• Sarah Phillips

Doing Absolutely Nothing

Updated: Jan 13

I would like to, on occasion, do absolutely nothing but stare straight ahead. As funny as it may sound, this is actually a very very difficult thing to do, and it's one that can cause some existential anxiety. Our days are filled with too many tasks and obligations, and after they're all complete there is never very much space left over.

This lifestyle is encouraged by our culture, which salivates over buzzwords like "multi-tasking,""grinding," and "hustle." When we are lucky enough to have any scrap of time leftover, we immediately erase it by jumping onto our phones or sulking in our awkward silence- just waiting in the check-out line...

... so... ... completely...

... ALONE... How awkward and weird you are.

I'm sure that everyone experiences some amount of anxiety around nothingness, but it seems to hit young people especially hard. When you grow up with technology that allows - and increasingly expects - everything to be "ON" it's only natural that your brain starts to mimic that level of activity.


People are being held to a new and less sustainable standard of communication and, accordingly, for work. Years ago, you may have stayed late in the office, but eventually you could leave and go home. The work day was over. Now, you can have a "flexible work environment," which grants you the "opportunity" to work from anywhere, anytime. Lucky you! Similarly, there is an expectation that you will remain constantly accessible to the people in your personal life. There is so much to stay up to date with, and you do not want to miss out on anything (FOMO)! A lot can happen in a day:

An Invitation to a cool society event: I'm definitely going to commit right away, even though I'm not sure that I want to go. I like to see myself as the type of person who"does things." I'm very sociable.

General Work Email about nothing pressing: I can't believe that they're changing the snacks in the break room. No one takes away my tiny afternoon powdered-sugar doughnut delight!

A Request to donate money to your favorite charity: The pictures on their website are so so sad. I need to be part of the solution and donate a few bucks.

New Horrible Story on the news: I need to read this as fast as I can, and make sure I re-post the story on social media so everyone knows I'm not out of touch.

Having instant access to information and being constantly "in the know" is so deliciously appealing that it can fool us into excluding ourselves from the important work of introspection. It is so enticing to think that you could just get a bit ahead of your coworker, or learn more about a complicated political issue in another country. I'm not saying that you should never work ahead or research an interesting topic, but it does not need to be accomplished at the expense of designated and important"down-time."

What is even the fucking point if you cannot take time to learn from or about yourself? Being able to take comfort in your own silence should be treated as one of the most meaningful accomplishment you can achieve.

I challenge you to schedule 15 minutes of time in your day to do absolutely nothing. And "nothing" is not scrolling through Instagram, or even exercise. I am talking about doing absolutely nothing... enjoy a good stare out the window, and take some time to process your thoughts.

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