Managing Business, Managing Time, and the Case for Doing Nothing

Balance is an elusive concept — and so relevant to so many business situations.  I have enjoyed adding to our series on Balance — last year, we identified more than 20 things a business owner must balance.  Should we focus inside or outside?  Should we build to last or build to flip? How about Finance vs Soul? Or, work on strengths or weaknesses?

Another great one is to balance, for you, the right amount of hard work and the right amount of down time.  This article in the New York Times last summer by Tmanaging business timeony Schwartz provided some good food for thought, as does a recent article in the Harvard Business Review titled, The Case for Slacking Off by Manfred F. R. Kets De Vries from which the following excerpts were taken.

Managing Yourself: Doing Nothing Does Not Get Much Press

“The biggest problem we have in contemporary society is not that we do too little but that we try to do too much. All the pressures in the workplace and in the social domain are about collaborating, speaking up, stepping forward, leaning in —doing practically anything to be noticed and to get ahead. When all is said and done, doing nothing does not get much press.

“More and more, the balance between activity and inactivity has become seriously out of sync. But slacking off — making a conscious effort not to be busy — may be the best thing we can do for our brain’s health. It is the incubator for future bursts of creativity.  Being able to balance activity and solitude, noise and quietness, is a great way to tap into our inner creative resources. It is invaluable in nurturing whatever creative sparks we possess.

Time to reflect is not meaningless, is not doing nothing

“I have learned from experience that the most effective executives realize that doing nothing is good for their mental health. They can take a step back and consciously unplug themselves from the compulsion to always keep busy, the habit of shielding themselves from certain feelings, and the tensions of trying to manipulate their experience before even fully acknowledging what that experience is. Turning down the volume on life can be extremely beneficial and brings them to regions of the mind that they are otherwise busily avoiding.

“And while they’re in these regions of the mind, they’re more likely to generate novel ideas. By inducing unconscious thought through reflection they modify the very nature of their search for innovative solutions to complex issues. They understand that doing nothing is the best path to productivity.”

More of my blog posts about finding business balance, managing business time