On doing nothing

to really get to work

Last year I wrote quite a lot about a book, called Digital Minimalism: It shook me up and got me thinking profoundly. Ever since I read Cal Newport’s book, I have tried to follow “his urgent call to action for anyone serious about being in command of their own life”, rather than being commanded by some social media feed or digital device.  

We live in urgent times of hyper-connectivity and hyper-information. Needing to be occupied has unfortunately become a habit, more so a proper addiction. Managers often pretend to get more things done in less time than they actually really do. Students commonly feel obliged to know everything, without taking the needed time of learning it beforehand, et cetera. One has a steady urge to check emails, to browse through Instagram, to binge watch an entire season on Netflix, or fall into rabbit holes on Youtube just to cover the personal incapacity to acknowledge, accept and extensively enjoy the important emptiness, solitude and boredom life offers. One of my heroes, the late Umberto Eco, rightly said that boredom and solitude are the baseline of creativity and the only doors towards personally fulfilling work. 

Time in which we do nothing ultimately allows us to choose, not be influenced or disturbed by “urgent” but completely unimportant things or tasks.

“If somebody asks you to finish a task urgently, what they actually want to say, is that they are running late doing something which is of importance to them, not necessarily to you (Covey, 1995).” Of course, I am not talking about Black Swans or other actual and unpredictable experiences: I mean that usual email of a colleague, asking you to finalise an excel file for the same evening, an excel file that probably has been sitting around somewhere before. Time in which one does nothing, even at work, gives the opportunity to deeply and seriously look at things, tasks, ideas or relations for the long run. 

Let’s start to look at what is important first and finish it ahead of time, rather than what is pressing and urgent. More importantly, we all first need to understand what is right and only after start to think on how to do it the right way.
As I said earlier, really and actually becoming Smart takes much more time, then what it takes a management or HR consultant to put the word “smart” in front of a noun or a verb.