How To Win by Doing Nothing

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Doing nothing to solve a problem or get ahead seems counter-intuitive, but it’s not.

In a world that values productivity, accomplishment and relentless work, it may just be the best thing you CAN do.

Why? Doing nothing is a secret weapon we all need to solve overwhelm, overwork and to get our teams and colleagues working better.

I was introduced to what I have labelled the “do nothing strategy” by a coach several years ago.

Doing nothing is not about taking a break – although that is very beneficial – it’s about getting things done, but not necessarily by you.


Stop Your “Busyness”

It’s all about decision making, allowing others to step up to take action and solve  problems. It’s about breaking unproductive “busyness” patterns we have created over time, and in the long term cause more problems than they solve.

At the time I discovered the “do nothing strategy” I was suffering severe overload.

As an action-oriented problem solver, my working days were jam-packed with emails and people wanting my attention, decisions, guidance and response – it was non-stop.

My coach asked me a simple question – “What if you did nothing?  Did not respond or take action straight away – what would happen?”

Well, that just did not compute for me.  My brain had a bit of a fizzle – it was just out of my realm of understanding to do nothing.

I said to her that I didn’t get to where I was in my career as a senior executive in the Australian Government by doing nothing.


Outside My Comfort Zone

While it was so far out of my comfort zone, I had nothing to lose other than my sanity – so I gave it a go.

Emails and calls that came through,  unless they were from my CEO or Minister, or obviously important, I read and listened, but did not respond.

I committed to leaving those calls, messages and request for 24 hours, which was a big deal for me.  Lo and behold, before that time was up, 50% of those issues or questions were resolved – without my involvement.

It was unbelievable.

Doing nothing benefited me – my time, my thinking space, my leadership – and my staff – who were empowered and actively solved problems and issues themselves.

So if you are suffering from email overwhelm, or your staff and peers are constantly seeking your attention, decision, guidance or problem solving – why don’t you give the “do nothing” strategy a go.

Try It At Home

You can even try it at home – if you are always at the beck and call of others – which is not their fault by the way – it’s yours – you can try the “do nothing strategy”.

On top of that, take a break – a more traditional “do nothing strategy” – which is also extremely beneficial.

Research shows that it can improve focus, creativity and productivity.  A study published in the journal Cognition found that participants given breaks to engage in “mind wandering” time had better performance on tasks than those who didn’t take a break.

How To Do It

So here’s how to benefit from doing nothing:

  • Don’t respond to problems and questions straight away – if it’s not urgent, leave it 24 hours
  • Schedule breaks in your day – just like other things – it could be just a 5 minute meditation or walk around the building or yard
  • Find activities that help you relax and re-charge – listen to music, walk, yoga, gardening
  • Set boundaries – sometimes it’s the hardest part for example – not answering emails during your break, switch your phone off.
  • Make it a habit – the more you do it, the easier it becomes

So doing nothing may seem counter-intuitive, especially in a world that values productivity and accomplishment. However, not responding for 24 hours, taking breaks and engaging in activities that help us relax, can actually lead to greater success.

These are just some of the strategies I use in my leadership program Courage to Lead and Live. If you want to learn more including how to de-stress and work less, hop on my free weekly Masterclass or email me at I’d also love you to connect and check out my socials on LinkedinFacebook, and Instagram.

Anne Lyons is an internationally known thought leader, an executive and high performance coach, and a leadership consultant

She mentors individuals in developing a mindset for success. She is a strategist for corporations and individuals.  She is a facilitator and speaker as well.

Lyons is also well known in geopolitical policy circles having served as a visiting fellow at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in the International Cyber Policy Centre.

Her education experiences include a BA in communications and indigenous studies from the University of New England, Master Practitioner training in NLP from QC Seminars, and she is a graduate from the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

At her website,, she uses several novel approaches to help clients achieve success. This includes developing leaders at all levels, a “Goal Getters Club” that helps stressed out executives reach major breakthroughs in every aspect of their lives, and executive coaching.

She was sought out by the nationally syndicated Price of Business show as a commentator because of her contributions as a thought leader in industry.


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