Doing nothing may seem like the complete opposite of being productive, but surprisingly, it can act as a great productivity boost. The Dutch have a lifestyle practice known as niksen, which essentially means doing nothing. Niksen, as we shall see, has a number of productivity-enhancing benefits. Read on to learn how Niksen can boost your productivity.
What Is Niksen?
While niksen may initially sound like meditation, it’s quite different and difficult in its own way. Whereas mindfulness meditation involves intentionally noticing every sensation, thought, and feeling that arises, niksen is all about doing nothing whatsoever. There is nothing to focus on and no activity at the heart of it. It involves taking time out to be idle and let your mind wander.
You can practise niksen at home by lying on your bed or sitting on the couch while staring out the window. You can do it outside, too, sitting on a park bench or inside a coffee shop, just watching the world go by – the important defining feature of niksen is that you stay in this relaxed state without a purpose in mind.
The Need for Relaxation
Ultimately, Niksen is about switching off. Watching Netflix and YouTube videos can be one way to relax, but doing nothing still very much engages and stimulates the mind. The point of niksen is to let the mind completely relax and be free to naturally wander. Niksen can be difficult, though, as it’s hard for many of us to switch off completely.
This kind of relaxation is important for productivity, as it gives the mind some time to rest and be hungry for more engagement. After practicing niksen for just 10 minutes, you can approach a task with a clearer and more relaxed mind, which can make it easier to complete the task at hand.
The Benefits of Mind-Wandering
As already mentioned, when practicing niksen, you are letting your mind freely wander. When this happens, your thoughts are not focused on any task; instead, you aimlessly and spontaneously go from one thought to another, spanning a range of topics. This mind-wandering has a number of science-backed benefits.
Firstly, mind-wandering can make you more creative. Research shows that letting your mind wander is associated with an increase in “divergent thinking” or the ability to come up with new ideas. If you’re interested in improving your productivity, these findings should stand out; after all, the more novel ideas you have, the more diverse and interesting your output will be.
Secondly, some studies have illustrated that if you engage in interesting and engaging mind-wandering, it can enhance your mood. So after practising niksen, you may come out of it in a much better mood. This is useful for productivity because it is much easier to get work done if you’re in good spirits compared to feeling low.
Research also underscores that mind-wandering may improve job performance. People who experience mind-wandering during mundane, repetitive tasks perform those tasks better and faster, significantly reducing their response times.
Limitations of Niksen
But if your work is more creative in nature, then it would probably be better to be focused on it rather than letting your mind wander. For creative workers, the ideal strategy would involve intentionally taking time out to practice niksen, reap the benefits of mind-wandering, and then return to your creative work with a rested mind, full of new ideas.
Additionally, you still need to be sure you don’t let bad habits creep into your productivity. While niksen can be beneficial to your productivity, you need to be sure you’re not getting too lackadaisical about your work, allowing bad habits to creep in. But if you keep a good balance of working hard and ignoring bad habits, while also giving yourself a break occasionally to just sit and do nothing, it could lead to some of your most productive work.