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PhD students are busy. Always, basically. And if you are not actually doing something, then this whole PhD thing is still in your head. 24/7. Always the feeling that you need to do useful stuff, because, if you are not doing anything useful, what are you doing? The guilt. And the thoughts: if I’m not productive, when will my PhD ever be finished? And what if I don’t finish? I will become this nobody… Doing nothing? Impossible!

Most people are not sure how to do nothing anymore, or to be bored. And to be honest, PhD students have no clue…


PhD students find it really hard not to do anything.

Meditation comes closest to doing nothing. But, because mediation has a goal, you are still doing something. Doing nothing at all every once in a while is very, very important. Have a bit of distance from your PhD, from everything, no thing for a while.

The next exercise will help you to do just that: doing nothing, with no goal.

What to do?

Take a chair and put it where there is no view, for instance in front of a white wall. Sit down, facing the wall. Make sure you don’t drink an hour before you start and use the bathroom first. Take a timer, set it for 2 hours. Turn off everything: computer, phone. Make sure you won’t be disturbed, make sure there are no distractions. And then: do nothing. Don’t sleep, don’t talk, don’t eat, don’t make any plans, don’t consider the next step in your PhD. Sit down and do nothing.

Usually: the results are stunning.

Please let me know what it did for you!


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1 Comment

  1. I saw this posted on linkedin. The very thought of doing this almost drives me insane! I have no idea if i can even attempt this.

    Thinking about it now, by doing this, i’d have the expectation of a stunning outcome. A result. Two hours of doing nothing in order to achieve a result of some sort… That’s confusing. I’ve had too much caffeine. Again.

    New way of thinking about it(?): Setting up chair in front of wall = doing something. Achieving stunning outcome = having done something. Process IN BETWEEN = nothing. By expecting nothing, and doing nothing, i’ll achieve something. If that achievement is a new bright white coat, the kind that fastens at the back… at the end of the sleeves, and free board in a warm, quiet, padded room… I can deal with that 🙂

    If you don’t get a written response from me detailing how it went, it’s likely i’m wearing a new coat. Alternatively, i didn’t do it because i couldn’t make time, or i couldn’t bring myself to do it. In which case, everyone else, please post your results so that i might read them.

    Best wishes/regards/everything,
    Jason Girkin.

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