Much Ado About (Doing) Nothing: Finding Free Time

Feeling a little post-holiday burnout? Then National Nothing Day (January 16th) might be right up your alley. The “non-holiday” was created by San Francisco Examiner columnist Harold Pullman Coffin in 1973 to give people a break from the endless stream of occasions and just do nothing. In our non-stop culture, having a completely obligation-free day is a rare commodity. But the concept of unapologetic leisure time is valid – and an actual necessity. According to psychoanalyst and management scholar Manfred Kets de Vries, “In our present networked society, introspection and reflection have become lost arts . . . the balance between activity and inactivity has become seriously out of sync.”

Whether you opt to give yourself the gift of a full 24 hours of “nothing” or just carve out a little extra downtime, here are some easy suggestions to help you slow down and savor your day:

Wonderful Wandering

Indulge in the simple pleasure of taking a stroll in your favorite area, but leave your phone at home. Resisting the impulse to photograph and document your jaunt on social media will help you practice the habit of just enjoying an experience without having to create anything tangible to show for it.

Catch Those Zzzs

Sleep is often the first thing sacrificed when we’re in frantic “get it done” mode. So, reward yourself with some extra slumber. Schedule an afternoon siesta or ditch your morning alarm altogether and allow your internal body clock to wake you on its own.

Effortless Edibles

Even the most enthusiastic chefs need a break from the kitchen. So, grab your takeout menus and have a delicious dish delivered to your door or hire a driver to whisk you away to your favorite restaurant. If you’re living with someone who is not on the Nothing Day bandwagon, have them cook for you!

Recreational Reading

According to the latest American Time Use Survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the share of Americans over age 15 who read for pleasure has fallen over 30% since 2004. Do your part to flip that statistic by treating yourself to a tome you’ve been wanting to dive into. Or even a stack of magazines will do. If it feels fun, read it.

Time Out

If you’re really struggling with the concept of zero effort, start with baby steps. Grab your phone or an old school kitchen timer and set it for two minutes. Sit or stand comfortably and just allow the time to pass without doing anything. It may feel odd…or you might find out just how easy it can be to relax on command.


  • JANUARY 1: New Year’s Day
  • JANUARY 4: National Trivia Day
  • JANUARY 13: Make Your Dream Come True Day
  • JANUARY 21: Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • JANUARY 24: National Compliment Day
  • JANUARY 28: National Fun at Work Day

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