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Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  3,538 ratings  ·  486 reviews

Despite our constant search for new ways to 'hack' our bodies and minds for peak performance, human beings are working more instead of less, living harder not smarter, and becoming more lonely and anxious. We strive for the absolute best in every aspect of our lives, ignoring what we do well naturally. Why do we measure our time in terms of efficiency instead of meaning? W

Paperback, 288 pages
Published June 1st 2021 by Harmony Books (first published March 10th 2020)
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Average rating 3.90  · 
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 ·  3,538 ratings  ·  486 reviews

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Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee is surprisingly good. It is a well-researched investigation on our obsession with work and efficiency. She provided the historical context on how work evolved to what it is today and the ever increasing emphasis on productivity. The author searches for the motives that drive people to work more. The book discusses how evolution made us so that we work only for certain hours. We should be intentional about protecting our downtime. She asserts the importance of leisur ...more
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had mixed feelings about this book. I agree with the message that we are overworked and that our culture is obsessed with the idea that our work is our worth (due to both puritanism and Capitalism), but the book is not all that reliable. Or rather, the data is too much and not enough. She draws from human evolution, the history of capitalism, a history of advertising, and social media analysis and a bunch of other places to prove the point that work does not make us happy. But it's ultimately ...more
Yesenia Cash
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite interesting, I wish I only worked 40 hours a week and I don’t even have children. Everyone should listen to this it makes your brains wheels turn.
4.5 stars - I loved that this book tackles both macro level thinking on this topic (e.g. the history of labor relations, rising cost of time in dollars leading to a higher perceived cost of leisure, etc.) and specific, tactical suggestions on how to pursue restorative idleness. This is also the kind of nonfiction that invites you to dive more into threads it brings up that you may be interested in further exploring. All around, thought provoking (and solid audiobook read by author)
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do Nothing is an excellent, well-researched interrogation on our culture’s obsession with overwork and efficiency, and the ways it stifles creativity and actual productivity and leads to a lower quality of life.

Headlee gives a great historical foundation and context for how American culture came to be so obsessed work and busyness. She also cites study after study on how working longer hours actually leads to decreased productivity. More importantly, and perhaps more surprising, she cites loads
Dec 02, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
skirts around the root problem of all the issues it covers—capitalism.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
This book might be useful for a small group of people: ones who work in an office environment (excluding medical offices and such), who are workaholics and also work hard and not smart. MAYBE they can get something out of this book.

The first part of the book is basically history of labor, which was quite interesting (probably the reason why I gave it 2 stars instead of one), I enjoyed that part for a while, but that it became repetitive and it felt like I was reading a history book.

The author ta
Mar 30, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: red
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to like this book more, but it basically rehashed a lot of the information that I've read in countless habit and self-help books already. It also sidestepped addressing a lot of real issues about overworking, like having to work multiple jobs to earn enough money to survive, for example. There was a lot of room to criticize capitalism as an institution that went unexplored, too. If this is your first foray into a book about working less and its impact on health, it's probably a good int ...more
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was honestly a wake up call for me.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: growth
1. HISTORY: We used to temper long hours with equal amounts of leisure and social gatherings.
- Everything we think we know about work, efficiency, and leisure is relatively recent and very possibly wrong.
- Leisure began to feel stressful. In the back of their minds, people worried about the money they were not making.

2. Polluted time: this is a phenomenon caused by having to handle work duties during off-hours, being on call, or even having to think carefully about work issues or prob
Prince William Public Libraries
Celeste Headlee wrote an outstanding book on communication entitled "We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter." Because I found that book so compelling, I was excited to find out that she’d written another book. "Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving" decries the American “hustle” culture. Much of this book is spent reviewing sociological and psychological influences that drive Americans' work ethic.

Headlee does not decry the legitimate need to
Susie Stangland
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a title that grabbed my attention as I’m someone who has to always be doing something, even in my leisure time whether it’s hiking, reading, cooking or even a puzzle. So I wanted to learn more on the concept of “doing nothing”. This book brings home the value of down time or leisure time and how it contributes to a healthier way of managing stress. It includes studies to back it up. So instead of feeling guilty about that “one more chapter” or “just chillin”, I will actually feel produc ...more
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a little ironic that I listened to this on 2x speed, multitasking while cooking or cleaning, but this is really excellent - highly recommend it, especially during this complicated time of quarantine/WFH/full time parenting where everything seems a little upside down.
Corey Thibodeaux
What triggers you these days? We cannot mention anything anymore without it detonating someone somewhere.

"Fantasy football?" "THE KNEES, OH THE KNEEEEEEESSSS."

"My kid's starting preschool..." "CRITICAL RACE THEORY."

"I'm going over they're." "THERE."

My current trigger is the idea that I was born to work 40+ hours a week and GRIND my way to the top. Hard work work work work work. Then, eh, play. Last summer, I built myself a website and did some freelance projects on top of my full-time job befor
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Having no clear understanding of how you spend your time can leave you feeling more overwhelmed than necessary, which can cause you to make decisions that lead to more stress and anxiety, which feeds the sense that you're pressed for time, and you end up feeling more overwhelmed than necessary."

This was surprisingly a worth it read.
I thought it be just another non-fiction book advice or self help on how to not overwork.
But it definitely was more than that.
80% of the book focus on theories, tech
This was a difficult read for me. I'm used to read fiction, and there is a lot of facts to assimilate in this book. It's not a bad read. It's incredibly well-researched (in neuroscience, evolutionary biology and primatology), and I loved to read all the historical data and facts given in the first section of the book. However, I would have appreciated to have more solutions, or maybe more alternatives to those Headlee is offering, because the most important ones, in my opinion, can't be done whe ...more
Find Me On TheStoryGraph
I read this immediately following Lost Connections by Johann Hari, and it was a perfect complement. This book focuses more on work-life balance but ultimately had the same message: we become void of human decency and instead full of misery when we don’t prioritize our human relationships. I am fascinated by the trend of articles and titles focusing on this topic lately, including much of Jia Tolentinos work as well as Jenny Odells How To Do Nothing. It’s about time we have a revolution from the ...more
Ryan Munger
Aug 25, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I felt like the author spent a lot of time jumping around and very little time focusing on what the book said it would. I would recommend reading digital minimalism by Cal Newport or taking the science of well-being course on clusters in place of reading this.
Noelle Orr
The best parts were where the author covered the history of work practices
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
File under: books I wish I’d read years ago. Celeste brilliantly lays out all the various ways in which society has convinced us that working is the peak of human life, and that you’re nothing if not doing it - and then proffers the ways in which she’s turned round her mindset (without sacrificing work achievements - presumably including writing this very book). I first heard Celeste Headlee on the Art of Manliness podcast (ignore the name - great podcast) and I knew I had to read this book. Did ...more
Dec 23, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A few good ideas in here, what really stood out for me is that talking is much better than texting. I will pick up the phone more often to talk instead of using email or text. I would have liked this book more if the history of why we are so busy didn't take up more than three quarters and if the solutions were more original. I liked it enough to finish it and even though I never tried to keep up with the Joneses, I find it amusing to read that we are now supposedly trying to keep up with the Ka ...more
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i'm usually very wary of books that advertise themselves as teaching you how to Live Life and Breathe In, given that most of them often tend to put forth unrealistic options that are very much catered to a specific, high-income bracket (e.g The Happiness Project). i didn't get the sense that this book did that, at all. instead, it took the route of social science to explain how we've begun to moralize and feel obligated to monetize our time due to capitalist values that are continually drummed i ...more
Nov 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The book is focused on labor culture and consists of two main parts: the first one provides you with the context, the second - gives you the tools.
The core problem is clear - due to multiple reasons, we don't know how to be anymore. Be, exist, survive, manage, make do. We are so unaware of how to do it that we actually need books about how to Do Nothing.
Very well researched, this book measures different aspects of the same problem from different angles. Luckily, these angles match with mine, the
I have to give this book credit, in that it did change my thinking about my work. The concept of the shift from product-based work (I made this thing now pay me for it) to time-based work (I worked 8 hours now pay me for it) caused me to re-frame how I approach my job as an information worker. Rather than thinking about my hours (though I'm still working full-time), I now think about my tasks as individual products, and it makes a huuuuge difference. Something may take me more time or less than ...more
Nov 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
life altering. so much better than the other books in this genre. Read it three times...still kinda wanna read it again.

"My drive has helped me succeed in life....But at some point 'drive' became inextricably intertwined with dread. Dread that all my work and effort would never be enough."

"We are investing our time and energy and hard-earned money in things we think will make us more efficient, but those things end up wasting our time, exhausting us, and stressing us out without bringing us clos
Nov 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Can’t think of a single person that wouldn’t benefit from reading this book.
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It isn't often you find a truly likable narrator in nonfiction - so likable that they can challenge truths you've held and still maintain your respect. Celeste Headlee is just such a narrator. In "Do Nothing," she guides the reader first through a history of work, revealing that even through the nineteenth century people spent as much time at rest as they did laboring. She looks at language, play, overparenting, our tendency to give up our sick or vacation days in the name of being seen as bette ...more
Simon Hohenadl
The second part gives some practical advice on how to get off overdoing.
What I did not like:
- The first part of the book sounded like one big complaint about most people's lifestyle.
- Some statements are research-based, others are not.
- The author mixes up isolation and work (with colleagues).
- She also mixes up software engineering and product management.
- She neglects introverts.
- She argues against optimizing your life and then gives a lot of advice on how to optimize.
Feb 27, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Highly recommend. The first half (and truthfully the part I found most engaging) was a thoughtful and well-researched look at our modern work life and its origins as well as our current addiction to life-hacking everything and worshiping at the altar of productivity (my words, not Celeste’s). The second half offered a set of practical and actionable methods to break free and reclaim our time, served up with the necessary caveats that some of the ideas remain unrealistic for the millions of peopl ...more
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