A Column About Nothing

Bob Goldman on

The question for today is, "What do you do?"

If you answer dentistry, plumbing, teaching the tango or any other noble profession, you're wrong.

The right answer is, "I do nothing."

Writer Olga Mecking does not do nothing, yet she is the author of "The Case for Doing Nothing," an article in The New York Times.

It is Mecking's opinion that a culture of busyness has taken over our lives. We are ruled by our to-do lists and judged by them, too. As result, "instances of burnout, anxiety disorders and stress-related diseases are on the rise."

(She also points to the damage done through "millennial burnout," but do we care about millennials? I didn't think so.)


The cure for being busy-busy-busy is "niksen." It's a Dutch word for doing nothing.

Psychologist Sandi Mann says niksen "literally makes us more creative, better at problem-solving, better at coming up with creative ideas."

Niksen is like "a car whose engine is running but isn't going anywhere" says Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a psychologist who studies boredom and who, if she really wants to plumb the depths of boredom, really should attend your next staff meeting.

One suggestion for integrating doing nothing with doing something is to take regular breaks during the workday. I agree. A good schedule for a typical day would be 15 minutes of work followed by three hours of break followed by lunch followed by nap followed by another 15 minutes of work. Spend the remainder of the day on break. Heaven knows you deserve it.


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