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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,948 ratings  ·  299 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

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published March 10th 2020 by Harmony
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  1,948 ratings  ·  299 reviews

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Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
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 out downtime. She asserts the importance of leisur ...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.
Apr 28, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Feb 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
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
Susie Stangland
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was honestly a wake up call for me.
Dec 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
skirts around the root problem of all the issues it covers—capitalism.
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
Mar 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: red
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
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
May 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
Kayla Mckinney
Mar 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 and 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 pr
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
Dec 23, 2020 rated it liked it
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
Jul 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nf
I feel like this book spoke directly into my tired overworking soul. I liked that the majority of this book focused on the historical "whys" behind the N. American culture of overwork, but also offered some tips to change these unhealthy habits on a personal level.

Highly recommend for anyone who consistently feels overworked/overwhelmed but maybe can't quite pinpoint why.
Ben Rogers
Apr 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding book on overworking, being busy, life, and balance.

Really makes me reconsider a lot in life.

This is another one of those life changing books.

Xavi Sallent Tonijoan
Makes you think on how we spend time. My takeaways: work less but with increased focus, take frequent walks, avoid multitasking at all costs, plan leisure time and connect with people.

Gracias @Jose
Mar 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Do Nothing by Celeste Headlee is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late January.

A treatise on not working so hard, against the fear of not getting enough done, the assumption that wealth means ease, feeling guilty for the times that we’re not busy or overbooked, wasting our profitable time doing tasks that surround a goal before actually completing it, and advancing too far forward as a society that it’s too difficult to look back. Instead, Headlee highlights the need to ration time in order
Noelle Orr
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
The best parts were where the author covered the history of work practices
Beth Fox
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was ok
Celeste makes some good points and recommendations. Her chapter on multi-tasking in particular is spot on! However, she dives into research that was either over her head or that she grossly over simplified for the lay readers. As someone with a passion for neuroscience and multiple degrees with emphasis on research, parts of this book made me physically cringe, like saying that an fMRI measures brainwaves or using the phrase science proves, especially when discussing issues like group work and t ...more
Melissa Italiano
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
I coincidentally picked up Do Nothing just before the pandemic, and began reading it at the very beginning of quarantine. This is such a PERFECT thing to read right now as we all work from home and question what role our “work” plays in our lives and how we could restructure and reshape our relationship with it. It questions our real relationship with work/life balance at present, while analyzing how we got here in detailed review. And it wraps up with a new way to look at it all. Before the wor ...more
Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was ok
It's sub-title is "How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving," so I'm underwhelmed that Headlee spent three-quarters of the book describing her take on why we feel overworked, and only one-quarter talking, superficially, how to break away.

I got this book specifically for the "How to" portion of the title!

Anyway, my hot mess of a summary is: we feel overworked because we're not connected to our needs to leisure and connection to other people. And we got here in large part bec
Oct 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is another in a line of books I’ve read by other type-A (all) ladies who are charting conscious paths to actual happiness. Their takes are distinct but similar: cutting back on social media, scheduling in down time, stopping all the busy-ness (whether imagined or real) and focusing consciously on work. There’s advice to engage in real social interactions (even with the grocery clerk) and focusing on selfless giving to others, both of which have been shown to improve happiness. I was not cra ...more
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10 likes · 5 comments
“We work best when we allow for flexibility in our habits. Instead of gritting your teeth and forcing your body and mind to work punishing hours and “lean in” until you reach your goals, the counterintuitive solution might be to walk away. Pushing harder isn’t helping us anymore.” 4 likes
“The truth is, productivity is a by-product of a functional system, not a goal in and of itself. The question is not whether you are productive but what you are producing.” 3 likes
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