The Art of Non-Doing

by / ⠀Blog Entrepreneurship / May 5, 2015

Art of Non-Doing

Some days I don’t feel like doing anything.

But most of the time, it’s to-do list central.  I have tons of energy but still not enough time to do everything on my agenda.

I rush through my list, my brain races, and then by about noon I can hardly see straight.

I bet you know the feeling.

YES, I am crushing tasks.  But wtf, why am I going through life like this?  It doesn’t matter how hard you work, how fast you do things…  Eventually it doesn’t matter.

It’s the law of diminishing returns.

No matter matter how efficient I am, I can’t physically “do” all the things I “need” to.  Making myself crazy, stressed, and rushed isn’t going to help the situation… especially because in this state it’s easy to make mistakes.

And then even worse, I crash.  I burnout.

So instead of the Gary Vaynerchuck, “I work 19 hours per day and crush life,” approach how can I strategize?  How can I create systems?  How can I sit the f*ck down for a minute and think things through instead of just hurrying to finish things.

Usually when I map out my day and strategize (which I try and do 3-4x daily), I get through reading the first few things on my list and just start doing shit again, because just the thought of these tasks distracts me, and everything always seems to have urgency attached to it.

“Oh yeah, I need to send this email…”  Boom, now I’m back in my inbox, distracted, and barely treading water.

The Psychology Behind This

It’s simple.  We all need to feel accomplished.  Our ego needs something to feed on.  We all need to say “good job” to ourselves at the end of the day and feel important.

You know… Heart-throb Facebook posts that make you feel “Liked”.

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matt wilson under30experiences

Of course this is a feel good post and people are going to like it, but it’s important for me to remember that this external validation means nothing about me.  In no way do I want to get my sense of self worth from what others say about me.

I’ve written more about ego here and my theory about how to be okay when your hot girlfriend gets hit by a bus.  

One of the sick ways that we make ourselves feel good is to get stressed out.

Yup, it’s why I left the whole New York power player, self important scene.  I want to throw up just thinking about it.

These people only feel good about themselves because their calendars are jam packed.  And when you hang out with these people you start picking up on their habits and their thoughts.  Brandon Epstein and I discuss what psychologist Carl Jung explains as the collective unconscious. (Podcast to be launched next week!!)

Just as people are addicted to drugs, we get addicted to cortisol, the chemical that your adrenal gland pumps out during your fight or flight response.

Don’t think your cortisol levels is a problem for you?  Get them tested.  My best friend’s levels were so high, his body stopped reacting to cortisol, like an alcoholic who can’t get drunk.

Cortisol is making you old, fat, and stupid.  And I want to look handsome like Grampy when I’m 88.

Introducing the Art of Non-Doing

How to do more by doing less…

First of all, take a timeout.  You are probably just “going” and “doing” all the time, but not in a laser focused direction.  The more laser focused you are, the more effective you’ll be.

Don’t have time to go on a U30X trip?

Sit and meditate for 3 minutes.

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Don’t have time for that?

How about 3 deep breaths?

Okay, so you aren’t into that?… How about goal setting?

Are your goals laser focused?  Mine aren’t.

Sure, I know we have a goal of running 50 Under30Experiences trips this year and we’re almost sold out until October.  That’s great, but what about my goals for the week?  The goals for the day?  Or my goal for the next 30 minutes while I write this article?  Now, THAT is laser focus.

The Art of War

Do you think Generals lead their troops into battle by running full steam ahead all the time?  Do you think Navy SEALs check their Facebook 15x per day?

No.  That’s how people die.

You wouldn’t lead your team into the business world without strategy would you?  Then why would you venture into the concrete jungle, even to get a cup of coffee, in a hurried fashion?

I highly suggest reading The Art of War, which explains how the point of combat is not just to drop the atom bomb on the enemy… you should defeat your enemy by using the least amount of energy possible, resulting in less bloodshed, and more respect from everyone involved.

The slower and more tactical you move throughout your day, the more you can accomplish.

Next time you walk down the street in a crowded city, why not picture yourself moving like a samurai, instead of pushing and shoving?  I don’t think there is a credible person on earth who’d argue against me here.

You’ll conserve your energy, gain respect of those around you, and be in more control of your thoughts and emotions.

This way, when Grampy gets up on his ladder again at age 88, which I’m watching him do out the window right now, my cortisol doesn’t go through the roof.

I’m going to try and now calmly let my work be interrupted and tell him he needs to come down.

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What Everyone Misses About The Flow State

There is this popular notion these days about entering the flow state… where one is completely “in the zone” and almost magically focused.  Writers, athletes, speakers, artists, and people who feel a deep connection to what they do can enter into this state effortlessly.

But what people forget is the “effortlessly” part.

Now before you get all sensitive because you pride yourself on how hard you work, listen up.  There is nothing wrong with hustling.  I’m just saying there is a better way.

This is how to make your hustle more effective.

The more you practice slowing down your mind and refocusing, the better you will execute.  Plus, you’ll enjoy life more if you take time to breathe once in a while instead of rushing everywhere.

Yes, this means taking long walks, listening to podcasts, reading about mindfulness, taking naps, having a beer, changing up your routine, meditating, and simply relaxing…. this is the fun part, and your method is up to you.

Here are a few articles to help you start practicing The Art of Non-Doing today: 

As a friend of mine who makes a shitload of money chained to his desk in the finance world said to me,  “Man, taking care of yourself is a full-time job.  I could never do all that.”

… and to that all I can say is: the type of life you want to live is up to you.

Set your goals, set your priorities, and start practicing The Art of Non-Doing today.

About The Author

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson is Co-Founder of Under30Experiences, a travel company for young people ages 21-35. He is the original Co-founder of Under30CEO (Acquired 2016). Matt is the Host of the Live Different Podcast and has 50+ Five Star iTunes Ratings on Health, Fitness, Business and Travel. He brings a unique, uncensored approach to his interviews and writing. His work is published on, Forbes, Inc. Magazine, Huffington Post, Reuters, and many others. Matt hosts yoga and fitness retreats in his free time and buys all his food from an organic farm in the jungle of Costa Rica where he lives. He is a shareholder of the Green Bay Packers.


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