Niksen – The Art of Doing Nothing

Niksen – The Art of Doing Nothing


As we approach one of the busiest times of the year – abuzz with festive gatherings and frantic filing of the year’s work – it’s important not be dragged into the chaos of busyness.

Sometimes, we wear that overload as a badge of honour – a testament to our work ethic and sense of success, flattered for our time to be so in demand.

But there’s an emerging school of thought that busy lives need balance to thrive and the opposite of doing is not doing – Niksen as the Dutch say, which literally means to do nothing, or to be idle.

Leave it to our Nordic cousins to find a way to alleviate burn out and stress – especially with all that lush green countryside for distraction.


doing sweet nothing


It’s a concept that’s actually been touted for centuries, with the Italians kicking back under shady trees with vino in hand for a delicious few hours of ‘dolce far niente’ – doing sweet nothing.

For the business world, doing nothing for a stretch is a bold concept, but for diverse and dynamic work cultures, doing different opens up new potential and makes anything possible.

So how do we do nothing in the age of digital saturation, with many of us tuned to the constant ping of a notification and the ding of a text message.

 Carolien Hamming, who helps business fight stress through her company CSR Centrum says we have to turn our organisation skills inwards, and make plans to rest the brain.

She says the art of Niksen is about doing something without a purpose like listening to music or gazing out a window – without intrusion, free to explore the present moment.

Your inner voice may be screaming at you to stop being lazy, to be productive, but that opportunity for your body and mind to go into neutral is actual a powerful way to rest so that you can be re-energised.

The unexpected upside of conscious boredom is the freedom to daydream. That free floating mental space can actually spark creative thought and increase focus (especially if you’re committed enough to do it without your mobile phone in reach)

When we ignore the pressure to stay busy, we practice the ultimate form of self-care. It might sound counter-intuitive to the message we’re fed about productivity but being ‘busy’ can be a trap, and is rarely the status symbol most progressive companies rely on for business success.

Creativity comes when the mind wanders, and that’s a precious place in which to problem solve and find inspiration.

Megan Cannon, owner of Back to Balance Counseling suggests your Niksen nothing time should be defined by a few rules.

Make it a time without devices, without a screen, without the endorphin rush of immediate gratification from social media’s ‘like’ culture.

She says allowing your brain to wander aimlessly is actually a powerful way to unlock creativity, freeing up space to approach our work with a calmer and less pragmatic approach.

The concept of doing nothing can be unsettling at first, and for those who struggle with the initial discomfort, Cannon suggests finding comfort in nature. Sit outside. Walk the streets. No maps, no direction, just instinct.

Sometimes through that act of undoing, is where innovation begins to shine – born out of a fresh new view, a different perspective, or simply the passing of time which loosens the mind from previously held thoughts or ideas.

Niksen is not just good for the mind, it’s good for the body, moving you from the rush of a jam-packed event calendar to a more relaxing pace that gives you both physical and mental reprieve. Nobody does their best work if they’re always barrelling through on little sleep.

A daily downshift ultimately leaves you feeling healthier, happier and more productive. So, give yourself permission to stop and flop. The happiest cultures in the world put Niksen – nothing – on their ‘to do’ list.