A schedule for doing nothing?

The following is from a Psychology Today blog called “When’s the Last Time You Did Nothing? 9 Easy Ways to Relax”:

One particular client… had such an incredibly difficult time relaxing on weekends that we had to actually make a schedule for her to be able to do “nothing”. E.g. “10 am: Go for leisurely walk with dog in nearby park; 11 am: Go to a bookstore and browse the titles casually, buy a fiction book that you’d really like to read; 12 pm: Enjoy leisurely lunch; 1 pm – 3 pm: Lie on couch and read fiction book.”

My immediate reaction was: Hey, it’s just “doing nothing” we are talking about here. Do we really need a schedule for that? While this sounds like the ultimate irony, doing nothing, for some, including myself, really is not as simple as it seems. It is not as if anyone can allow himself to sprawl on the couch or the beach all day without a bad conscience.

How I try to fill up my time commuting to and from work is a good illustration of how I do not allow myself to “do nothing”. The moment I leave home, I put on the earphones and listen to my favourite Internet radio programmes. When I get on the train, I switch off the iPhone and pull out my Kindle and start reading. As soon as I alight, the reading gives way to the listening again. One gadget takes over the other to take over me.

I tell myself that I make good use of the travel time. But is there something wrong with doing nothing? Why is it so difficult to just relax or be still? How different is what I’m doing from what I observe with scorn  the things other commuters do, such as speaking on the phone, playing games and watching movies or TV programmes? By not allowing myself to do nothing, I am none the wiser.


In her book The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin talked about how she tried to make better use of her time to increase efficiency. She did that by changing the way she thought about productive time. For example, while previously she considered fifteen minutes to be too short a period in which to get anything done, she started to push herself to squeeze in an extra fifteen minutes somewhere during the day, such as between two appointments or at the end of the workday.

Of course, I do not agree we should cramp tasks and activities into every minute of our time. But it is true that during the day, short spells of time do get wasted, either because of a lack of planning or because of the belief that these small bits of time are too short for doing something worthwhile. But as Rubin suggests, you can use the time for drafting a blog post, making notes on some research, or answering some emails. Over a long period of time, insignificant fifteen-minute spells add up, considerable amounts of time is saved, and a number of small things are done. And that is no small achievement at all.


Beautiful islands

I took this picture of these islands on the flight from Hong Kong to Singapore. Seen from above, they were absolutely beautiful.

The route did not cover the Maldives, although these islands look like some of those in the country to me. I should have checked the on-screen flight details on the plane to see where they were.