“Just Do It Nothing”

How can nothing be the answer to a problem? In school, especially in engineering, x always has some sort of a value associated with it. The pure thought of having the answer equal to nothing is unheard of. I guess technically that would called infinity, but cases like that are hard to find in the engineering world. Thus, how can nothing be the answer to every problem that we have today?

Gretchen Rubin, the author of the Happiness Project, reflects on the idea of “if you want to get yourself to do something, make the alternative to that task to do nothing.” This idea she stumbled upon in a book called Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. By following this simple model with nothing as an alternative, she found herself accomplishing tasks that she may have found cumbersome.

Much like Gretchen, it seems that I had been following these steps without actually knowing, when I choose the library over my room to do my work. It’s not like the two places are that much different, but I understand that my room is filled with many unnecessary distractions that would steer me away from my task. If everyone was to abide by this thought process, people’s efficiency levels would skyrocket. But as everyone knows, the ‘perfect engine’ has not been invented yet, which would enable to reach efficiency levels of 100%. By all means, I am not trying to compare humans to machines, but maybe procrastination serves another purpose.

Procrastination is always regarded as a terrible thing, that it’s the root of all problems being accomplished. In some instances, especially for me, procrastination is used as a way to relax or simply forget all the problems happening around me, for those brief few seconds. Sometime it is good just to get away from everything, and surf around the internet. Procrastination is not a crime; it simply needs to be monitored.

Even though the ‘Do Nothing’ approach appeals to me significantly I began to wonder why certain things are that much tougher to accomplish than others. I think a big part of it has to do with seeing the consequences behind your actions, much like the guiding principles behind utilitarianism. Even though you are not trying to put a dollar value behind the outcome of your decision, but by being able to see the future result of your failure to do that task might provide enough incentive to actually accomplish it. This is going to be a stretch, but for example: “ The failure to dust. By not dusting your apartment, you run the risk of having someone coming over and seeing how dirty or unorganized you are. Now assume that that person happens to be your boss. Upon seeing how dirty your apartment is, he realizes that your lack of cleanliness might show up in your work at the office. Going off of his gut feeling, he decides to not promote you as a precaution.”

I understand that the consequences of this scenario may have been stretched a little bit, but if one was to realize and understand the impact of one’s actions, then maybe things would get done right away.  As far as those looking to have the option to choose, alternative number two might be their best, and that is simply to do nothing as a way to get things done.


5 responses »

  1. Jordi says:

    Sometimes I call myself the “anti-crastinator” when I want to psyche myself up for some intense work time.

  2. KCasty says:

    This theory makes me wonder if there is always/ever really is a “do nothing” alternative unless you are completely isolated from all people and things. For instance, in your studying example, when you go to the library, is the alternative to doing your work really to do nothing? What about browsing on your computer, wasting time buying snacks/drinks, or talking to all of your friends who are undoubtedly nearby (the library really is one of the most social places on campus, if you ask me…)?

    • I guess when I used the library example, it reflected my own personal choice of the environment that would help me get things done. This may be different for other people, in which case a dorm room or a classroom might serve as the best suited environment in terms of getting things done. I guess the idea behind the ‘do nothing’ approach requires an individual to be somewhat disciplined in regards to his actions. When you choose the ‘do nothing’ option, it really sounds like what it is, which prohibits you from websurfing, texting or any other means of killing time. This approach is used in a way so that essentially you get bored of doing nothing and that the only other alternative is your first one, which would require you to finish the task.

  3. Alex Lin says:

    Instead of using “do nothing” as an alternative, you could also just incorporate it into your schedule. The Pomodoro Technique, developed by Francesco Cirillo, is a technique used to manage your time. The steps of this technique:

    (Pomodoro, which means tomato in Italian, refers to a timer.)

    Choose a task to be accomplished
    Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
    Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
    Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
    Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break

    (From http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/)

    Pomodoro, which means tomato in Italian, refers to a tomato timer.

    I have personally used this technique and found that it helps me keep my level of productivity. The short breaks of doing nothing help me recharge and I often have to force myself to sit through the whole break and restrain from jumping back into my work before the break is over.

    Try it out!

  4. Cheryl says:

    I think it is really interesting how you link the “Do Nothing” approach to the consequentialist approach, as I have never thought of it that way. I can see where you’re coming from, especially with the library example, since I can connect my personal experience with that as well. This approach will force you to steer yourself away from every other alternatives aka watching TV, facebook, etc…That way, the only option you have, other than finishing the task, is doing nothing and getting bored. The hardest part will probably be to develop a particular mindset that prevents or prohibits yourself from other distractions, which I think not many people can do

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