Obituary: The art of doing nothing

Published: November 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Dear friend, can we please take a moment to recognise that the art of doing nothing is dead? We are no longer capable of sitting still for a short while without reaching for our mobile phones, computer, or the television. The art of idling has breathed its last and perhaps the end began as much as ten years ago.

We were simply too caught up in our work, caught up with taking selfies, caught up with social media that we probably never noticed that we have lost the wonderful ability to do nothing.

Be it waiting at the airport or the doctor’s office, be it talking a walk or sitting with friends in park, while waiting for a traffic signal, even while driving there is an urge to reach for the mobile. So much that we do not bother to stop for a moment and listen to another person who is right next to us.

In doing so, we have destroyed one of the most wonderful gifts from nature and a chance to create. Doing nothing is a misnomer. All it means is no distractions. If we can sit staring at a sunset or a wall, the mind gets to work in peace.

Stay thoughts can nucleate into inspiration only without disturbance. By constantly engaging ourselves in some activity or the other, we may have driven stray thoughts and our ability to create itself into extinction.

Photo credit: Karthik Vinayak

Is there a way out?

Can we revive doing nothing from the dead?

  • Yes, but only if go a diet. A diet low-information diet.
  • By asking, will reading this tweet, this post, this thread, this message, help us in any or not?
  • By asking is there any glory in forwarding a forward?
  • By seeking information on a need-to-know-basis.

Introspection of one of The Five I’s of Personal Finance

The way out for me

I sit before the computer a lot. My only saving grace is that I do not have a smartphone. So when I step out of home or my office room, I get a chance to do nothing from time to time. I am trying to do more of this by taking long walks. This is when I get the ideas for what to do next – in the lab, in the classroom and for the blog. Yet, this is barely enough. I need to do a lot more.

Do you agree that the art of doing nothing is important but largely dead?


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About the Author Pattabiraman editor freefincalM. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. since Aug 2006. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin Pattabiraman has co-authored two print-books, You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) and Gamechanger and seven other free e-books on various topics of money management. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India” an organisation to promote unbiased, commission-free investment advice. He conducts free money management sessions for corporates and associations on the basis of money management. Previous engagements include World Bank, RBI, BHEL, Asian Paints, Cognizant, Madras Atomic Power Station, Honeywell, Tamil Nadu Investors Association. For speaking engagements write to pattu [at] freefincal [dot] com
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