More you want to do. Later.” as one of your headers, it really struck me. Reason being is because is so true.

When I allow myself time to relax, I will then notice I have a lot to do so I will push myself (once I am done relaxing) to get what I need/want to get done. I work better under stress and its almost like we are purposely procrastinating.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm

Whatever gets you going I guess! So you work better with deadlines as well? Honestly though, it sounds like you have a good set process for you that just makes sense under your working conditions. More power to you man. ;)

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Derek Jensen January 30, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Haha I totally thought Seth wrote this. Im sorry Alex.

I think is just comes with the college atmosphere and having to do so much in a little amount of time. And the want to relax all the time.

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Brandon Cox January 29, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Nothings sounds great to me. But if I do nothing too long, I get anxious that something isn’t going to happen.
.-= Brandon Cox´s last blog ..Blogging About the Elephants In the Room =-.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 6:15 pm

So make sure it happens when you’re done relaxing. ;)

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Ari Herzog January 29, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Waitasec here. You suggest the less you do, the more you want to do. While that is accurate for the reasons you cite, it is also true that the less you do, the more you do.

For instance, by eating a cup of soup instead of a sandwich, you may be eating less weight but you are eating more density and thus get full quicker than had you eaten that sandwich. Carry that analogy to, say, blogging, and the less words you publish on a given post, the quicker it takes someone else to read it and be inspired to add a comment. If it was longer, someone might skim through the post and be less inspired to comment.

For instance. ;)
.-= Ari Herzog´s last blog ..Learning Online Marketing from McDonald’s and Coca-Cola =-.

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Alex January 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Right, I would rather get less done but produce better results than doing more with weaker results.

Love the blogging analogy! We target those who get relaxation from reading. Seems to work too. ;)

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Kok Siong Chen January 29, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I think take a short break is important to recharge our passion to blogging. Thanks for sharing!
.-= Kok Siong Chen´s last blog ..Cri du Chat Syndrome – Human with Cat-like Cry =-.

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Agent Deepak January 30, 2010 at 4:03 am

I am very good at doing nothing. I am very lazy, so this art is inborn in me.

I advise those hard working people to relax sometime. They need it.
.-= Agent Deepak´s last blog ..Shoe Money System is Coming =-.

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krish January 30, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Everyone needs to relax one or the other time a day.This not only gets them energized but helps to get new thoughts & ideas.Unless u relax/take a break u will make up a mess in ur mind..
.-= krish´s last blog ..How to Design a Squeeze Page for building a big mailing list =-.

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Kai Lo January 30, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I never stop doing anything. When I am not doing anything for my blogs, I am actually doing link building.

Twitter @lomak1985

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Richard@How To Videos January 31, 2010 at 7:35 am

Alex, this is post that all should read. However, then they would be doing “something” ;) Seriously though, everybody needs a way to harvest their creative juices and a method for allowing new ideas to surface. Your strategies on “doing nothing” will help people achieve quite a bit. Thx, Richard
.-= Richard@How To Videos´s last blog ..How Do I Figure Sales Tax =-.

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Dennis Edell January 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Listen up folks, first hand experience talking here…you best take it easy on your own, before you have no choice in the matter and you’re down for the count.

Not to get too personal, I have herniated disks in my back, two very bad knees and a wounded leg that’s healing slowly…I’m in pain in one way or another daily, but work through it.

If I don’t break on purpose from time to time, I will be taken out for 24-48hrs or more sometimes whether I like it or not.

In perfect health you say? Keep going the way you are and see what happens…
.-= Dennis Edell´s last blog ..Hello & Welcome To The All New – Merged – Direct Sales Coaching Blog! =-.

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Shinningpak January 31, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Alex, I do agree with your point. For blogging relax mind is must have element. I can’t concentrate and think about the idea when i am not relax. In such time i just surf the net or play some video game.
After relaxing my mind, I feel freshness in my thoughts. Then i take pen and paper to draw the points and start my work.

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online shopping cart website design February 1, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Sometimes you’ll find it necessary to take a break from writing, infact taking a break and getting yourself being creative with something other than words, like coloring a picture, playing online games, painting, knitting etc can help refresh the brain, thanks for the great post.

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Instant Fundas February 15, 2010 at 8:45 am

I agree. Taking a few days off has helped me regain my motivation and be more productive a number of times in the past. It’s well known that breaks and holidays are an essential part of your work life.
.-= Instant Fundas´s last blog ..Microsoft develops a game to improve clipart tagging =-.

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panduan bisnis online May 10, 2010 at 7:46 am

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jack @ web content filtering software July 21, 2010 at 1:18 pm

I have a friend that lives in Italy. He says they take short naps int he afternoon (at work) and take 1-2 hours for lunch. He says it has a huge, beneficial, impact on creativity and productivity. I can see how that could be. When I am stressed and swamped with work I tend to get less done and quality really suffers.

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Jason @ I need lots of money now September 8, 2010 at 11:11 am

I don’t think it’s a too good a thing to absolutely nothing at all, Alex. So – no. I agree with you 100% that you need to give yourself some time to be in a relaxed mood as it gives you time to come up with awesome ideas and stuff – and exactly that should be the cause or is that pause point. While “enjoying yourself” to try and calm and relax yourself – your should write that down when that brilliant idea sudden strucks your mind. Not on a computer – but you MUST pen it down so that you can still remember when you need to start at using it.

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Bret Grapp September 20, 2010 at 7:38 am

hey adminstrator , i with Your idea.

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Rosalie List September 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

Surprisee adminstrator , i like w/ u site. i will come to your blog again tomorrow

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Pat November 18, 2010 at 12:47 am

Thanks for reminding us that we all need to take time out now and again. I do a lot of work on the computer and have to force myself to take a break sometimes but I feel much better and less stressed when I do.

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e20-335 December 2, 2010 at 6:33 am

Great post, very helpful, I have to say that if ones web site like this on of Target was so unhelpful to the client using it, why would this client come back, or even tell anyone else to use it. This can be very damaging to a business in the long run.

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James December 2, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Very nice. I love doing nothing. No seriously. I mean that I love letting go with my mind and doing a bit of meditation to get ideas. I once read about the guy who invented the CD. He used to swim underwater holding his breath so that he could force out all other thoughts. Then he’d just tune in to the things that first came to his mind after he surfaced. Cool.

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