My birthday will be here soon. I will celebrate it by doing absolutely nothing.
I have jokingly dubbed my birthday "National Do Nothing Productive Day." It's not celebrated nationally but it should be. It's not that I think my birthday is worthy of becoming a holiday, but rather that I believe modern life has become overscheduled, making it necessary to actively seek time to do nothing.
Everyone should have one day a year to celebrate as a personal "Do Nothing Productive Day." Since we can't afford to all do nothing on the same day, a national day dedicated to doing nothing really wouldn't work. But, we can each take a day of our own choosing and birthdays provide a great opportunity to do just that.
The idea came to me several years ago when I felt like I was running in circles trying to keep up with all my obligations. As my birthday approached and I considered what I wanted to do, the only thing I could come up with was "nothing."
Ultimately, I decided what I wanted was not so much to do nothing but rather to do only what I wanted without obligation to anything or anyone else – a day to adhere to no one's schedule but my own.
I decided to make it happen. I took the day off work, slept in and then went out to lunch and did some shopping. I don't remember the details. I couldn't say where I had lunch, where I shopped or what I bought. What I remember is that it was a wonderful relaxing day that left me feeling recharged and refreshed.
The day went so well I decided to make it an annual birthday tradition, one I recommend to everyone.
Most people I know are running from one appointment to another with little down time in between.
It's a costly lifestyle, according to the American Institute of Stress. The website for George Mason University includes an article in which the AIS is quoted as putting a $300 billion price tag on the cost of workplace stress alone.
The cost includes "accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, direct medical, legal, and insurance costs, workers' compensation awards as well as tort and Federal Employers' Liability Act judgments," the article says.
Most of us have stress not only at work but also in our personal lives. We're all trying to keep up with family activities which can range from running children to sports and activities to taking care of aging parents. Stress, whatever the cause, can lead to physical symptoms such as headache pain, fatigue and sleep problems, according to the Mayo Clinic, a medical practice and research group based in Rochester, Minn.
Now, in addition to running around meeting all your obligations, you have to squeeze in doctors' appointments, too.
For some people, stress can lead to issues such as depression or substance abuse, which come with their own social, emotional and financial price tags.
It's just not worth it.
People say they don't have time to take care of themselves because of the demands of those who need them.
I remember hearing someone say you're not much good to your loved ones if you've pushed yourself to the point of becoming sick.
Celebrating a Do Nothing Productive Day may not provide all the answers, but it does offer a nice break.
Based on my own experiences, I've come up with a few suggestions for making a Do Nothing Productive Day work for you.
· Take a vacation or personal day – and don't necessarily tell everyone, especially those who might encroach on your free time. Let them think you're unavailable as usual.
· Leave the house. Even if you decide to spend the day reading, go to the park or library. That way you won't get distracted by the need to do housework or yardwork.
· Don't ask for permission. Just let others know you won't be available as usual. Feel free to help them make other arrangements if necessary, but don't ask if it's OK or feel obligated to solve their problems.
When I began this tradition, my daughter was in the high school band and I frequently provided transportation to band practices and events both to her and her friends. When I decided to take my birthday off, I brought it up not as an item for discussion but rather as a statement of fact. I told her, "You need to find a ride that day" rather than asking if she would be able to find a ride.
· Enlist the help of others. Obviously it's not always easy to break routine, especially when your help really is necessary to others. In those cases, ask people for help. If my daughter had not been able to find a ride on her own, I would have asked one of the other parents myself and offered to return the favor.
· If you make this a birthday tradition, don't let an unavoidable obligation on that day steer you off course. Schedule a different day and make it your own.
Lastly, remember the point is not necessarily to do nothing so much as it is to take time for yourself. So feel free to adapt the day to suit your own needs. Go do something with a friend or with your family. Participate in an activity you enjoy.
Just make sure you enjoy your day.
Johanna S. Billings