DOING NOTHING



“There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.” Mary Wilson Little (American author)

It took me a long time after my official retirement in 2006 to stop thinking in terms of “weekends”.

Every time we planned to travel, to say Paris or London, we would think of it in terms of planning a long weekend, and it actually took me about 2 years to accept that after retirement, even if you are actually still in part-time work, you can really think of every day as being on a weekend, or conversely, every day as being a weekday. I actually like Fridays, and we have therefore started to refer to the days of the week as Friday followed by Friday1-Friday6, thus making Friday2 the day that churchgoers feel more self-righteous than the rest of us.

Retiree calendar

I love the idea that apart from the fact that very little is open around here on a Friday2, I can look at each day as a day in itself rather than to have to categorise it into 5 work days and 2 supposed days of rest, which for most of my life l spent finalising the previous week and planning the next. It means that the distinctions that you established in your full-time work life can be replaced with a whole new set of disciplines that are based on what you want to do and achieve, rather than being driven by a pre-set schedule.

I have to admit that even when I was working full-time, I would occasionally (maybe not often enough) sneak off to play the truant for the afternoon. It is when work is at its most frantic, when your schedule is backed up, that sneaking off on a workday afternoon, say to go and see a new release movie, has more impact on mental health and stress management than doing it at any other time. I am fortunate that I have a very persuasive wife who would occasionally decide that it was time for some creative disappearance from work, for something totally frivolous but memorable.

By Kyriaki from Deerfield Beach, US of A (Truant); via Wikimedia Commons

I can still remember to this day sneaking off one afternoon to see “Star Wars” in 1977, just after I had joined Digital. I was not only run off my feet in the set-up of a new office for them in Christchurch in NZ, but I was about to leave for the US for my training/induction programme. Being so frantically busy at the time made it all the sweeter to sit through this afternoon screening surrounded mainly by noisy schoolchildren. I doubt that I would have enjoyed it the same way had I gone that evening. The fact that I can remember it so vividly after 33 years highlights how sweet was this particular piece of AWOL. Even today, I can still get the same buzz by doing something totally unplanned and selfish, rather than succumbing to the daily chores around the property, and also disregarding the long list of “To Dos” that have been compiled in our plan-the-week sessions.

By Photograph by Greg O'Beirne (Own work); via Wikimedia Commons

There was a time when business people could achieve something similar with a 3 hour lunch, and at the same time delude themselves that this was all for the good of the enterprise as it was based on altruistic reasons like “network building”, but this culinary jollity seems to have been washed away in the current economic tsunami.

Jean-François de Troy (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

All that is left to us is a mild indiscretion when times get tough, and I believe that it is always the sweeter when we are at our busiest. 

I am not advocating all out anarchy and desertions, just the occasional bit of wilful absconding when times are most frantic. The result is that you will return to your mountain of tasks with renewed vigour and energy, in no small way fuelled by the delicious sense of guilt after your defection during a time of overload … I can highly recommend it.



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4 Responses to DOING NOTHING

  1. wischna says:

    I totally agree with this post and the sneeking off work or even studys. I did it mysel a lot in my collegue times during the exam time and this almost never ending of studying. In the times i had the most to learn or was behind my study schedule i either went out for shopping, to reward myself or went out with friends to clear my head! It always helps to get a fresh focus.

    • leshayman says:

      Hi Wischna,
      Great to see that there are others who play truant at the busiest times … it definitely feels sweeter than doing it when things are slow …
      Regards
      Les

  2. Enrico Negroni says:

    Great thinking !!!
    You are demonstrating that everything is context relative.
    Great ! …and enjoy Friday !

  3. leshayman says:

    Thanks Enrico,
    I have had a great Friday6 today and I look forward to Friday tomorrow… you too.
    Les

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