Doing Nothin’!

PGP Mediation
by Phyllis G. Pollack

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy

(The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) Simon and Garfunkel (1966))

These lyrics seem more important than ever. A recent article posted on  entitled “In praise of doing nothing” discusses the concept that our accelerated lives have led to even more acceleration. That is, acceleration begets acceleration so that were we mice on a treadmill, we would find ourselves running faster and faster and faster and even faster on the treadmill.

The article notes that in the 1950’s, scholars were worried that with the impending revolution in technology, we would find ourselves with all of this free time. Computers and other electronics etc. would do things that we once did by hand, freeing us up to enjoy life more. Wrong!

Our reality is that technology has sped up our lives. Rather than leaving “it” at the office, the office is our mobile phone and so we are “on call” 24/7/ 365.  We are barraged by e mails and telephone calls day and night. Whereas two decades ago, if we receive a letter, it was probably by snail mail or perhaps by fax. We would respond accordingly- by snail mail or fax, taking more time in doing so. Now- with the advent of e mail and texting, we communicate in this mode, attaching lengthy documents as .pdf’s. The pace has accelerated – we all expect almost immediate responses to our emails and texts. A response provided 1-2 days later is simply unacceptable.

The scientists describe this phenomenon as “the force of acceleration”:

We see this on factory floors, where “just-in-time” manufacturing demands maximum efficiency and the ability to nimbly respond to market forces, and in university classrooms, where computer software instructs teachers how to “move students quickly” through the material. Whether it’s in the grocery store or in the airport, procedures are implemented, for better or for worse, with one goal in mind: speed.

Noticeable acceleration began more than two centuries ago, during the Industrial Revolution. But this acceleration has itself … accelerated. Guided by neither logical objectives nor agreed-upon rationale, propelled by its own momentum, and encountering little resistance, acceleration seems to have begotten more acceleration, for the sake of acceleration. (Id. at page 2.)

The antidote is to unplug and do nothing. The article further notes:

Much research – and many spiritual and philosophical systems – suggest that detaching from daily concerns and spending time in simple reflection and contemplation are essential to health, sanity and personal growth.

 Similarly, to equate “doing nothing” with nonproductivity betrays a short-sighted understanding of productivity. In fact, psychological research suggests that doing nothing is essential for creativity and innovation, and a person’s seeming inactivity might actually cultivate new insights, inventions or melodies. (Id. at 3.)

Sometimes resolving a dispute requires that we NOT think about it and do nothing. Studies have shown that when we take our mind off something and do something else, we often get those “ah hah” moments where the light bulb goes off in our heads and we suddenly know the answer.

This article confirms that; sometimes doing nothin’ is the best way to solve a problem. It will allow our creative juices to flow just like Isaac Newton who discovered the law of gravity while sitting under an apple tree.

So, there is indeed some truth to the words of Paul Simon- slow down, we ARE movin’ too fast!

… Just something to think about.


Phyllis Pollack

Phyllis Pollack with PGP Mediation uses a facilitative, interest-based approach. Her preferred mediation style is facilitative in the belief that the best and most durable resolutions are those achieved by the parties themselves. The parties generally know the business issues and priorities, personalities and obstacles to a successful resolution as… MORE >

Featured Mediators

View all

Read these next


Finding Coherence In Criticism

From Of Seeds and Sowers, NAICR's distinguished newsletter that includes current programs, projects and tele-classes, as well as humor and inspiration. Visit the site to learn more about the work...

By Barbara Ashley Phillips

How To Screw Up a Mediation in our Brave New World

FUBAR Zoom Mediation:* A Field Guide for Mediators * “Fouled” Up Beyond All Recognition Almost all cases that are not resolved by dispositive motion will likely be mediated. Indeed, many...

By Christopher Nolland

Challenging Assumptions in Disagreements (and Cemeteries)

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine SegalAssumptions we make about other people’s motives can be obstacles to resolving conflict and differences. We know the impact of their words or actions on...

By Lorraine Segal

Find a Mediator