I lay for long lazy hours alone on this beach in July 2017 in Croatia. Heaven!
By Caitlin Kelly
It’s all sort of sad, really.
In this recent New York Times story — putatively touting the benefits of doing absolutely nothing, aka niksen — the whole reason for doing nothing is…to be more productive:
More practically, the idea of niksen is to take conscious, considered time and energy to do activities like gazing out of a window or sitting motionless. The less-enlightened might call such activities “lazy” or “wasteful.” Again: nonsense.
We at Smarter Living have long been fans of taking regular breaks throughout the day, as study after study shows that feeling drowsy, exhausted or otherwise mentally depleted during the workday drastically hinders performance and productivity.
In other words: Whether at home or at work, permission granted to spend the afternoon just hanging out.
Insert my very loud scream right here.
I did something unthinkable to the old me today.
I skipped the second jam-packed day at an annual writers’ conference: missing appointments and new potential clients, not seeing old friends and basically wasting the money I paid for all of it.
Instead, feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, I stayed home, alone and quiet.
I didn’t do this to become more productive!
I did it because I was tired.
I really needed to rest.
I did this because my body told me to sleep 9.5 hours last night, which I gratefully did.
I did it because I cried to a friend in a NYC tea room, worn out with anxiety.
We live in a time when millions of us are being forced into economic precarity — aka the “gig economy”, a phrase I loathe. Because this kind of work is always somewhat unpredictable (I lost my two anchor clients overnight), and can be poorly paid, one is very reluctant to turn away income, to slow down, to just….be still.
Which makes it even more important to just do that.
And plenty of it, dammit!
Do you find it hard to slow down, unplug, unwind and just rest?
21 thoughts on “Niksen, farniente, lassitude. REST!”
I’m going back to work tomorrow after a ten-day break of doing…well…not very much. I’ve been away to Scotland to a cozy cottage, where I walked, read, watched movies and spent hours on the sofa curled up next to the woodstove. Resting like that is so important, and yet so many of us feel guilt for doing ‘nothing’. But we shouldn’t!
This reminded me
…there are some lovely Winnie the Pooh quotes about doing nothing. He’s a wise old bear 🙂
That sounds like complete heaven!!!
Jose and I snatched 5 days in February in Montreal and will be back up there for a 3 day weekend soon. But I want a long and uninterrupted (by work) break for both of us. We are hoping for 3 weeks in the UK and maybe Paris in the fall.
Ooh, 3 weeks in the UK is a lot of time for exploring! Sounds great! 🙂 Any ideas for places you both want to visit?
There’s a lot I want to see — had hoped for 2 weeks just in Cornwall. But also have not been back to Scotland since I was 12…plus Paris…plus London
Some days, when work has me so stressed, I don’t do anything productive, like writing. Instead I just watch streaming services or read. And you know what? I’m relaxed afterwards. I feel better. Sure, I didn’t get any writing done, but I got to do what I enjoy. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, it sounds healthier than anything else.
This fetish for productivity drives me nuts. Everyone needs downtime. No one needs to think about work and $$$$$$ all the time — and if wages were not so lousy, people could afford to rest more.
I think that very logic is why companies keep wages low, sadly.
of course….hence the phrase wage slaves
Well, hopefully things will change. People are getting jazzed about making social changes again, so who knows?
Thank you for sharing!
I’m in a high pressure job, but I’ve made a rule about leaving work at work so that I can rest. I’m looking forward to three weeks of beach this summer. I might be holding a book, but I probably won’t be reading it.
Try to be good to yourself, Caitlin. Rest well. 🙂
I am usually better at it….last week was fairly nuts. This week I do plan to slow down and recover.
I was shocked at how depleted (not energized) I felt at the conference. It was great to see old friends and my presentation there was well-liked…I realized that everyone (of course) expected the “old”high-energy pre-BC me and that person is now different, albeit invisibly.
It’s also a reflection of my true despair at what’s happened to my industry — this weekend the entire staff of New Orleans’ major newspaper was fired. This is really bad.
Wow! All of them! So sorry to hear that, Caitlin.
Hoping things are calmer this week — Jose comes home today from 4 days away in NM; had a calmer than expected dr appt today.
Mostly super nervous — my book proposal is being read by an editor.
Good luck! 🙂
and it was good that you listened to what your body and mind were clearly telling you. I have gotten better about this over time, saying no, not pushing myself so hard, not doing every possible thing offered to make money, and it is a long struggle because of the times I did not have money or security. at this point in my life, time and peace of mind have become more important to me than money, and I try to remember that I am now okay, and honor that every chance I get.
I spent — as you did — years in “survival mode” and it’s difficult-but-necessary to realize we are OK now and I can turn away business or leave a situation that is depleting me beyond what I can handle.
Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity . . . doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.
~ Jenny Odell, “How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.” (Melville House, April 23, 2019)
Thanks for this…and true…and a book I should read.
I tweet this a lot but know it falls on deaf ears. In an economy with so little economic security for so many of us it feels dangerous (!?) to relax and recover from constant production.
No wonder unions are finally once more gaining new members!
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