Who would like more time? If you ask a group of international professionals in Europe this question, most will say they would like to have an extra couple of hours a day. But ask them what they would do with this time, it is usually to do more work, or spend more time in structured activities.
As we are emerging from lockdown when many people inadvertently gained time otherwise lost to commuting, we find a lot of people saying that lockdown didn’t give them more time. The imposed changes to how we live meant that people struggled with the balance between work obligations- proving that you were still just as productive while working from home, household duties and family pressures, plus the inconveniences and stresses of living in the coronavirus pandemic. At the same time, some say they felt the pressure as social media appeared to be filled with instructions and challenges to use this supposed extra time to learn languages, become a yogi, learn a musical instrument etc.
Now we are emerging from lockdown, more and more people are challenging the old-time allocations and looking at new ways to maintain and even improve our productivity in a more balanced way to avoid the old issue of time poverty.
This leads us to the wonderful Dutch concept of Niksen.
What is Niksen?
Niksen means doing nothing. Or more particularly doing something with no real purpose other than that activity itself. It could be sitting on the beach and watching the waves, walking in a forest, or in winter, sitting in front of a fire and watching the flames.
This article is about the benefits of doing nothing. That’s right nothing.
It can be a difficult concept to consider because our society values productivity, or as Professor Laurie Santos says, one of the problems is that society says “productivity is king”. Being busy equates to being important, however, if we scratch the surface it’s not all that it seems. Look at the trend of increased working hours and the 24-7 connected society we are now in. With smartphones and remote access to the office, anywhere and anytime it can be hard to switch off at all. Here is some evidence: did you know that the average person unlocks their phone more than 50 times a day! Now look at the social and medical trends: burnout, anxiety disorders, and stress related diseases are increasing. There appear to be benefits in taking some time out.
Once we get over the social stigma of doing nothing, we find that actually doing nothing is quite hard. It doesn’t have to be productive or structured like going to the gyms or doing mindfulness meditation. It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be walking in the forest, throwing a ball with your kids, reading a book for fun, or just sitting on a chair in the sun. Niksen can be described as taking some of your precious time and energy to tune out.
What are the benefits of Niksen?
There are reputed health benefits from reducing stress and potential burnout, and the associated health problems. Besides the health benefits, there may be other reasons for engaging in Niksen.
There is a suggestion that conscious time outs in this form can be good for re-energising and make you more efficient for the rest of the day, meaning you might actually get more done if you take 30 minutes out to do nothing.
It can also help you with complex problem solving. You may have experienced this in your life already. You are struggling with a complex issue that you cannot solve, but it comes to you when you are on a long walk or doing some other relaxing activity.
In this manner, it is said it can also feed your creativity. If you need to think outside the box to solve problems, it is said that Niksen can help.
Make time to do nothing, resist the culture of busyness and you may find yourself less stressed, feeling better, more creative and more productive. All good reasons to get bored!