For many the hardest thing to do – is nothing. Nothing, not a thing. For many it seems like you’re shirking your responsibility if the action you take is no action.
As Warren Buffett says, “the trick is, when there’s nothing to do, do nothing.” He is one of the few who has followed this advice as unlike him, so many are paid for action rather than results. So many forget that not doing anything is just as much a decision and an action as running around frenetically doing this and that without any thought to the value of the activity and how it will be better than just – doing nothing.
We have a bias to action, a bias towards movement. Movement for its own sake seems so much more productive that taking a rest and allowing things to play out of their own accord.
Managers feed this frenzy of useless, and even counterproductive, activity. How often have you rewarded someone or been rewarded for sitting calmly at your desk staring out the window thinking about the best response to something you’re watching over? How often have you told someone to just do something, anything, rather than wait to see what happens?
I’m not talking about doing nothing just to do nothing. We call that taking a nap. I’m talking about thinking things through and deciding that nothing is the right response, which it is more often than we realize. The problem is that to others doing nothing seems like you abdicated your responsibility to do something. They don’t realize that you’ve made a reasoned decision and your action is no action.
Since seeing Buffett’s comment quoted above, I’ve re-evaluated my propensity to act rather than do nothing. In my case it seems that it’s just so easy to act and so hard to sit on my hands. Yet as I’ve observed myself and tried to include doing nothing in my thought process I find that more often that you would imagine, nothing is the best choice. Nothing is not only the best choice but the one needing no resources at all to do it well. All is takes is self control and a willingness to explain that doing nothing has led to the best solution at the lowest cost.
Even better, doing nothing about some things has given me more time and energy to deal with those things that require real effort. I’m actually getting more done with better results by doing nothing more often. Take Warren Buffett’s advice, be tough and do nothing more often.