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A Do

Jun 04, 2023

Lounging around can free up time for things beyond your to-do list.

This is an edition of The Wonder Reader, a newsletter in which our editors recommend a set of stories to spark your curiosity and fill you with delight. Sign up here to get it every Saturday morning.

"A few years ago, my wife, Angie, and I made a pact," Jason Heller writes in The Atlantic. "Every Sunday, we swore to each other, we will abstain from work. And we kept our promise: On the second day of each weekend, we start our morning and end our night by bingeing TV in bed. In the middle of the day, we binge TV on the couch, taking breaks exclusively to nap or read." The anxiety of looming to-do lists sometimes creeps in, but "we fight to stay still," he writes.

We fight to stay still. That phrasing stuck with me: stillness as something to fight for. Despite the fact that a day of rest is a core tenet of several ancient religions, as Heller notes, setting it all aside has become so uncommon in American society that we need to actively work to do it. "Taking a consistent day off is an immense privilege," Heller acknowledges. "And yet, even when you can take it, there are plenty of ways to avoid actually doing so."

When we do manage to grab leisure time, our world can open up. "Taking a break gives Angie and me the opportunity to really see each other again," Heller writes. Today's reading list is all about do-nothing time—why we need it, how much of it we need, and the possibilities it creates.

On Doing Nothing

How My Wife and I Took Back Our Sundays

By Jason Heller

We have an agreement: One day a week, we do absolutely nothing. In a society obsessed with productivity, this is harder than it should be—but it's worth it.

How to Embrace Doing Nothing

By Arthur C. Brooks

Absolute idleness is both harder and more rewarding than it seems.

How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have?

By Joe Pinsker

Too little, and people tend to get stressed. Too much, and people tend to feel idle.

Still Curious?

Other Diversions


Jason Heller's article was predated by a case for the do-nothing day in The Atlantic in 1952:

"Just how one tells when a ‘do-nothing’ day arrives, I have never been able to make out," Dr. Wyman Richardson wrote. "There is some combination involving weather elements and human physiology which, when it occurs, makes it clear to all that such a day is at hand."

Richardson's ideal do-nothing day on Cape Cod involved sipping coffee and looking out the window, followed by "the day's major activity"—a long walk down the hill to the boathouse.

— Isabel

On Doing Nothing Still Curious? Other Diversions P.S.