The Productivity of Doing Nothing

When I was a little girl my dad had a weekly ritual, which normally took place on a Sunday night … he would bake bread.

Now, my dad is a gruff Irishman who never cooked normally, unless there was an emergency – like my mum had been hospitalised.

But he took his bread-making very seriously.

I loved to watch him – and not just for the novelty factor of seeing him in the kitchen – but because bread-making was so interesting.

Once he’d mixed all of the ingredients together in a bowl, my dad would roll up his sleeves and start punching the hell out of the dough … I would later learn that the correct term for this is kneading.

Then came the really mysterious part. My dad would place the punched dough on a plate, cover it with a tea towel and leave it for a while.

When I asked him why he did this, he replied that the bread was resting.

To my eight-year-old mind, I assumed that the bread was resting from the beating it had just received at the hands of my dad.

Now I know differently. Now I know that if you leave dough to rest like this the bread will be a lot lighter and bigger once baked.

This weekend, I realised that resting dough forms the perfect metaphor for us when it comes to our creativity, productivity and even spirituality.

In order to be our happiest and most peaceful selves, and to create our best work, we need to rest.

But the fast pace of today’s world, with its 24/7 internet access means that proper, quality rest can so often be sacrificed.

For the past two months, I’ve been working flat out, six or seven days per week, on four different books.

By this weekend all of the books had been finished or were with editors for their feedback.

For the first time in ages, yesterday I could take some time to properly rest. But what did I do?

I started having a brainstorm about all the things I was going to do next – loving your work can definitely be a blessing and a curse.

But the ideas just wouldn’t come. And when they did, they felt half-hearted and laboured.

You effing nutter, you need to rest,‘ I told myself. But it was so hard to switch off.

I tried watching something on Netflix … and I kept flicking on to Instagram.

I tried reading a book … and it kept making me want to brainstorm ideas for a new book of my own.

I tried meditating … and all I could hear was my inner voice composing an endless TO DO list.

Finally,  I went into the kitchen and I baked some banana bread.

And while I was mixing the ingredients together I remembered my dad’s bread-making ritual – and the importance of leaving the dough to rest.

According to a master chef I found online, when dough is resting it allows the gluten to relax and reform itself into the protein chains which are essential for the super-structure of the finished loaf.

And when we rest – truly rest – it allows us to relax and our thoughts to reform into the ideas and dreams essential for a happy, creative life.

And, just like a loaf of rested, freshly baked bread, we emerge all the lighter for it.

I spent the rest of yesterday eating freshly baked banana bread, drinking coffee, reading books, listening to music and lying on my bed.

And this morning I woke up relaxed and refreshed, with a bunch of new ideas raring to go.

Make time to rest. You won’t regret it.




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