Business Columns & Blogs

Try doing nothing with a purpose. It can build your creativity

I wrote a few weeks ago about a Japanese concept called “Tsundoku” or the art of having more books that you haven’t yet read than the ones you have read ( I just came across another wonderful concept from the Netherlands we need to know about: the art of doing nothing.

“Niksen” ( seems like a tough idea to define, since it sounds like it could be a “good” thing or a “not so good” thing. It refers to a time when we don’t do what we think we “should be doing,” or when we’re just not motivated to do anything.

Then again, it can be conscious unstructured time where we just sit and think (or don’t). It could be seen as being lazy or as a way to recharge. I’m going for the recharge angle.

This notion of spending time that has no specific productive outcome, which some could call daydreaming, is a hard one for many active leaders to absorb and use. Yet, researchers claim the benefits of “niksen” are many. We become more creative and better at solving problems when we allow our brains to pursue avenues that are not so obvious.

So there are benefits to doing nothing, but getting there can be stressful for people who’ve not developed the knack for “niksen.”

To find the productivity in “purposeful doing nothing,” Professor Manfred Kets de Vries says that (1) we have to make time to do nothing, (2) we must resist the expectation that we must always be busy, and (3) we must set up an environment to facilitate “niksen” — a comfy chair, a nearby cup of tea, a fireplace.

Try it. I’m going to put “niksen” into my summer routine … and maybe beyond.

Nancy Napier is a Boise State University distinguished professor.