Doing Nothing is the New Doing Something

By Laura Bergells on
Sloth Doing Nothing

Recently, I noticed this absurd trend of gallantly and heroically doing nothing.

About 19 months ago, I accidentally left my cell phone home and traveled out of town on business. When I arrived at the hotel, I needed to find the conference organizer. I used my laptop to call her via Skype & explained that I forgot my cell phone.

I found not-carrying a phone to be extremely advantageous that week. No one changed plans with me at the last minute, since they had no way of reaching me. And I received no interruptions, so I got tons of stuff done.

When I got home, I didn’t want to return to my life as a cell phone carrying goofball. So I didn’t. I just stopped carrying a phone. No big deal, right?

Oh, no. Some folks made a huge deal out of it. I got four main questions:

  • Was I making some kind of social statement? (Not really. I forgot my phone one day, found out I really didn’t need it and that was that.)
  • How do I communicate effectively with clients and friends? (I make plans and stick to them. Every productivity expert on the planet tells you to only check messages at a few planned times a day, so not carrying a phone is probably a best practice.)
  • What’s it like to not carry a smart phone? (I don’t know. I’ve never carried a smart phone, only a cell phone. I have nothing to compare it to, so I honestly don’t know. The smart phone seems like a way for marketers and others to have unrestricted access to me, so I’m not all that keen on the idea of owning one.)
  • What if you have an emergency? (At first, I was stubborn. Everyone else has a phone, so I can borrow one in an emergency. That was my argument, and it lasted about 7 months. However, my partner insisted that I carry a cell for emergencies, so I got a burner mostly to comfort him and foster family harmony.)

So, there I was, not-doing anything, and it got me all kinds of attention. It was like I was actually doing something! One conference organizer suggested I prepare a talk about what it was like to not-carry a phone.

That seemed crazy to me. But I was wrong.

Not-doing something is the new doing something. People are fascinated by people who don’t-do things.

There’s a long list of popular things to not-do. Eat meat/gluten/sugar. Drink alcohol or coffee. Do drugs. Have children. Watch TV. Consume the news. Drive a car. Go to church. Use social media. Carry a gun or credit card. Honestly, the list of things to not-do is infinite.

However, what do people do while they’re not doing the thing they’re not doing?

Here’s the odd part: they talk or write incessantly about the thing they are not doing! If you decide not to use a fork, for example, you set up a Tumblr account to journal about the experience. If you’re not going to use the internet for a bit, you issue a press release and try to get media coverage or a book deal. If you plan to not-work and not-drive a car, you set up a blog and make money from the idea of not needing much money.

Frankly, I’m a bit jealous. There’s a zillion things that I don’t do. It simply never occurred to me that not-doing something was worthy of a book deal, blog, TV show, press release, or humanitarian award.

Since not-doing anything is a pretty hot trend, I thought I might cash in on this gravy train. Pick a thing that I don’t do, and then write about not doing it. What I normally do is not even think about the things I’m not doing.

Why feed the poor, care for the sick, pick up trash, or plant trees — for example — when you can do nothing and make the world a better place?

Clearly, I’ve been doing it wrong. I’m going to start not-doing it right!

What are you not-doing lately? Where’s your humanitarian award?