Your To-Do list needs this ONE thing if you want to be more productive

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There I was, 5 minutes early for my school pick-up.

And it’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining, summer’s in the air. It’s perfect.

So what is the obvious thing to do? I try to squeeze a to-do in. When, just when, did I get so boring or task oriented? Why is it that every time there’s a free moment, I try to…

  • Do an email.

  • Check my social media

  • Get back to a patient

  • Answer a phone call.

  • Read an article someone sent me

You might call that efficient and productive. Some might call it staying busy. And even better yet, you might call it multi-tasking.

But I think that’s all an excuse for a serious problem. It’s an excuse for an inability to not do.

An inability to take a stroll.

An inability to rest my eyes.

An inability to stare into space for God’s sake.

Just do the one thing that matters, NO-THING.

And there are so many reasons why I am not tuned to chose that first. But there’s one that stands out and that is fixable.

And here we go with my pass-the-candle-group-confession-moment…

My confession: I check my phone for no good reason. 

As if in the few minutes since I last checked anything on my phone, something miraculous will happen. Oprah will send me the email invitation I’ve been waiting for or I will come across the article with the key to life.

The emails, the texts, the likes, the comments, videos, surfing the internet. You name it.

I add tasks and clutter to my day.

And then I tire myself out. I would argue our phones may be the number one barrier between us and the dreamland of Nothing-ness.

What I’m saying is that I need more time not-doing. My goal is now that when people ask what I’m doing, I can sometimes answer NO-THING. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

And the research backs me up that this is a good and necessary goal.

Science shows that actually after those moments of so-called boredom or daydreaming, our most creative spurts follow. (Mann, 2014) That’s right. If we do nothing, we may be better at doing something. And maybe doing something more interesting and unique.

Research also shows that if we don’t need to attend to anything, we may be more attentive later. If we walk in nature, versus a busy street, we can have 20% improved memory and attention later in day. (Berman, 2014). Let me translate that for you…Doing Nothing may actually help you get more things done. (Even though it’s not all about being more productive, that’s in sharp contrast to our pervasive thought that if we do more, more will get done.)

So, there may be something to this doing nothing. Now, even if there weren’t this data (and there’s a lot of it), I’d still fight you on the fact that you and I need it.

I’m concerned I’m rewiring my brain to not be able to sit still or stare into space.

When was the last time you passed a bus stop and didn’t see the crowd all on their phones? I’ve been counting for a month every day and have only gotten to five people on over 12 bus stops a day.

I notice how strong my own reflex is to reach for my phone:

  • While waiting for my kids to come out of school

  • On an elevator

  • Waiting in line

  • As a passenger in the car

  • At a meeting as I wait for it to start

  • And on and on

I am my own biggest barrier.

So, now it’s my job to step out of my own way.

How can I complain about being tired, about having writer’s block, about feeling frazzled…if I’m actually part of the problem?

So here’s where I have found the greatest success in getting out of my own way:
1. Take your phone out of your bedroom. For God’s sake, just buy a ten dollar alarm clock. Since when did the phone become the only way to wake us up?

2. Make a rule in the morning. No phone checking until you’ve meditated or taken a walk or if your routine doesn’t allow for those things, no phone for the first hour after getting out of bed.

3. Schedule times for email checks. Check your email for example, twice a day at set times and don’t make it a habit to let it be all day.

4. Rig your phone so you’re smarter than it. Use do not disturb with an outgoing message so you have no guilt about not answering texts ASAP. Make your phone turn off apps or the internet at a set time in the day or after a certain minutes of use. I love the app Freedom but even just setting your phone smartly can help it work with you instead of against you.

5. When you have a free second, have a rule that you must first do nothing for at least a minute before looking at your phone even if you actually do need to check it. It’s just training ourselves on new brain pathways to wait. To take a pause.

I’m yet a work in progress, my friend. That I freely admit. But I’ll announce it here. in the same way, I commit to meditating, exercise, and eating right, I will commit to finding time for NOTHING each day.

Now, that means it won’t always happen. Because I’m not perfect at any of that list.

But the more I try, the more I’ll rewire my brain for success.

And if I don’t try at all, I won’t get anywhere past this land of Doing.

And eventually, just maybe…

Nothing will be part of my daily something.

If you want to join me, I would love it. I’ll need a support group for sure! Send me your tips, your support and let’s do this No-thing thing!


Live well,

Tanmeet