Off-Time: It’s OK to Do Nothing

Sometimes, it’s OK to do nothing. Off-time! Just stare out an airplane window and watch a beach go by.

On my final trip last year, I had been looking forward to run in Rio de Janeiro, along Ipanema Beach and Copacabana. But British Airways lost my luggage. I had no running gear and no time to purchase alternative shoes and clothes. I felt a bit sad and disappointed.

On the flight from Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo, I was not in the mood for reading, writing, or anything else. It was my last trip of the book tour; I missed my home; and the one thing that I had been looking forward to on that trip was sabotaged by the airline.

I just listened to music and stared out the window.

Just before the flight, I finished reading yet another productivity book. It had great suggestions about time management, removing waste, delegation, and optimal use of my time. I normally devour that kind of stuff and I usually like to be as productive as I can.

But on my flight in Brazil, I wasn’t.

Not everything needs to be efficient and effective. I call it my off-time. It’s a time of day when I don’t feel compelled to do anything. I just sit, and let my mind wander. I might think about work, friends, family, music or movies, or that last novel that I gave 5 stars. I know some people turn their off-time into meditation or mindfulness sessions. That’s even better. But meditation and mindfulness take a lot of practice. For me, the first step as a novice is just off-time. I turn the productivity switch down to zero.

A number of people have suggested to me that I could listen to podcasts when driving a car, enjoying a walk, or waiting in an airport’s long security line. After all, if you have spare time available, why not use it to do something? But I don’t fancy that idea. Where would my off-time go?

Sometimes, it’s OK to do nothing and just stare out an airplane window, watching a beach go by. The beach where you had hoped to run.

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