Doing Nothing Can Be Really Something

So focused on being productive, we’ve lost the ability to sit and think. Or just sit.

Robert Roy Britt
5 min readJun 27, 2022

Sitting and thinking. But mostly sitting. Photos by the author

My brain was going 90 mph the other day, ruminating on a long to-do list alongside things I wanted to do, all with zero motivation to think about any of it, let alone ambition to actually do anything. I wandered around the house, listless, distracted, inconsolable.

My wife, perhaps out of irritation as much as loving consideration, suggested I head to the mountains. She knows I love the mountains. Almost as much as I love a partner who knows what I need.

I hit the road, no specific destination in mind, other than cooler temps and some trees, an escape from the 100-degree heat of the Arizona desert, from people, from suburbs, from comfort, from everything usual. Two hours later I was on a Forest Service road a few miles outside Prescott at 6,500 feet amid towering ponderosa pines. It was a weekday, so I had the area to myself. The only sounds were buzzing insects, chirping birds, and the pines whispering in the wind.

And there I sat and thunk. And sometimes I just sat. I felt better instantly.

This quote is attributed variously to Satchel Paige or Winnie-the-Pooh, but apparently it was first uttered by some anonymous fisherman around 1905:

Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits.

I first ran across it three decades ago, on a wise and humorous older man’s office wall. It struck me as funny at first — I was too young to appreciate its simple wisdom. Over the years, as life got more and more complicated — kids, career, bills to pay, you know — the quote kept coming to mind, speaking to me more and more as I got busier and busier.

Modern life has villainized the act of doing nothing. We think less of ourselves if we’re not productive. We learn to despise boredom. And in this modern world of 24/7 everything, there’s no shortage of stimuli to prevent us from doing nothing.

Robert Roy Britt

Founder/editor of Wise & Well on Medium & the Writer's Guide at & author of Make Sleep Your Superpower