The productivity revolution has been built around one key idea – “getting more done”. It has been less focused on “Why are we doing what we are doing?” And that feels like a key opening question.

Everything we do fits into a larger picture.

What then is that larger picture?

What is the doing trying to accomplish?

It is only by balancing the doing with allowing ourselves time to do nothing that we slow down enough to access our inner wisdom and ask ourselves these deeper questions.

There are a host of reasons as to why putting empty space in the diary is positive, particularly in terms of creativity and overall wellbeing, but justifying them feels like feeding into the productivity narrative. As if even doing nothing has to somehow serve productivity. What if it were an end to itself?

I have been scheduling quiet time in the diary for some time now. Initially, it felt a little strange, but I quickly embraced the freedom it offers. The key point is that it requires us to say “No” to anything that is trying to interrupt and distract or wiggle into this space through some claim of urgency or importance. In short, what is so important that you don’t have time to do nothing?

This quiet time comes with different textures. There is quiet time in the office. This is time where I have nothing planned and I simply ask myself “What is important now?” and focus on that one thing I feel is calling in that moment. That may well be time in the hammock listening to the world around me or some other form of meditation. It may also turn into some form of doing as my brain starts getting creative.

There is also time out in nature where I go swimming or surfing. I typically do this on Wednesdays as it neatly splits the working week and creates a freshness for Thursday and Friday. My work is about freshness, about noticing, about presence. It is creative in nature so being addled and tired are the true enemies.

So, as you flip through your diary or glance at your digital calendar, ask yourself: Where is my empty space?

Questions in the Image:

  • How much space do I create in my diary?
  • What is so important that I don’t have time to do nothing?

Want to Read More Around This Topic?

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (link to Amazon.co.uk). This book emphasizes the importance of focusing on what truly matters in order to achieve meaningful results across your world. It provides actionable advice on how to eliminate distractions and prioritise tasks that align with your long-term vision.

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. I am writing this on a Wednesday so am off to the beach shortly with my son. This is special time and I wonder where else I might switch what I do to create more special moments?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

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