Did you see this Naval tweet from a couple days ago?
To measure the quality of your life, simply do nothing, and see how it feels.— Naval (@naval) April 18, 2020
I did. And…I took him up on it.
In an effort to assess the quality of my life, I did nothing over the weekend.
For context, my weekends typically look something like this.
- Have idea that I want to execute on.
- Think about idea more.
- Shave some yaks
Through one medium or another, I’m usually reading, writing, learning, or trying to sharpen a skill. The success of those ventures? That’s a different story. 1
This weekend though, I was adamant about “doing nothing.” No writing. No reading. No creating. I needed to see how it felt.
My days went something like this.
Day One, Saturday
I’ll say, it was quite refreshing waking up without expectations.
I played some video games. I suck at Apex Legends, it is a great game though. I got food delivery and discovered Za’taar Man’ouche, it’s delicious. I watched a few episodes of Waco on Netflix. I listened to a sleep podcast, Cat Marina on Headspace. And of course I did some aimless Twitter scrolling. Oh! I even had a beer.
Day Two, Sunday
Sunday was a blur. I suffer from the same pre-work dread that everyone else does (shut up those of you who love your jobs).
Cleaning. Laundry. Some other boring chores.
For the most part, I did nothing. I felt ok.
Socially, I got my fill. Despite my fairly strong repulsion to games since my teenage years, the PS4 has proven a strong social platform.
My girlfriend is here now, too. That’s a plus.
I felt sufficiently engaged and fortunate to not be lonely during these times when isolation seems overwhelming.
Still though, I was drained and a 7pm bedtime was in order.
Day Three, Monday – Back to Work
My doing-nothing vacation came to a forced retirement. Work beckoned at 7am.
A million emails and tasks waited for me. I can say, despite doing nothing over the weekend, I didn’t feel anymore “refreshed” than normal. “Doing nothing” was not a recharge.
In the morning I pushed through a handful of monotonous, administrative tasks that are apparently required in a corporate environment. Timesheets don’t approve themselves. Thankfully I have no TPS reports.
Then it all hit.
At lunch, I hopped back in to catch up on some of the Slack activity I had missed over the last few days. I recently joined Visualize Value, a community of creators looking to better themselves and their work. It’s been immensely valuable.
But on this particular day, it was an impetus to the most severe anxiety attack I’ve ever had.
Disclaimer: You can’t catch up on an active Slack workspace after multiple days away.
I wasn’t trying to read every message that had passed me by, but even a brief glimpse at the channel activity was enough to send me spiraling.
Channels like workshare, wins, and project accountability were flush with chatter. Other people like me were building, creating, iterating, evaluating.
I had just spent two days doing nothing. Talk about a failure, right?
This was the perfect opportunity to assess the quality of my own life. To see what it felt like to do nothing. Was I ok with that?
I went back to the tweet to think on it some more.
“To measure the quality of your life, simply do nothing, and see how it feels.”
This felt awful. My heart pumped, I got dizzy. I was sweating.
It reminded me of a dream I frequently have. In the dream, somehow I have failed to show up to class for an entire semester. Oh and, there’s an assignment due. Plus, I’ve missed all the tests and have a 0.
Aside: This dream is a nightmare if you didn’t go to your classes in college because your interests were easier to explore online.
I felt like I had fallen well behind. I was overwhelmed at the progress others were making while I had done nothing.
But…that’s the point, right?
“Do nothing, and see how it feels.”
As a means for evaluating my life, doing nothing provided some strong feedback.
The anxiety induced through my relative inactivity is a lightbulb turning on. Doing nothing provided the necessary awareness of the quality of my own life.
I am not satisfied with my current situation.
Is this a bad thing? No.
Awareness is the first step and is the whole point of this exercise.
As Naval indicated in response to replies of the tweet…
If you can maintain it in your sight consistently, you will automatically begin to change it.— Naval (@naval) April 18, 2020
Having consistent awareness ensures we take steps to improve our situation.
Only when we are content with doing nothing, are we sufficiently satisfied with the quality of our life.
This experiment has taught me that is not the case for me.
At present time, I’m not sufficiently satisfied with my quality of life. Being reminded of that is further fuel to push forward.
Successful or not, the quality of my life is buoyed by my own ability to ideate and create. When I removed it, it wasn’t pretty.
So…if you want to measure the quality of your life. Like Naval said, do nothing and see how it feels.