6 Ways Where Doing Nothing Will Make You More Productive

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I got an email at 5 in the morning that made me angry. It pressed every button. It accused. It threatened. It cc-ed people.

It attempted to make me feel guilt. It attempted to make me feel fear. To cry. To argue. To make me feel that blah blah blah. I can go on.

I was so upset I started to type a response and then I stopped. I’m not so great that I can always stop. Sometimes I respond. Then the fuckness begins.

I’m trying to get better. We find our courage in the middle of battle. We find our strength deep in the valley of our fears.

Do nothing.

Many productivity books tell you what you can do MORE of in order to achieve goals purpose success money blah.

But MORE is hard to do. I’m already busy. Now you tell me I have to do a to-list with six things that make me feel grateful on top of it? I can’t do it all.

I need to eliminate first. I need to be a productivity minimalist in order to be a success.

Here’s a checklist I use for when I do nothing:

– ANGER.

Some people think anger can focus emotions. But it doesn’t. It’s like focusing on a kaleidoscope. You’ll walk straight off a cliff.

Anger is a roadmap off that cliff. You have to wait until it settles down and you get perspective.

Time is the morphine drip that soothes the anger. Then you can act. Anger is just an outer reflection of inner fear. The fear might be correct but the anger blurs it.

– PARANOIA.

I initally had “FEAR” here. But fear can focus. If you’re in the jungle and there’s a lion on your right and an apple tree on your left then you better run as fast as you can back where you came from.

But often I’m not afraid, I’m paranoid. I imagine a chaotic future filled with misery and hate and homelessness and loneliness. My best bet here is to stop typing, sit down and picture a more realistic future, one based on the fact that almost 99% of what I’ve been paranoid about in the past never comes true.

– ANXIETY.

Why did they call at 5pm on a Friday night and say “We HAVE to talk. Well, I guess you’re not there. Talk Monday.”

Ugh! I hate that! Why 5pm? What did they have to say? I should call her home. I should write. I should drive up and visit (“hey, just stopping by! So, uhh, what was up with that phone call?”).

There is nothing that is ever so important it can’t wait. And if it was that important, then it’s again a roadmap to you and not the situation. It’s an opportunity to say, what about my life can be rearranged so that this one thing doesn’t throw me off so much. What things can I change? And then have fun changing them.

– DELUSIONAL.

When I’m convinced about love! Like after a first date. Or a tenth date. Or after she/he betrayed me. And I’m convinced! If only… If she only did THIS then all would be perfect. I need to tell her this. I need to show up at six AM and tell her this. Maybe spy on her computer until she REALIZES. RESPECT! See, sometimes my version of HER is different from the reality version of HER. So I need to connect the versions. It has to happen! Or else.

How many hours has this stolen from my productivity? Maybe it’s just me. But at least 5000 hours. That’s 1/2 of what Malcolm Gladwell tells me I need to become the best in the world at something. Goddamn you Gladwell!

– TIRED.

I was trying to figure out something on the computer the other day. It was something both very technical and related to money. First it was 1pm. Then it was 6pm. Then, against all my rules for a “daily practice” it was midnight.

And I was no closer to figuring it out. I was tired. My eyes were blurry. I was taking ten second naps on my computer. A week later I still haven’t figured out what I needed to figure out.

Claudia peeled me off the keyboard and marched me upstairs. Sleep hygiene is the best way to improve productivity in your life. Not beating your head against a computer. Because the screen will crack and you’ll get more stupid.

Blood on your head is stupid. In every situation.

– TO BE LIKED.

How many meetings have I gone to? Trips abroad? Made stupid investments. Written articles. Shared food in a Chinese restaurant. Done did doing does?

Just so someone would like me.

A mother a father a friend a reader an investor a customer a stranger. Answer: a lot of times. Too many times. And it works. I put in the input (flattery, attention, false love) and get out the output (false love back).

And continue to live the illusion in search of the dream, in avoidance of the nightmare, ignorant of the reality. Do I make any money this way? In my 25 years of business: zero.

That’s my checklist. If I feel any of the conditions occurring, like a sniffle in the night that turns into a flu by morning, then I stop.

What do I do when I stop? I do nothing. I read a book. I write. I watercolor. I take a walk. I sit and do absolutely nothing.

But when you are doing nothing you’ll get nothing done?

Praise be to god I get NOTHING done during those times. It’s saved me millions of dollars and probably saved my life.

Think about when you’ve been happiest with your life (and if that’s not a reasonable goal then what is?).

Is it during those moments when your thoughts have been frenetic and all over the place? Or has it been those moments when your thoughts have been calm – the depths of a peaceful ocean instead of a stormy surface.

It’s when we are in touch with the magic of our silence that we find our inner creators and can change the universe.

Reprinted with permission from The Altucher Confidental.

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