Do nothing & be more productive.

What religion teaches us about doing and creating more.


Routinely do nothing.

Thats what religion teaches us about productivity.

The truth is that the concept of a Sabbath isn’t just a religious act. It happens to be a practical and scientifically-proven way to increase your output and boost creativity.

Perhaps the God of the Bible rested on the seventh day and invites us to do the same for a reason. (imagine that?) In fact, here are 3 good (and non-religious) reasons…

(a) We are designed to routinely do nothing.

Research has uncovered that our heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature, hormone levels, among other things, rise and fall in seven-day patterns—known as Circaseptan cycles. Interestingly, all of these weekly conditions are dependent on a restful period of time. In other words, our bodies and our brains NEED rest on a weekly basis in order to operate at their maximum capacity.

For 6 days a week, we are biologically designed to give and work (and work hard). For 1 day a week, we are biologically designed to rest. This goes for daily rest, as well. We can “Sabbath” for 30 mins every 3 hours or for 24 hours every week. Regardless, routinely doing nothing is a good idea for no other reason than to stop fighting our natural design.

(b) We need the world to work its creative magic on us.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, Business leader & author of Thou Shall Prosper, says it this way.

By restricting themselves from the usual acts of creativity and impacting the world, Jews are restraining themselves from being the subjects of creation – those who do the acts. Instead they become objects – those upon whom the world works its magic. They are prohibited from imposing their creative drives on their environment because, by not doing so, they are better placed to absorb what the environment has to offer them. This slice of time, one seventh of each week, becomes not only a tremendous luxury but also an indispensable aid to creative thinking during the rest of the week. It is a regular weekly period of time during which their beings are set on “receive mode” rather than “transmit mode.”

Receive mode. Not quite a term we’re accustomed to in a face-paced world of career-building or raising children. Yet according to the Jews, learning this mode could be the secret to profession and parenting.

(c) Routinely doing nothing is how we learn.

Scientists at the University of California discovered that when rats experience something new, their brains show new patterns of activity. Yet, its only when rats take a break from exploring that they process those new patterns and create a persistent memory of the experience.

Loren Frank, one of the testing scientists, reflected about the conclusions saying,

Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them, and turn them into permanent long-term memories. And when the brain was constantly stimulated, you prevent this learning process.

You want to increase your cognitive functioning or remember more of what you learn? Take a cue from the rats. Do nothing for one day a week.

What I’m implying with the three previous thoughts is that the Biblical story of creation isn’t just a narrative to explain how everything came into being. Its an ultimate cheat sheet for doing and creating more.

Yet, anyone who’s attempted to follow this cheat sheet knows that doing nothing isn’t as easy as it sounds.

How to get the most out of routinely doing nothing

Sabbath’ing takes practice to get any sort of real benefit from it and not feel like you’re simply wasting your life away. Here are a few things to keep in mind next time you endeavor to do it.

(1) Practice creative “Sabbath sessions.”

Rabbi Lapin (cited above) goes on to offer some great practical insight on how to leverage this “receptive mode” to maximize your creative potential.

Suppose, for example, that you are trying to determine the future significance of a new fact or of a set of numbers that has just come into your possession.

Relax and try to put yourself into a receptive mode. Feel the sun warming your arms; perhaps you hear the buzzing of a nearby bee or the rustling of some leaves in the tree overhead. Don’t think; just look, smell, see, and feel. Then jerk yourself into thought mode and reflect on the fact or figures that you suspect contain a germ of an idea for you. Wind the facts and figures around your mind. Wrap your consciousness about the data, and try to visualize seeing it from every direction—from above and from below and even from within the data themselves. When your brain shrieks for a break, get back into thoughtless receptive mode, and just feel and absorb.

Repeat the cycle several times. Don’t be discouraged if you do not emerge from this “Sabbath session” without a breakthrough. That may come a few hours later or even a day or two later.

(2) Design Sabbaths on Chrono-biological rhythms.

Daily Sabbaths? Our bodies Ultradian cycles, or the patterns of life shorter than 24 hours, tell us that our brain can’t focus longer than 90 minutes at a time without a 20-30 minute break in between.

Weekly Sabbaths? As stated previously, our seven-day biological patterns, known as Circaseptan cycles, tell us that our bodies and our brains NEED a one day rest on a weekly basis to fully replenish.

(3) TV kills a Sabbath buzz.

I used to barter with my wife after coming home from a stressful day. I’d promise to be a nicer guy if I could check out for an hour and watch TV. In a way, I’ve assumed that watching TV or scrolling twitter is a way to refuel. And you know what they say about assumptions.

TV, iPhones, or any digital screen actually exhaust our brains. The amount of stimulation the light has on our eyeballs translate directly to our brain, overwhelming it with signals and the demand for needed associations.

• †®¥ •

All I ask is that we don’t manipulate this message into some anthem for the lazy. Routinely doing nothing is imperative to creative altitude and productivity. Yet make no mistake. So is hard work. And one without the other can get ugly.

Pushback, feedback, or other forms of random inspirational commenting welcome.

  • miller

    I’m glad you’ve addressed this issue. For years I’ve built ‘rest’ into my life. I learned that when I take time to refresh…usually in nature…that I become more creative at most, more productive at least. When I lived in Holland I would ride a bike from my place to the North Sea, walk through the sheep field (they often followed me) to the edge of the wall. I’d sit on the wall and watch the vastness of the sea and clouds change moment to moment. Magical. And the sheep added a lovely back drop!

  • tyler ward

    Love it Miller. Thanks for sharing…

  • Karla Lees

    thankful for your post! I used to feel guilty for not doing anything. Now i enjoy sitting on my sofa, looking over the garden, and occasionally falling into a sunny cat nap, learning to unwind and rest again!

  • tyler ward

    Love it @khjlees:disqus.

  • Bec Lines

    The idea of rhythms and rhythms of life that you mention like circadian and such have been very inspiring to me. I’ve been doing some of my own research about them and how to apply them to my life too. Thanks

  • tyler ward

    Great to hear @beclines:disqus. Let me know if you dig up anything worth noting.

  • Nathaniel Durgasingh

    Wow, I’m late to this post lol.
    But through my experiences, I too have found success in working hard for 6 days then doing absolutely nothing for about a day and the interesting thing is that I consciously realized this just a couple weeks ago, so this came at a good time.

    Also, one question Tyler, do you think Meditation for 20-30 minutes daily can count as “doing nothing” in this context?

  • Hannah Smuda

    My best sabbath practice I started last summer when I was tour managing an intense gig. (Tour managers are generally known to be at the beck of the artist, manager, and promoters 24/7) One night a week, a few hours before I go to sleep till I wake up the next morning, I power off and unplug all electronics in my room. It’s been a life changing habit for me. It has taught me how to rest and the value of it.

  • tyler ward

    Love it @hannahsmuda:disqus. And yes from my limited exposure to the tour life, that would be quite a bold statement.

  • tyler ward

    @nathanieldurgasingh:disqus: I absolutely do. However, the various associations we have with the word meditation kept me from touching on the idea. Is this something you work in daily? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.

  • Nicole Provo

    Do you have a link to your citations for the studies you mention? I’m very intrigued and would appreciate the opportunity to look at those as well. Thanks!

  • Arlen Miller

    I like your writing, Mr, Tyler. Thank you. You have informed well. You have given me something to take home. More understanding. Blessings on your personal ministry.

  • Jane Doe

    I love this article, do you have the links for the studies you mention by any chance? Thanks, for inspiring me and keeping me going :D