The Scientific Case for Doing Nothing
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The Scientific Case for Doing Nothing

Book Bites Career Habits & Productivity
The Scientific Case for Doing Nothing

Celeste Headlee is an award-winning journalist, professional speaker, and bestselling author whose new book is Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving. Her work and insights have been featured on TODAY, Psychology Today, Inc., NPR, Time, Essence, Elle, BuzzFeed, Salon, and many more. She’s had a remarkable 20-year career in public radio, and her TEDx Talk on ways to have a better conversation has been viewed over 30 million times.

Below, Celeste offers 5 key insights from Do Nothing in this exclusive Next Big Idea Club Book Bite.

1. Hustle culture started hundreds of years ago.

We’re living in a hustle culture that’s become toxic—we feel like we should be more efficient and more productive, like we should always be building our brand and implementing life hacks. It’s tempting to think that this is caused by technology and social media, but this trend actually began in the Industrial Revolution. Generation after generation have leaned into the same sorts of habits and values that have led us to this point, leaving us exhausted and unhealthy.

2. Work is not essential to life.

Human beings have inherent needs. One of them is social contact, which is required for a human being to remain healthy in body and mind. Other needs include language, rules, play, music, and more. But when you drill down to the things that are common to all members of our species, you don’t find work. In fact, assuming that your survival needs are taken care of and you feel that you have a purpose, you can live a perfectly healthy and fulfilled life without working.

3. Means goals are not end goals.

End goals are the overarching goals that you have for life, but means goals are exactly what they sound like—means to an end. If your end goal is good health, for example, your means goal could be taking Pilates. If that doesn’t work for you, you could try bike riding or swimming instead. So don’t adopt a means goal—like making your bed every morning—simply because you read that it’s a top habit of successful people. Be sure that your means goals are truly serving your end goals, and change them if need be.

4. Long hours are not productive hours.

Most people can only focus for four or five hours a day. If you’re going to keep working beyond that, your brain will resist, and the work produced will often be less creative, riddled with errors, and generally of lower quality. When you cut people’s hours down to a more reasonable workweek, they often become more productive, less error-prone, more loyal, and just happier and better workers in general.

5. To your brain, your tech break is work.

Let’s say you have a break at work, so you scroll through Facebook or do some online shopping. It may seem like a diversion, but to your brain, there’s no difference between that and the actual work you’ve been doing. In fact, any time your phone is visible, your brain is thinking about it, readying itself to respond to incoming notifications. So if you really want to take a break, leave the electronics either out of sight or in another room. Take a walk without your phone. Give your brain a break.

Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving by Celeste Headlee Next Big Idea Club Nominee Spring 2020

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