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The importance of doing nothing

By 15 September 2023 No Comments

When have you last done nothing? Truly nothing! With the main holiday season over, have you taken advantage of your time off?

In the fast-paced world we live in today many people feel guilty or anxious about taking time off. Some people, particularly in small businesses, think that they are indispensable, that the business can’t function without them, or that they will miss out on something important if they aren’t at work.

Yet, a holiday is not a luxury, it is a necessity, which is why every worker in the UK has a legal right to paid holidays. It could even save your life according to Forbes. Not taking time off affects you and the business!

Research from the US shows that 44% of employees are too busy to take holidays, yet

  • People are 40% more productive after taking holidays
  • People who don’t take holidays become 65% less creative and miss deadlines.
  • People who take all their holidays are 28% less likely to call in sick.

The benefits of taking a holiday 🏄🏻

The benefits of taking time off are undeniable but let’s take a deeper dive into a few specific advantages:

1. Stress reduction and burnout prevention

Taking holidays can reduce stress and prevents burnout. When we’re stressed our brain doesn’t work as well as it should; we forget things, we find it hard to focus, and sometimes we can find it difficult to make decisions. Stress can affect us emotionally too, by making us easily irritated, prone to mood swings, and by finding it difficult to relate to others. Burnout, when stress has gone on just too long, can lead to exhaustion and detachment from work, or even not caring anymore. As such, burnout can have serious consequences for ones’ health, motivation, and productivity.

Taking holidays can help to recharge the batteries, relax the mind and body, and restore passion for work. On return from holidays people generally cope better with the challenges and pressures of their roles.

2. Increased creativity and innovation

When we’re relaxed and out of our routine new ideas seem to pop into our heads effortlessly and our creative juices flow better. Typically, following a good holiday we have lots of new ideas and innovative practices to implement. Additionally, taking holidays can stimulate creativity and innovation by exposing individuals to new experiences, perspectives, and cultures, which can improve their strategic thinking and decision-making. It also gives them quiet time to reflect on their goals, challenges, and strategies, and to generate new insights and solutions.

3. Improved leadership skills and relationships

Taking holidays may also improve leadership skills and relationships. Leadership, the ability to influence others to achieve a common vision and goals, requires a range of skills, such as communication, collaboration, delegation, feedback, and emotional intelligence. Taking holidays can help executives and leaders develop these skills by giving them an opportunity to interact with different people, learn from others, and practice self-management. It can also help them to strengthen their relationships with their colleagues and subordinates by showing them appreciation, trust, and respect for filling in their role during their absence. When people are on holidays, others have an opportunity to pick up the slack, develop new skills, and an appreciation of other aspects of the business; developing people as future leaders and building resilience in the organisation.

4. Reduced potential for errors

Holidays can help you avoid mistakes, errors, and accidents that result from fatigue and lack of concentration. Holidays can also increase your satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty to the organisation, which can lead to better outcomes.

Therefore, you should not hesitate to take regular holidays!

But before you head off on your next holidays…

To ensure that you can enjoy your time off without worrying about work, and return with renewed enthusiasm and confidence, we suggest the following:

  1. Plan your time off in advance to avoid disruptions, clashes, or conflicts.
  2. Delegate work and communicate clearly – it’s your opportunity to create new leaders and allow others to take on new challenges.
  3. Set expectations with the teams and stakeholders before going on holidays.
  4. Don’t be tempted to check on work when on holidays. Don’t check your emails. Instead agree in what critical situations you need to be contacted.
  5. Ensure you block out ‘catch up time’ on your return, to allow you to respond to emails, get up to speed with the latest developments and get yourself organised.

Do nothing

In “Do Nothing”, Celeste Headlee cites research that says that half of all visits to the doctor in the US are linked to stress-related health problems, which Headlee attributes to the rise in work and productivity-related stress. In “Do Nothing”, Headlee argues that by trying to do too much, people are in fact working less efficiently, because the human brain isn’t designed to multitask or work without rest. In addition, Headlee asserts that the culture of overworking and the pressure to achieve the perfect lifestyle has led to worse health outcomes and increased social isolation. To help overcome these challenges Headlee gives a list of life-backs, which we recommend considering.

Headlee’s list of life-backs (hacks to reclaim your life):

  1. Schedule leisure & social time – Block out the same ‘untouchable’ time every week and enjoy it.
  2. Create your dream schedule – Work on increasing this ‘untouchable’ leisure time by creating your dream schedule. What does that look like for you?
  3. Work with other people – Two heads are better than one.
  4. Work fewer hours – Less is more.
  5. Commit small, selfless acts – Doing good is good for you.
  6. Avoid making unhealthy comparisons in work and in life – Love what is and count your blessings.
  7. Focus on ends (like living a good life), not means – Is what you are doing now contributing to your end goal of living your best life?
  8. Keep track of where all your time goes – What isn’t measured, isn’t managed.

“Do Nothing” smacks of “An Apology for Idlers” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson’s idler is not lazy or apathetic. Instead, Stevenson’s idler is focused on appreciating the world around, friends and family. Idling allows us time to enjoy life! 😊

Winnie the Pooh puts it perfectly too “Don’t underestimate the value of doing nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.” Sometimes, this is exactly what you need to do and the best place you can do it is on holidays. 🌈

And finally

Working too much can affect your social and emotional life. You might neglect your family, friends, and hobbies, or feel isolated and lonely. Holidays can help you reconnect with your loved ones, enjoy shared activities, and create lasting memories. Holidays can also boost your mood, self-esteem, and happiness levels💥.

Taking holidays is not a luxury or a sign of weakness for executives. It’s a necessity; it’s good for you, your people and your business. You should not feel guilty or anxious about taking time off. Plan your next holiday today. You deserve it!


Celeste Headlee talks about her book “Do Nothing”

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