The Hidden Art of Doing Nothing At All

This Week’s BIG Idea

When I was younger, I used to fill every waking moment with something productive. I felt this compulsion to do everything (anything at all, really), or else I thought I was wasting my life. I used to listen to dozens of podcasts, I followed certain blogs and websites religiously, I had several hobbies, and I was invested in skills. Lately, though, I found the hidden power of doing nothing. How is it that cultivating the art of doing nothing has boosted my productivity to such an extent?

As of late, I’ve been enjoying going to the park with a pen and paper and seeing what I come up with. More often than not, giving myself the time and space I need to think about certain problems reveals the solutions. I come up with entire articles, and new ideas for the website or the newsletter, and sometimes, nothing happens at all and that’s OK too. This is the art of doing nothing, one of the simplest concepts there is, but one of the hardest to pull off. Famously, Blaise Pascal once said, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”

On that note, it’s important to remind ourselves that productivity isn’t about doing everything you want. On the contrary, productivity is about being intentional with our time. We must accept that we’ll never be able to do everything on our to-do list. This is the idea behind Oliver Burkeman’s Four Thousand Weeks. In the book, Burkeman argues that we should embrace the fact that life is limited. Therefore, we must say no to most things because saying yes to some things is what gives them meaning. So try the art of doing nothing if you can. Your mind will try to escape the boredom and meaningless of it all at first. As counterproductive as it sounds though, this might be the most productive thing you do all week.

What I’m Working on

I’ve been working on several summaries for the site. The latest summary I posted was The Anthology of Balaji by Eric Jorgenson, the author of one of my favorite books of all time, The Almanack of Naval Ravikant. There are more summaries coming, but I want to take my time editing them.

What I’m Listening to

The Tim Ferriss Show – Morgan Housel: in one of the latest episodes of the Tim Ferriss Show, Ferriss interviews Morgan Housel. In the episode, Ferriss and Housel discuss numerous topics, but most of the conversations revolve around money. For those unfamiliar, Housel wrote The Psychology of Money, as well as a more recent book called Same as Ever. If you’re remotely interested in the topic, you should give it a chance.

What I’m Reading

Everything Is Fucked by Mark Manson: I reread The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck last week. I then realized that there wasn’t a summary of Mark Manson’s Everything Is Fucked, so I immediately started working on it. I’m almost done with the book and I’m absolutely loving it so far even when it’s full of obscure references to philosophy and psychology.

What I’m Watching

Just Let Go – The Philosophy of Fight Club: I’ve been thinking about the practical side of philosophy a lot. Interestingly, I came across some videos that examine popular films from the lens of philosophy. Although watching movies can be a shallow experience, some movies are deeper than others. In the video above, for instance, you see an in-depth examination of one of the best films ever made, Fight Club. The video eloquently illustrates how there’s so much more than meets the eye when it comes to the movie.

This Week’s Quote

“What makes life worth living? No child asks itself that question. To children life is self-evident. Life goes without saying: whether it is good or bad makes no difference. This is because children don’t see the world, don’t observe the world, don’t contemplate the world, but are so deeply immersed in the world that they don’t distinguish between it and their own selves.”

Karl Ove Knausgard

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