Niksen: The Dutch Art Of Doing Nothing

I always have a lot going on. In spite of getting better at saying no, I seem to be an easy target for anyone who asks “Can you help me?” Like most of you, I only have 24 hours in my day. No matter how much I try to expand time I keep winding up with only 24 hours. So with so much to do and so little time, where does the “art of doing nothing” fit in? Let me explain.

For years I’ve advocated taking a Clarity Break as in past missives such as Clear Your Brain, Spaces In Between, Summer’s End, and Clear Out The Clutter, to clear your mind and refresh your body. But when you take a Clarity Break, you’re still doing something, even if at a leisurely pace without any particular objective in mind.

I’ve never written about it, but for years I’ve also spent periods of time doing even less than I do during a Clarity Break. I just turn my brain off and stare blankly in total silence. This clears my mind even more than a great Clarity Break where I always wind up thinking about things—which leads to taking notes about good ideas or solutions that pop into my head.

Niksen is the conscious effort to empty your mind and spend time at an activity no more taxing than simply staring at a wall.

Niksen means being fully engaged in doing nothing except simply being. Being in a moment of nothingness that in the world where time exists can stretch for many minutes or even hours.

Some call this daydreaming and think this a bad thing. But research tells us that the effect of consciously doing nothing makes you more creative and better at problem solving. It takes you out of your mind and then enables you to see things more clearly when you return to it.

Many people are fearful about missing something, so they burn themselves out with never-ending activity. In extreme cases, they go without sleep or even food while running down their bodies and brains until they turn to mush. And still they keep going.

In our culture we prize being the hardest and busiest worker so it’s difficult to decide to break free and spend time doing nothing. But when your energy is gone and your brain is fried your efforts are poor at best.

Force yourself to make time to do nothing and allow your mind and body to recuperate. Work on this for a while and before too long you’ll be pleased to notice that you’re accomplishing more and achieving  better results–with less time and effort.

And don’t spend all the extra time you now have staring at your phone. Do a bit more nothing to ensure you return to work with your mind completely restored to optimum operation.


Commenting area

  1. The basis of meditation. Be and breathe. Of course, it is more socially acceptable to have ‘meditation’ on your calendar than to have ‘stare at the wall’ scheduled. And yet, similar benefits.
    I particularly like the version with a gin & tonic.

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