English Copywriter in Paris: The art of doing nothing

English Copywriter in Paris: The art of doing nothing

This might seem like a strange title. You’re probably more used to me making suggestions on how to boost your productivity or telling you about my running exploits. Why on earth am I promoting procrastination, lazing and lounging then?

First things first, I’m not singing the virtues of being lazy. Far from it.

Rather, I want to look at our ability to stop, slow down and switch off the multi-tasking that increasingly defines modern living.

Why the sudden interest?

Well, as you might have guessed, I’m officially on maternity leave. Although I may not be an employee, as a French freelancer, my social security contributions entitled me to about 2 and half months of paid leave including at least two weeks before the big day.

So, last week, I dutifully trooped off to my local doctor to sign the tiny (rather unofficial looking) piece of paper provided by the RSI. And, since then, I’ve been in a strange kind of limbo. I’m simply not used to having so much time on my hands. My weekly schedule is usually filled with training sessions, long runs, a variety of projects, co-working and going out with friends.

Given that the final weeks of pregnancy eliminate the possibility (or desirability) of doing most of these, I’m left with lots of days, hours and minutes to fill.

I decided to spend a little of this time collecting together a few of the thoughts that have been floating around my head over the last few work-free days.

I’m not good at doing nothing.

If you’re anything like me and you usually have a jam-packed day, a sudden change in rhythm is quite a shock to the system. Although my usual activities have been taken away from me, my initial reaction was to replace them with new ones. I’ve never been so effective at getting my to-do-list checked off, including all those lingering chores that I’ve been putting off for ages. I even made marmalade!

Doing nothing can require practise.

Initially, having a whole day stretching ahead of me was rather daunting. But, slowly, I’m getting used to it. I’ve started to consciously take my time to sit down for a proper breakfast, go for a stroll to enjoy the winter sunshine or simply curl up with a good book, (as well as updating my website and creating fresh blog content)!

Typically, I would feel uneasy or even guilty about this kind of lingering. I naturally want to fit in as many activities as possible. A whole day without leaving the house? Impossible!

NB. This applies to me and my rather hyperactive nature, and isn’t a general rule.

Doing less doesn’t necessarily mean doing less. 

Often, by trying to fit too much in or flitting between tasks without settling, I feel busy but don’t necessarily get a whole lot done. This impression of busyness satisfies my desire to feel productive without making me more productive. I’m forever chopping and changing tasks, answering emails, replying to texts and checking the latest online news.

Yet, now that I have less to do, I do these tasks better, I’m more concentrated and I get more enjoyment from them.

A timely conclusion? 

I won’t say that I’ve been cured of my hyperactivity or that I’ve refined the art of doing nothing, but I’ve certainly taken my first steps. I’m sure that over the next few months I’ll be kept busy, but I hope that I’ll also have the chance to enjoy the little moments and stop trying to plan every minute and hour of the day.

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