Tracy Playle

Coach. Public speaker. Consultant

Getting productive by doing nothing

This morning was a Monday morning like any other. Lots to be done, a clear to do list outlined for the week, and check-ins with each of my team on their successes of the week gone by and their plans for the week ahead.

But today started in a bit of a whirl. I got sidetracked at the end of last week and some of the more mundane tasks on my to do list were building up. As I made my morning cup of tea, I could feel the swirl: the breathlessness, the racing brain, the adrenaline preparing me to leap into action.

And so I did nothing.

That’s right. In the face of a huge to do list, I decided to do nothing. And yet I end the day with a significantly reduced to do list, lower blood pressure, and a sense of calm determination for the week ahead. I sit in a place of strength, calm and health.

I learned this trick the hard way…

A few years ago I burned out. And when I say I burned out, I mean I pushed myself to the point of one day waking up and being completely unable to open the lid of my laptop. I ended up having to take two and a half months off of work. I spent the time gardening, sleeping, binge watching box sets, cooking, and just taking care of myself. It was a tough lesson, but one I had to live.

In that time my business carried on. My colleagues stepped up and took care of everything. The business flourished. I recovered. And my colleagues discovered new capabilities that they didn’t know they had. Our clients were happy, I was getting better, and nobody suffered. I returned to a strong and able company. And that all happened because I stopped and did nothing. I got out of the way.

We’re often so obsessed with thinking that achievement comes from constantly doing things and being on a treadmill of goals and achievements. The value in doing nothing is often - at best - only linked to rest and recovery. But what if doing nothing is so so much more than that?

For me, taking a stand to do nothing is a meaningful and purposeful decision. Doing nothing is, perhaps paradoxically, a powerful way to get things done.

In the moments of nothingness we learn how to prioritise, to discover what’s important or not, to delegate, to dismiss, to contemplate and - above all - to open up spaces in which others can thrive because you’re not there guiding or overshadowing them. In spaces of nothingness we find success in being rather than doing.

So, this morning’s nothingness saw me sitting in meditation for 15 minutes. It saw me mindfully enjoying my morning tea. It saw me making breakfast. It saw me clearing myself and setting my stand for the day. It saw me do anything and everything but the things on my to do list.

And then when I started on that to do list I was in a place mentally and physically where I could make some rational decisions about what was important and where I would focus my efforts for the day.

And so my invitation for you is to embrace moments of nothingness in your day, and through that nothingness to find greater productivity, success and joy in your life.