Do Nothing
How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving

By Celeste Headlee

In a Nutshell:

Stop focusing on what you do, set limits on your schedule, including your smartphone use.

We have evolved (or are designed?) to work in bursts. Find your rhythm, but just under 1 hour of concentrated work is maximal for most, followed by a short break.


The Deeper Dive:

In Part I, the author spends most of her time tearing down “the protestant work ethic.” If you struggle with workaholism, and get most if not all of your meaning from your job, I would recommend reading this part.  Otherwise, I would recommend reading Part II and going back to Part I if you need to for reference.

In Part II, the author gives “Life Hacks” to take your life back (into your control).  First, I would caution anyone trying to control their lives, that there are too many things outside our control to accomplish complete control. Having said that, we can control a large part of our lives, and the author has some very insightful recommendations.  Most of what the author has to say in this part is quite insightful and helpful

1) Realize that keeping up with the social media of “the Joneses” is not the same as keeping up with the real life of your neighbors, visible to you in shared backyard barbecues.  Never compare your real life to the social media “life” of others.

2) ** THIS IS THE GOLD NUGGET*** Step away from your desk. Research shows that people work better in bursts. You need to experiment with what your cycle is, but the average is 50-57 minutes of work followed by 15 minutes (+/-) of break.  This goes against the typical work day, but improves productivity and mental health.  Also No One can multitask, but you can pulse your work: work on one task for 20 minutes, another for 10, another for 25, then take your break.

3) Stop answering emails and work texts after hours.

4) Buying time promotes happiness – pay someone to do the menial tasks you don’t enjoy.  However, don’t fall into the trap that “Time is Money.” or just like money – you will never have enough time. Invest spare time in yourself

5) schedule leisure – this is not the same as spare time – Liesure turns on our brain’s default mode network – this is crucial for self-reflection.  This is the time we defrag our brain – like we used to do with computers (My words, not the authors).

6) Form real relationships – group play or leisure – like board games builds brain health. here she says something counterintuitive: Brainstorm individually then evaluate these ideas as a group. This does not mean striving for consensus above all.  polling as many as possible gets best ideas.  Be Kind

7) Not all who wander are lost – sometimes, it pays to take the long way. Do not confuse the means goal with the end goal. If you choose not to answer work emails after hours (means goal) what are you using that time for?  You want more rest and a more well-balanced life. We need end-goals! (Sounds like my first pillar – start with the end in mind.) Yes, this is exactly the point of a repurposed life!