Obituary: The art of doing nothing

Published: November 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

Last Updated on

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

Table of Contents

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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  1. Sir, I would suggest all (and myself 🙂 ) to just watch breathing, sitting alone. Don’t concentrate on it. Just watch it. Hope it helps us all.

  2. totally agree. add to this, the urge to ” fill our days with memories ” . such an irony. i don’t even remember what i had for lunch yesterday & we are obsessed with creating memories! in the past i have contemplated taking a couple of days off & doing nothing with no one around. but sadly i don’t get to do this often these days ( or last few years!)

  3. Some of my thoughts are as follows;

    1) Importance of “art of doing nothing” and futility of doing anything are age old. I liked the statement “Liked Doing nothing is a misnomer. All it means is no distractions.” This actually means meditation. And relevance and importance of meditation are known from the time when Vedas are written. Ways & magnitude of distraction are only changing.

    2)To know the “art of doing nothing”, one needs to learn to enjoy / love the company of himself / herself. I read somewhere that it’s dangerous if somebody gets bored with the company of himself / herself.

    3) Some 5-7 years back, once I heard one comedian saying in a TV show that if you try your own no. in your mobile you will hear that the line is busy. He then said it is akin to talking/connecting to ourselves. I loved & remembered it.

    4) While it’s true that environment & inherent tendency matter a lot, it’s conscious effort that finally counts. One of my colleague keeps his mobile phone in his office bag in silent mode. He just checks the phone once or twice every one or two hours if he has any missed call.

    5) Very few of us teach/encourage our children to learn the “art of doing nothing”. Rather, most of us are eager to see that our children are doing something (preferably studying).

    6) I completely agree with Ajay. Even if we can make a habit just to relax and observe our breathing just for 15 mins a day to start with, it will help us a lot …!!!

    A nice article..thanks a lot.

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