The art of doing nothing: how not to feel guilty about it

the art of doing nothing: enjoy breakfast in bed

One morning, I was lying on the bed with no intention to get up. Besides all the projects I wanted to work on, it seemed that I could not get out of bed and I hated myself for being so lazy. So I started to question myself. 

I came back to France a few months ago after living in California for 3 years. I was having a hard time to find a new routine and felt completely guilty about not being able to work on all the projects I had in mind and create the life I always wanted. 
During my free time, I was asking myself the same questions over and over again.

What the F**** am I doing right now? Should I look for a job? Should I move to another city? Should I travel the world?

Instead of enjoying the precious time I could spend with my family I haven’t seen for months and rediscover the little pleasure of the French food, I couldn’t help but worry about the future and the fact that I was wasting my time. I felt guilty when I was watching a movie with my mum instead of working to create my new life. That’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.

So I did what I usually do when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I checked on social media which was a bad idea. It brought me more anxiety. I confronted myself to all these people who seemed to be able to create magic and juggle with multiple activities (although I know the reality can be completely different). And obviously, I did not get any better.

I had way more free time and mental space than the past 7 years when working full-time for a Big 4 and wishing for more hours in my week to actually do the things I love. I had all these hours where I could cultivate my dreams and inspirations. But nothing. Strictly nothing came up and I felt completely submerged by the guilt.

So I called my friend and we ended up concluding that this feeling is part of the human nature. It seems that we all have this seemingly endless capacity to feel guilty about things we said or not, about what we did or not. Doing nothing is usually associated with being lazy especially in our world where you have to overwork in order to be successful. We should do more, workout more, socialize more, in short, we should be more. We compare ourselves to other and always realize that someone else is doing more and better than what we do and that many times we should put down this cup of coffee and start working instead of procrastinating.

But let me remind you that our worth is not defined by the number of activities we crossed off our to-do list. It’s time to stop thinking that if we’re not busy, we’re not doing or trying enough. It’s time to change our mind about what really leads to success and draw our own path that will help us to reach our ultimate goal.

Of course, I do want to be successful, I want to work on plenty of projects I have passion for but I also want and need to rest and enjoy some time with my family, read a book or binge-watching Netflix with a huge bowl of ice-cream without having this feeling that I should do more. 

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. 
— John Lubbock

It's ok to take a break and if this means to take one or two days off, or even a month, just do it and don’t feel guilty about it. You want to sit at your favorite coffee shop and watch people in the street? Do it. You are totally allowed to have fun and enjoy your free time. This also helps your creativity to grow. 

You certainly can’t turn off your brain but you can easily help it to be more productive by taking the break you need and not question about it.