Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Power of Doing Nothing

So I recently took a trip, and while traveling I learned an unusual lesson:  The Power of Doing Nothing.  As a fairly ambitious, no-nonsense, highly motivated kind of guy, this was a surprise to me.  One of my challenges in life is I feel I almost always have an agenda.  Not necessarily a hidden agenda, or a bad agenda, but just some specific goal in mind.  My focus is that goal.  I will not be distracted.  Even worse, I will not be bored.  I do not like to waste time.  My kids know this.  My wife knows this.  So when I discoverd The Power of Doing Nothing, it was completely by accident.  Here's how it went down:

  • I was in town for literally 72 hours.
  • I arrived Sunday a.m. on a red eye.
  • I would leave Tuesday night on a red eye.
  • Back to NYC in time to hit the ground running Wed a.m.
  • I had two meetings that were my primary tasks, one Monday, one Tuesday.
  • I began scheduling other meetings to use my time well.
  • Each day was efficiently scheduled.
  • I was going to spend some time with some great people.
  • Some family, some friends, some colleagues, some strangers.
Now don't feel like you're going to second guess me and jump to the conclusion that I accidentally came across some downtime because of a cancelled meeting, and that was the best part of my trip.  Not so.  In fact I had all my meetings, and they were all wonderful.  The whole trip was a success on many fronts.  But what I learned was that a wonderful kind of creativity and satisfaction came from the time that I spent just visiting, hanging out, shooting the breeze, dreaming, and finding out what everyone else was excited about.

Maybe I'm just blessed with particularly interesting, creative and thoughtful people willing to spend time with me, but what I realized was that, sitting down and just talking, whether in a restaurant, a back patio, a campus cafeteria or an office, allowed us to open up and explore, tell stories, think, suppose, brainstorm, think some more, play, moodle and imagine.  I'm not sure what to call it, but it was refreshing, rejuvinating, exciting and motivating.  I literally had to take notes each night to capture all the amazing things we discussed.

In the meetings where tasks were important and agenda items paramount, those items got addressed.  And that's good.  But there's something wonderful about spending time with family, friends and colleagues and just seeing where the conversation goes.  I feel like just as much joy and, ironically, productivity came out of those convesersations as my fixed business meetings.  Yes, we talked about kids, and marriage, and grandkids and how everyone's doing.  But I felt like I'd just been to the Interesting and Cool Stuff Conference.

Has that ever happened to you?
Why do you suppose this is?
How do we get more of it?


  1. If my days were as organized as your trip I would probably be able to relax enough to enjoy down time. Disorganization keeps an agenda item in sight, but out of reach.

  2. I like that -- the Interesting and Cool Stuff Conference.

  3. I don't think it's exactly The Power of Doing Nothing, I think it's more The Power of Unstructured time, Freedom or Choice. If you were really doing nothing, then you probably wouldn't get that same feeling of accomplishment. Talking and learning new things, even if you didn't plan on it IS doing something, maybe it's The Power of Spontenaity instead.