20110411

Doing (Really) Nothing

Doing Nothing is Good For You!

Yesterday I did nothing. Absolutely, really nothing.

And it felt great.

Before yesterday, my usual weekend was filled of what I thought was doing nothing, but far from it. I wrote posts, programmed, read a lot online and caught up with what was going in the A-List Blogger Club forum. Did some laundry, folded the clothes. All this (well, except for the laundry part) under the assumption that doing what you love does not tire you. Utterly wrong assumption.

For a long time I've been constantly tired. Not extremely tired, just that every day I was like "taking a nap would be awesome", and on Fridays it was more like "taking a 3 hour nap would be terrific". Sounds like sleep deprivation, but it is not. Last time I remember not being tired was while we were doing our road trip around Iceland, and there I slept far, far less and was energised all around. What's going on?

I use to live on leased time. I got tired one day, and the next I kept on and kept on, and did the same in the weekend. All year around. How could I not be tired?

Pace yourself

Last Wednesday I was lucky to catch a tweet by Michael Nobbs:

Michael Nobbs Tweet

Was interested, downloaded it (you can do it here) and enjoyed it a lot. Later that day I picked a pen I had bought something like 6 months ago (Sakura Pigma Brush Pen) and an old cheap Moleskine and started drawing. Just what I had in front of me. On Thursday I bought Michael's Sustainable Creativity: Advice on how to maintain a creative life for people with low energy or limited time (or both!). I found it so interesting I became an affiliate, so this is an affiliate link. The sub-title is interesting: Michael was diagnosed ME/CFS in the late 90's, and since then he has been forced to find his pace... Which is something that I need to do too, even if I'm not ill.

Really doing nothing

Doing Nothing is Good For You!
My rising energy is likely to sprout from several causes.

Meditating daily: 10 minutes morning and night. Preparing for the day and cooling from the day. Since I started meditating back in January, I've felt the difference in concentration and focus.
Eating more nuts and cereals: my usual breakfast has ranged from bread with butter or a pair of croissants and a caffè latte. Now I'm eating muesli and plenty of nuts and seeds (I love nuts)... I'm a little hungrier in the morning, but this should be better for my fitness.
Drawing freely: from reading said books, it is just mindfulness in action. Like practising mindfully with my guitar. Relax and let it flow.

Last Saturday, I changed my weekend habits. There was no trigger, I did just what I felt like doing. I read a little on my iPad. I drew. I did the laundry and folded clothes. I wrote a to-do list of things I have pending, without any intention of doing them any time soon. I sketched the next post of the Iceland road trip, giving me just 20 minutes for it. I drew a little more and watched a little the TV. Read a little still.

It doesn't look that different, doesn't it? So, what is really the difference? Expectations.

I did not expect to do nothing. As such, folding clothes and doing the laundry were not rushing and hated tasks, but just a moment to just fold clothes and listen to Bill Evans. Reading was not reading to extract ideas and use them, nor to answer questions or get answers to question, but just for fun. Recovering this fun in idleness was amazing. Just like being allowed to breathe after 3 minutes underwater.

The fallacy of following your passion

A lot of people (mostly bloggers) out there say that if you follow your passion, you don't get tired. And I bet you may agree, I've done so. Who has not spent 3 hours coding without even realising what he was doing? Who has not sat for just finishing the proof of a lemma and ended with 3 more answers and 6 more questions?

The problem is that your passion is not evenly distributed in enjoyment and tiredness.
You won't get tired of coding once you get in the flow, but how do you feel about documenting the code?
You won't get tired of proving theorems, but how do you feel about writing it in LaTeX?
I love the tasks above, and I love writing too. But writing for a blog is just the tip of the iceberg. I like that tip, but the rest is not so fun. Typesetting, proofreading and general nut-and-bolts stuff is not so fun. And then, I got tired: I planned my weekends to work in my passion, expecting to not get tired, instead I got tired because I only devoted a little time to my passion and the rest to the boring stuff.

Relax. Do what you love, but expect no results. Expect not to finish in one sitting. Expect to fail, expect to not expect. And take it easy.

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This post has several links which are affiliate links. I would make a little money if you boght from them, do only if you think they are worthwhile for you!


Written by Ruben Berenguel