In a previous post, we suggested 25 ways to spend your summer vacation. Today, I’m going to recommend that you try doing nothing.
Of course, I don’t mean “nothing” literally. After all, what does it really mean to “do nothing?”
Picture it for a second. Imagine yourself sitting on the couch, or outside on the grass, or beside a beach or a pool. You’re not moving, because then you’d really be doing something. You’re not looking at your phone, because that’d be something, too. Are you thinking about one topic in particular, perhaps a question or problem you’d like to solve? That’s something.
Are you trying, concertedly, to think about as little as possible? That comes close to meditation, which is a very rewarding discipline in itself, and definitely also something. My point is that many of the things that we would describe to others as “nothing” are secretly something, and often valuable in their own right.
For our purposes, let’s call “doing nothing” a kind of loafing, dawdling, idling, daydreaming, woolgathering, sitting under the trees, or lying around—the kind of thing that you’d call “nothing” if a friend texted you and asked you what you were doing.
There are two reasons for why you should do nothing on your summer vacation.
After a busy school year, you may need a long, relaxing break. You may have had to direct most of your energies towards school assignments and extracurriculars, and you may even have felt like you had to justify all of your time according to some outside measure of “productivity.”
Or perhaps the people around you were competitive or showy about their own achievements in a way that caused you stress. It can be incredibly liberating, not to mention healing, to just let go of all of those pressures and take some time to do nothing.
When it’s time to go back to doing something (whatever that may be), you’ll feel refreshed and ready.
You may even discover that new and unexpected perspectives were brewing inside you without your knowledge.
2. Find inspiration
Let’s say you’ve decided to dedicate some time this summer to something like a piece of writing, a coding project, a painting, or a piece of music. Then, let’s say you hit a roadblock; you’ve been staring at your work for an hour with no idea what to do next.
The solution is often to do a little nothing. Go outside, sit under a tree—maybe with some music or a book that you’re reading because you want to, not because you have to—and don’t think about your project.
Think about anything else. Let the idle thoughts come. Your solution might not arrive as dramatically as Archimedes’ answer to the problem of buoyancy, which came to him in the bath, but you may still find that the pieces came together in secret while you weren’t looking.
You may look back at your summer and feel, with a tinge of regret, that you “just did nothing.”
This is almost certainly not literally true. As I mentioned at the start, many things that seem like nothing really aren’t.
If you were browsing Wikipedia articles about extinct whale species or watching videos about the invention of the Comic Sans font, you were exercising your curiosity in ways that may help you later when you take courses in paleontology or typographic design.
Whatever you do, while you do nothing, I recommend that it has a little variety. You might play video games or watch TV for an hour as part of an afternoon of doing nothing, but if you spend 14 hours doing one of those things, you’re not really doing nothing anymore.
If nothing becomes too much of a grind, then it’s probably time for something again.