Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.
— Lao Tzu
Why are you here? We don’t mean in a metaphysical, “why are any of us here, man?” way—we mean, why are you reading this material?
Maybe you’re a productivity junkie and you think we’ll help you be more effective with your time. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and you just need time—any time at all—to stop working and step away from Productivity Mode™. Maybe there’s a hobby you’ve been wanting to get into, a book you’ve wanted to get through, a significant other gently reminding you that watching Netflix in silence isn’t a date, or any other scenario where time feels rather scarce.
No matter why you chose to read these thoughts on time, one thing is almost certain: you want more time so you can do something with it.
And that makes sense!
Time is money; time is opportunity; time is the only thing we’ll never get more of.
We hear the messages every day, in every possible way: stop wasting time. So of course, if you get four more hours that are yours, you better squeeze every last drop of utility out of them. Otherwise, what’s the point?
We’d like to offer a different view.
Being vs. doing
If you are constantly looking for things to do with your time, how will you ever have enough?
If you somehow managed to schedule every minute of every day for maximum productivity, what then?
What does having enough time feel like?
If you think for a while, we’re sure you can remember an event in your life where it seemed like time stood still; where you talked for hours without noticing, or had a night that never ended. We can all think back to endless summer days as kids, and we think what changed those feelings is that we now have responsibilities. Then we think that if we somehow ditched the responsibilities, we could get back to that child-like mindset. But then, we go on vacation and fill every day to the brim with sight-seeing, landmarks, and activities—lest we “waste” our time.
The problem isn’t our responsibilities, or our work, or the constraints of the 168 hours available to us in a week.
The problem is we’ve forgotten how to stop.
We want to teach you how to sit and do nothing. Really nothing. None of the obvious stuff—no texting, no internet, no social media. But none of the “enlightened” stuff either—no meditation, no mindfulness, no breathing exercises. Just stop.
This is the practice of being.
Why? Well, we’ve all been in meetings that seem to go on and on and on. The minute hand seems to move backwards as yet another meaningless slide goes up on the projector. We know time is fluid, and we know that the way we perceive time changes based on what we’re doing—so why not use that to our advantage?
If you are able to just sit and be, for even five minutes, you get a chance to feel just how long five minutes is. It will be profoundly unsettling at first—you’ll fidget, you’ll reach for your device, your mind will wander. You won’t trust that the timer you set is working, and then you’ll double-check it lest you waste more than five minutes. You will notice just how deeply uncomfortable we’ve gotten with purely existing as human beings.
And it’s that discomfort that makes this the most important exercise in changing your relationship with time.
Once you feel just how long five minutes can be, you will realize every minute can be felt like that. Once you realize every minute is as long as we make it, you’ll realize that urgency, anxiety, and the compulsion to do are just forms of scarcity we place on ourselves.
And once you leave that scarcity behind, you’ll realize something incredible:
You have all the time in the world.