Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving
Award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee shows us how to work smarter, not harder, to thrive.
When did you first realize you needed to Do Nothing?
The aha moment for me happened while I was lying in bed, sick with bronchitis for the second time in a matter of months. For most of my life, I’ve rarely been ill and yet, I seemed to go from one sickness to another in 2015 and 2016. What’s more, I was more stressed and frantic than I’d been while earning much less money. I wondered what the heck was going on and decided to figure out what was causing those feelings of being overwhelmed and overloaded.
What personal significance does the subject have for you?
Not only does this slavish devotion to long hours and efficiency hurt me and my family and my friends, I found that most of my friends and family were also suffering from it! The obsession with productivity and hard work is everywhere and seemed as toxic and mad as Ahab’s pursuit of the white whale.
What do you hope readers will gain after reading this book?
I want to help other people break free of the productivity prison. I’d love to help them step off the treadmill that’s forcing them to run constantly without moving forward. The emphasis on long work hours is so ingrained at this point that it will require real cultural change to free ourselves. I hope this book starts a conversation that becomes a movement aimed at bringing some sanity back to our offices and homes.
“Despite working harder than ever, people have never been more depressed, anxious, and unhappy. Without a doubt, our modern way of life is not working. In fact, it’s killing us. But what is to be done? With intelligence and compassion, Headlee presents realistic solutions for how we can reclaim our health and our humanity from a technological revolution that seems hell-bent on destroying both. I’m so grateful to have read this book. It delivers on its promise of a better life.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat Pray Love
“Celeste Headlee makes a powerful case that productivity is not an inherent virtue—if you’re not careful, it can become a vice. If you’ve ever felt compelled to work harder, this book is a clarion call to work smarter instead. Sometimes you accomplish more by doing less.”—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the chart-topping TED podcast WorkLife
“At a time when so many people are feeling overworked, overwhelmed and addicted to busyness, work, and ever-present technology, Celeste Headlee offers a pathway out. Drawing on extensive research and her own experience, Do Nothing is a powerful reminder that taking the time to stop, connect with others, and forge real bonds is vital for building community, fostering empathy, and ultimately leads to joy.”—Brigid Schulte, author of the New York Times bestselling Overwhelmed, and director of The Better Life Lab at New America
“I needed this book. And chances are you need it, too. Celeste Headlee does something amazing in Do Nothing. She battles this hectic, stressful time and highlights the things that makes our lives better. Connection. Experience. Self-care. And, above all, she reminds us to get busy living.”—Jared Yates Sexton, author of The Man They Wanted Me to Be
“In this thought-provoking, well-researched book, Celeste invites readers to push back against the I’m-too-busy narrative and discover what it means to be truly successful.”—Laura Vanderkam, author of Off the Clock and I Know How She Does It
“This book is honest, heartbreaking, and hopeful. It’s that kind of gem that you read and know you need to hear, know you need to embrace, even if it’s challenging. Incredibly well-researched and yet never preachy or dull, this book will help us all reclaim a bit of our humanness if we allow it.”—Nataly Kogan, author of Happier Now
“[Do Nothing’s] conversational tone draws readers in, and it will appeal to those looking beyond self-help to something more meaningful.”—Booklist
“This is neither a self-help book nor a how-to for people looking for a guide for different working habits. Rather, Headlee systematically deconstructs the toxicity of hustle culture with historical and scientific research to help readers question their habits and impulses surrounding overwork.”—Shelf Awareness