Scheduling Nothing, and Doing Nothing

A view of a marina on a cloudy day. A pelican can be seen in the water, and boats are docked in the background
A photo I took at Port Stephens earlier this year

A few weeks ago I re-started a habit that I had in years past. I added events to my calendar to help motivate me to do what I needed to do, instead of simply having them written down in a to-do list. The to-do list helps; don’t get me wrong. I love lists. But actually putting my head down and doing it wasn’t working well for me, so I resorted to using my digital calendar.

I rely on my digital calendar heavily for work-related stuff and social events. But it had been years since I made events specifically for working on writing blog posts, working on presentations (or, back in the days of university – assignments), reading, and even chores such as ironing. I started making this a habit again, particularly recently, because I had two presentations last week, and a lot of writing I wanted to do for my blog to bring myself up to speed on blogging twice a week.

Don’t cram

It’s been very effective. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The most important thing is that I don’t cram my calendar so much and include things like showering and eating and try to follow it to a T like that. I leave acceptable gaps. I don’t fill my whole day with four big tasks. I might do one big task and one little one, or two medium-sized ones (you be the judge of your own tasks, obviously). This means that if things unexpectedly crop up, moving my tasks back by an hour or deferring it to the evening is possible. It’s not realistic to do a lot of things in a small period of time. This kind of behaviour is exactly the kind of activity that can take quite a lot out of us, and we don’t often realise until it’s too late. It’s more important to have balance.

I also realise that social events and things related to family and relationships are important. So a lot of the time I put aside for things to do is not super concrete.

So, other than writing and important career-related things, I also factor in time to watch YouTube videos, my gym time, and of course – the elusive “nothing”.

Scheduling literally “Nothing”

Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, wrote a post titled The Importance of Scheduling Nothing. The premise was pretty basic: schedule nothing in your calendar and use that time for yourself. To catch up on emails, take a walk, paint your toenails, read a book, watch a video, do stuff for yourself. Jeff’s article was one I stumbled upon years ago but only recently started to take it literally. I understood the sentiment – make sure I have time for myself, sure. Incredibly important. I’m all about that me-time.

But I actually put several event blocks in my calendar called “Nothing 🤸🏻‍♀️”, where I allowed myself to do whatever I wanted, guilt-free.

I often scheduled these hour-long or two-hour long blocks in the evening, where it felt like I had worked hard enough during the day to deserve doing whatever my heart desired. I suppose you could also look at it from the perspective of looking forward to the end of the day because you know that’s when your free time is.

Scheduling nothing and then doing nothing

This past weekend, I didn’t do anything productive. I went out to the BBR event and I had dinner with my in-laws. I actually didn’t have anything that needed to be urgently done. No presentations or blog posts to urgently write. My weekend calendar was actually empty for the first time in a few weeks.

At home I did nothing but think about my wardrobe and possible outfit combinations and browse Pinterest and look at outfit inspiration. I’m not kidding. I spent hours doing that. I went to the gym, too, but that’s a regular thing for me. Even though I would have added it to my calendar anyway. I still did my ironing, though, haha.

The great thing is, I didn’t feel guilty at all. It was a nice break in between having things scheduled. But I think it was interesting to see what I did when I didn’t put anything in my calendar at all. I feel that normally I would have felt excessive guilt for “doing nothing”. I didn’t feel like I deserved to just surf the internet for fashion inspiration, but hey, it’s something I enjoy, and it was a nice break from working on presentations or thinking too hard.

Another important thing to remember – which so many of us know, but need a reminder of – is that being our most productive self is intimately tied with being our most personal self. And to be our most personal self, sometimes we have to give ourselves the time and space to maintain good mental and physical wellbeing. Life isn’t just all about working and ticking things off to signal that we’ve gotten things done.

I recommend trying to add event blocks to your calendar to help you do the things you need to do. 😊 I plan some of my week’s tasks at the beginning of the week. It can be a bit more motivating and I find it helps you plan small projects a bit better. Or even large ones. I’ve personally liked squeezing in hour-long blocks dedicated to writing blog posts several times a week. It has kept me somewhat accountable.

So schedule some of that, and some “Nothing” in your calendar. 💭

If you are struggling to figure out your limits or balance the commitments in your life, reach out for the professional help of psychologists who can provide a safe space and unbiased suggestions for managing your time and needs.

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Today I reread this post of yours. It was enlightening the first time and it just reconfirmed today that scheduling “nothing” on the calendar is really a good idea.

For years, struggling with mental and physical health, I tried to cram all the work and projects I had/wanted to do on the days I managed to function. It was a stressful life. Since I’ve been on CBD oil, things are changing, I’m more in control and I no longer need to cram.

The “nothing” on the schedule is helping me get rid of that mindset to embrace a happier, less stressful (and “paradoxically” more productive) life.

Thanks, Georgie. ^-^

– Lu

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