• Irene Hau

Is ‘Doing Nothing’ a Good Use of Your Time?

Irene argues that 'doing nothing' has its benefits and supplements high-achieving lives and good health.


Recently, I’ve been experiencing an increase in content on social media and in my personal life focused on productivity: how to be more efficient, waking up at 5 am everyday, and steps to take to stop procrastinating. While work-centric media has an immense impact on encouraging better office habits and study techniques, I can’t help but feel pressure building up in my personal and professional life. On one hand, I remain proud of the achievements I’ve sought out and painstakingly completed, yet I feel leaks forming and manifesting themselves into physical problems as I often push myself into extreme exhaustion and edging burnout years before I reach the end of my career.


From social media to teachers to parents, there’s a burden from every angle to “become” someone or something, but, often, we don’t have the full idea of what we aim to be or if we are even taking the right steps. Regardless of our personal uncertainty, our society expects every living moment of our lives to be productive, so it induces a difficult question: when do we stop?


Logically, the notion of ceasing all activity is directly correlated with being unproductive. Taught in schools and exemplified through our economy, value is defined by the ability to produce or by intrinsic worth; therefore, if you don’t do anything, you will not get anything in return. However, doing nothing doesn’t truly exist - at least not in the way we are taught to think of it as.


For one, humans are naturally curious beings (as explored by LiveScience), as we frequently explore new territories and practices, and we don’t often sit still. When we do settle, it’s justified by exhaustion, survival, or concentration on a task; therefore, time spent resting or not actively hunting or creating, isn’t wasted, it’s actually invested back into ourselves.


Secondly, perspective occupies an important role in the categorization of an activity’s worth. In the case of video games, many parents can argue that time spent on gaming has no real world application and they would rather their children participate in sports or academics. However, Psychology Today found that with consistent gaming, hand eye coordination of participants were higher than those who didn’t game. Furthermore, with strong storytelling and problem solving elements embedded in video games, the player can gain significant insights on historical events or prospecting topics, like AI and disease progression.


With the premise of "hustle" culture, the media is inspiring many to overwork, claiming a curated and specific brand. Although online media presence promotes hard work and perseverance, many influencers within the realm have hefty financial and social support from companies and investors; therefore, the audience witnesses only the successful and marketable moments.


Even though it seems to critics of our lifestyle that we are doing “nothing,” we need to recognize that our life isn’t strictly limited to our performance. The connotations of living bears meaning through ways that aren’t explicitly expressed. Our hobbies and self-care regimes are practices that improve our health so that we can work better, so in light of working hard, let’s take some time to hardly work.


*Prompt taken from New York Times list of argumentative topics.