When you work too much, you’re only working against yourself. Sometimes the best way to get a lot done is to do nothing at all.
If you’ve got a lot to do, I have a wild suggestion: do nothing.
This may seem like a backward solution to you but I promise it works. The reality is, we only have so much energy each day. Decision fatigue is real. Concentration can be trained but our modern, distracting lives have made extensive focus a lot more challenging.
Your pattern may be to push until you’ve exhausted all your brainpower but as I’m sure you’ve experienced, this approach weakens your efficiency, it leads to mistakes, and it depletes your valuable energy stores.
We’re not designed to be operating at full throttle all the time. There’s an ebb and flow to our concentration and focus. Instead of trying to swim upstream, ride those waves. Notice when a simple task feels arduous and use that as the signal that it’s time to take a break. So often, the best way to get more done is to build in intentional chunks of time where you’re doing nothing at all.
Of course, that “nothing” is always something. It may be going for a walk, enjoying a snack, taking a nap, finding your breath, mindfully dropping into social media to engage with friends, gardening, stretching, playing an instrument, or reading for pleasure.
You may only need 10 minutes but perhaps you need a few hours or a day or two. Take the time that you need but allow yourself to be full in it. Sink into the nothingness. Let your mind wander freely or focus on something that simply brings you joy. Get lost in it.
This time isn’t for troubshooting or brainstorming, it’s for letting go. If you’re feeling pressured to go back to work, be mindful of the urgency you’re constructing; most things can wait.
Loosening your attention intentionally acts as a reset. It gives your mind a break and it allows it to flow on its own without pressure. The beautiful thing is, you may find that ideas or decisions you’ve been seeking show up at this time. When they do, notice them, thank them, and even record them but don’t get sucked into them. There’s time to do that later.
By creating room for these pauses, you’re providing yourself the opportunity to dive back into the work refreshed when you’re ready. You may have gained new insights or just simply have more patience to overcome challenges. The tasks before you will flow more smoothly without the strain of exhaustion.
It may seem counterintuitive, especially in the moment, but I assure you it works. Pay attention to your body and mind’s signals and honor them. Only you have the power to do so and you’re the one who stands to gain the most when you do.