Sometimes the best ideas come from doing nothing

By: Sarah Dew Whitsett

Sometimes the best ideas come from doing nothing. 

One of the things I have been noticing lately is how full our days feel. Clients share that they are busy – busy and have trouble fitting it all in. I have to admit that I certainly fall into this category. Whether it is busy with work or busy with family, sometimes it feels like I am going non- stop. And to be honest, without at least one day a week of nothing, and I mean NOTHING, I get cranky.

So as I do, I started paying attention to all the things I ‘do’ in a day. What could possibly be sucking up all this time? I mean, there are 24 hours in a day, surely this shouldn’t feel so crowded. 

First thing I noticed: There were a few responsibilities that didn’t take up a huge amount of actual time to complete but they were things that I tended to worry about even when I wasn’t ‘doing’ them. So I took some time and thought about them. Was keeping these items on my plate really the best thing? Could I let them go? Could I find someone else to take them on? 

Yes, I made a decision to let them go. Yes, I will be taking a hit in the wallet but in the long run this will free me up to focus my energy on the areas that give me life… and money. So, I am okay with the short term loss with the pay off down the road. 

I have to tell you once I made that decision, I was practically skipping down the street. 

The other thing I noticed was that I was always feeling a pull to check Social Media and The News. 

‘You must be on Social Media. It’s for work’ 

‘How will I know if someone in my life has had some kind of tragedy?’ 

‘You must stay up to date with the news every day. It’s what a well informed citizen does’, I told myself. 

So I started adding it up and, because aren’t iPhones great, they track it. I was on one app or another – either social media or news – for over 3 hours a day.

I took email, social media, and news off of my phone.

Now, I can only check them on my laptop. I scheduled 30 minute blocks each day to check email and social media profiles for the day (work only). I gave myself 30 minutes in the morning to go to a newspaper website and read the daily paper. That’s it.

Here is what I have noticed.

1. I was addicted. Even without the ability to read anything on my phone, I find myself picking it up when I am bored or tired. Now I just put it back down because there is nothing to do. I can see where 10 minutes here or 15 minutes there certainly add up.

2. I have also noticed that I don’t know what to do with myself anymore. So, I have started cooking more to fill the time. Also, I’m just sitting there thinking… Stella calls it “staring at the wall time”.

In just a few days of this I noticed that I was having totally creative ideas for addressing challenges in my work. They would just come to me.

I needed to make the space to do nothing in order for the creative side of my mind to pipe up.

While this is still a challenge, I feel so much better for it. If you know me, you know I am all for efficiency, so what’s better than staring at the wall and having solutions come to you?

If you are so inspired, I would love for you to join me. What would it look like if you slowed down your phone and tech consumption? 


Sarah is cofounder and strategist at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. She’s all action and no beating around the bush. A former intensive care unit nurse, if you look closely, you’ll see her continuing to run triage in her work with clients now. It’s in her bones. Sarah’s ears are tuned to the efficient and effective use of time, money, and effort, and which actions need to be taken in which order to get the result you want.

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