The Art of Doing Nothing


imgres“Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

~ Winnie the Pooh

I have two speeds: 150 MPH and Zero.  It is a daily challenge for me to find middle ground.

This is not necessarily a post about how to lay around and waste time. But so many of us think we are too busy to stop doing stuff at all, and when we do it, our minds are racing. We need to learn to stop, relax, and enjoy doing nothing.

I have written about how taking small breaks can actually improve your productivity.  Here’s how to start to enjoy doing nothing, get rid of stress and make yourself more productive when you actually do work.

Take tiny breaks
If you have rarely tried to do nothing, it can be overwhelming and (at times) not fun. Try taking 5-10 minutes at a time, and start your practice sessions at home, not at work. Maybe you want to try this outside, or simply in your bedroom or living room. Find a time and place where there are not many distractions, not much noise, and not a lot of people to bother you.

You absolutely must shut off all technology; TV, cell phone, land line…everything.

Try closing your eyes and quietly sit there.  Let the thoughts flow…it’s going to happen (pretty viciously at first), but keep a notepad next to you for after your session; you can get all your thoughts out on paper then.

After 5-10 minutes of doing nothing, get up and go about your day. Do this every day, 5-10 minutes a day, for one week and see what a difference it makes!

The best thing to focus on while doing nothing is your breathing.  At this point, you may think I am telling you to meditate, but I’m not.  Remember..I’m a trombone player!

Start by simply breathing in and out, then start by counting your breath…in for 4 out for 4, then in for 8 out for 8.  Feel where all the air goes in your body; as you gently expand and contract. Concentrate on making every breath feel amazing.  Don’t let there be a “hitch” where you hold your breath at any point.

Do this for 5-10 minutes.  When a thought creeps into your mind, get back to thinking about breathing.  This works!

Breathing helps with this, too.  Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down where every inch of your body feels relaxed.  This could take a bit of time…

If you are not napping at this point (!), try a little self massage.   Start with your shoulders and neck, then work your way up to your head and  your face (don’t forget the ears!). Then do your back, legs and arms.

If you aren’t sure if the muscle is relaxed, tense each muscle in your body, one body part at a time, and then let the tensed muscle relax. You will notice the difference!


Okay, so you may be thinking “eating is doing something”, and it is. But good tea, coffee, wine, hot cocoa, and other delicious beverages go very well with doing nothing. Savor every bit of each sip.  It is meditative in and of itself.

Foods like berries, bread with amazing olive oil, soup or whatever it is that you love work too. Be sure you eat it slowly, savoring every bite.

This is a beginner’s guide to doing nothing.  You can go way beyond this, of course, and there are several books and blogs that can help you with it.  Hopefully you will try these few tips once a day for a bit and see where it goes.  If you can start this art, you will find that in the middle of a stressful day at work or with the kids you will allow yourself to focus more fully on the task at hand. You will be relaxed and ready to concentrate; you will be able to bring yourself into a state of ease and relaxation.

Finally, since this started as a personal finance blog, remember that doing nothing can be a lot cheaper than retail therapy, going out to eat, and shopping online!

The Art of Doing Nothing takes time to master. Start with 5-10 minutes; you will be amazed at the results!

Related Posts:

The Art of Doing Nothing on Amazon

The Art of Doing Nothing Italian Style

A Procrastinator’s Manifesto at Advanced Riskology





You may know by now that this blog has been nominated for one of the Top Personal Finance Blogs of 2012, sponsored by One Smart Dollar and Ready for Zero.  I would be honored if you took 10 seconds to click here and vote for me!  Thanks as always for reading!


  1. I love doing nothing! Many people can’t actually, they need a phone, a computer, a deck of cards, some music, anything… Once I was in the desert and you don’t hear a thing, it was really weird because even in nature you hear the wind, the birds, and there, nothing. The guide said lots of visitors were disturbed, panicked even by the lack of noise.
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  2. High-quality post, again! Made me get up, pour another coffee and just look at the drizzle out the cafe window. What a fantastically wonderful feeling and how refreshing, seriously.
    cj recently posted…Facing Fear TogetherMy Profile

  3. The importance of Doing Nothing cannot be overstated. I have been making time in my day since December. I love this part of my day and find that by setting a specific time – which for me is after dinner and changing into some comfy clothes – I am able to stick to it. By practicing each night, I am better able to interrupt any negative thought patterns that creep in during the day. Thank you for pointing out ways in which we can incorporate it into our regular day!

    Oh, and I just voted for you and see you’re up there on the top of the list! I hope you win. Congratulations on the nomination, Tony.

    • Tammy, that is so sweet. Thanks for the vote! I am pretty shocked, to say the least.

      As far as doning nothing: comfy clothes are a nice trigger for sure! Have a beautiful weekend…

  4. Ashleen Moreen says:

    I love this topic. If many people think that “Doing nothing” means a waste of time, then, just ignore them and enjoy your little break. If you have worked so hard for something, then you deserve something in return. A simple rest is a good reward you could give to yourself. right?
    Ashleen Moreen recently posted…Timber Sliding Doors To Make Best Use Of The Space In Your HomeMy Profile

  5. Could’ve used this advice as a music major a few years ago. I was definitely working harder, not smarter, and my productively was noticeably lessened because of burnout.

    • Yup. As a music major myself, I spent either too much time doing nothing or not enough time doing something! But it’s never too late to start…

  6. Doing nothing is something I have had a hard time doing in the past. I feel like there is always so much to do that I feel guilty when I take a break for myself. I have been so stressed lately that I put my two weeks notice in at one of my day jobs. I am already so excited knowing that I will have less responisibilites on my plate.

    Doing nothing every now and then has to be good for the soul.
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    • It is good for the soul. Congrats on ditching one of the jobs! (?). It’s not worth the stress, as long as you can pay the bills.

  7. It feels so odd to vote Canadian! I appreciate your blog, especially as related to using eBay. I’m getting ready to start selling on eBay, Which I’ve been meaning to do for the last 5 Years. I was referred to you through Cat on Zen Habits.

  8. And don’t forget to follow up that “do nothing” time with “do something” time! :)
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  9. I have a very hard time doing nothing. I need to make myself realize that it’s OK to get nothing accomplished, but I also hate to feel behind. That stressed me out to the point that I wouldn’t enjoy doing nothing. I am pretty good with sitting around and reading once in a while. Does that count?
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted…7 Steps to Take Before You Put Your Home on the MarketMy Profile

    • Kim, I get it. Reading doesn’t count! Try just breathing…if only for 2 minutes with a timer. Try that for a few and let me know…

  10. Wayne Dyer stresses this approach. Cool stuff! I find myself always falling asleep….not good. Takes tons of practice. Doing nothing is hard! 😉
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  11. I literally JUST thought (before clicking this, oddly enough) that I should just sit here and do nothing before my next call in 10 minutes :) And I’ve never thought that in like 5 years – what are the odds?

    Of course I didn’t listen to myself because I’m here typing this right now, but I had to chime in here and let you know… I’ll do the 10 mins in between my next calls. I needed this!

  12. I will surely do this. I thought I was doing good on my break time but you’ve given a better way of doing it. Thanks a lot!

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