The Pleasure and Power of Doing Nothing at All

Summertime is the ideal season to embrace the notion that “being” can sometimes outrank “doing” as a top activity.

Posted in , Jul 11, 2019

the importance of relaxing

We live in a boredom-averse culture, so much so that an entire industry of mobile phone games are designed to help us fill time in line, before a movie, before bed—even (please don’t do this!) at a red light. The pressure to fill even our “down” time does not take a vacation in the summertime.

But we should.

The writer Bonnie Tsui wrote recently in The New York Times in favor of what she calls “fallow time.” Too many of us consider activities like reading, resting, staring at passing clouds luxuries we can’t afford, not if we want to remain productive in our personal and professional lives. But as Tsui succinctly points out, “Fallow time is part of the work cycle, not outside of it.”

Like in the agricultural context where the word originates, “fallow” time is not a meaningless void. It is a crucial aspect of the cycle of creativity in which rest and recovery fuels the next action, the next harvest, the next investment of time and energy. 

Tsui writes, “We might have periods of furious output; to get there, we require periods of faithful input. With input, there’s a restoration of fertile, vibrant thinking.” 

Fallow activities don’t have to be sedentary—for me, putting together a meal or baking something that requires several steps puts me in that state of mind that’s both restful and engaging. I might bring cookies to a neighbor or invite a friend to dinner, but really the pleasure and power of the activity is self-evident. It’s a fallow moment that readies me to get back to work in a completely different category.

Tsui’s insight is particularly apt in the summertime, when we might be planning vacations or simply shifting our routines a bit. Regardless of what your summer looks like, what could fallow time do for you

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