There is an obsession to take action in the modern western society. This obsession has its upside as well as its downside.
Taking action is great, if the action you take is a significant step towards your most important goals. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, it’s not.
Most of the time, our motivation to take action is other than making a significant progress towards our most important goals. Most of the time, we either want to look busy or we want to distract ourselves.
Busy work is one of the main time wasters in companies, second to tech addiction. You’ll find employees wasting their time on busy work instead of working on something valuable. Companies that don’t incentivize their employees with promotions and bonuses are actually encouraging their employees to get involved in busy work.
If you want to learn how economic incentivizing works in human beings, I recommend the audiobook Thinking Like an Economist by Professor Randall Bartlett, which can be found in audible.com.
What is the rationale of the employee that is not going to get any promotion or bonus? They only work so much to keep their job. They do the simplest work. They are more interested in looking busy than being actually busy.
Doing something essential is hard and risky. Doing busy work is simple and easy. Without sufficient incentives, employees tend to be drawn to busy work, because they are paid by time, not by the value they produce.
Contrary to the employees, you won’t find many self-employed people engaging in busy work. They know intuitively which activities produce value and which activities don’t. They’d rather do nothing than getting engaged in busy work. They intuitively know that doing nothing is more valuable than busy work.
The Benefits of Doing Nothing
By doing nothing, you give your mind the space to process your experiences and challenges and come up with new ideas and solutions. Your mind won’t have that opportunity when you keep yourself busy all the time.
Doing nothing also gives you the space to reflect on more abstract topics, such as long term opportunities, threats, and strategies. You need that long term view to find a direction for your life and work. If you do it right, doing nothing can be one of the most valuable things you do.
What Doing Nothing is Not
Doing nothing is doing nothing. It is not watching TV, not surfing the Internet, not chatting with your friends, not hanging out in cafes and bars. It is relaxing in a calm, silent environment. It is not distracting yourself in any shape or form.
Doing nothing is more valuable than distracting yourself with tech and busy work. Employees are encouraged to maximize their working hours, which incentivize them to do busy work. Busy work is simple and easy, but doesn’t produce much value. Self-employed people intuitively know that they have to maximize the value they produce per time unit.
I invite you to look at your working patterns. Are you more engaged in busy work or do you try to maximize the value you produce per time unit?
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly roundup of my latest posts.