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Publisher's Summary

“A welcome antidote to our toxic hustle culture of burnout.” (Arianna Huffington)

“This book is so important and could truly save lives.”(Elizabeth Gilbert)

“A clarion call to work smarter (and) accomplish more by doing less.” (Adam Grant)

We work feverishly to make ourselves happy. So why are we so miserable?

Despite our constant search for new ways to optimize our bodies and minds for peak performance, human beings are working more instead of less, living harder not smarter, and becoming more lonely and anxious. We strive for the absolute best in every aspect of our lives, ignoring what we do well naturally and reaching for a bar that keeps rising higher and higher. Why do we measure our time in terms of efficiency instead of meaning? Why can’t we just take a break?

In Do Nothing, award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee illuminates a new path ahead, seeking to institute a global shift in our thinking so we can stop sabotaging our well-being, put work aside, and start living instead of doing. As it turns out, we’re searching for external solutions to an internal problem. We won’t find what we’re searching for in punishing diets, productivity apps, or the latest self-improvement schemes. Yet all is not lost - we just need to learn how to take time for ourselves, without agenda or profit, and redefine what is truly worthwhile.

Pulling together threads from history, neuroscience, social science, and even paleontology, Headlee examines long-held assumptions about time use, idleness, hard work, and even our ultimate goals. Her research reveals that the habits we cling to are doing us harm; they developed recently in human history, which means they are habits that can, and must, be broken. It’s time to reverse the trend that’s making us all sadder, sicker, and less productive, and return to a way of life that allows us to thrive. 

©2020 Celeste Headlee (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Do Nothing is a welcome antidote to our toxic hustle culture of burnout. Through deep research and evocative storytelling, Celeste Headlee shows us how to break free from constant pressure and live the life we truly want." (Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global)

"This book is so important and could truly save lives. Despite working harder than ever, people have never been more depressed, anxious, and unhappy. Without a doubt, our modern way of life is not working. In fact, it’s killing us. But what is to be done? With intelligence and compassion, Headlee presents realistic solutions for how we can reclaim our health and our humanity from a technological revolution that seems hell-bent on destroying both. I'm so grateful to have read this book. It delivers on its promise of a better life." (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic and Eat Pray Love)

"Celeste Headlee makes a powerful case that productivity is not an inherent virtue - if you're not careful, it can become a vice. If you've ever felt compelled to work harder, this book is a clarion call to work smarter instead. Sometimes you accomplish more by doing less." (Adam Grant, New York Times best-selling author of Originals and Give and Take, and host of the chart-topping TED podcast WorkLife

What listeners say about Do Nothing

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could've been done in a chapter

The whole book is an extended rant against the industrial era and how much work we do even though we have more efficient ways of doing things. She goes against doing excessive work and not slowing down. If you'd like a better book on slowing down I'd recommend John Mark Comers book, the ruthless elimination of hurry.

10 people found this helpful

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Perfect (Coronavirus) Read

I'm a person doing. That's where I place my value, my time, my energy. Doing. Always doing.

Headlee shattered that for me.
2/3 of the book imparts the "Why" through the historical path and psychological make up of our work ethic in the US. 1/3 of the book provides solutions.

What was most helpful: Knowing that I'm not alone in my compulsive nature to work. That my worth, pinned to productivity, is a battle I will always lose. That I need to break free.

Headlee's solutions worked for her. I discovered that while they didn't necessarily apply to me, that this is a personal journey. I'm developing my own solutions and pioneering my new way of thinking.

I'm grateful I discovered this book just before the "Stay at Home" orders. It helped me navigate those hard first weeks and settle into myself. Here's to taking these principles back into the post-pandemic world.

9 people found this helpful

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I almost never leave reviews

As a person in a creative field, I don't leave reviews because I know how painful they can be. This will be the exception. The cover of this book is so serene and I was hoping it would be insightful about taking things slow and enjoying life. What I received was a part therapy session with the author, part history lessen on the work week and the advice to get off my phone, lessen my hours at work and talk to people. This assumes one has the financial ability to lessen their hours, that one is addicted to their phone and that they don't engage with humans. Apparently friends from work don't count because they aren't your "real friends." This advice didn't arrive until the last hour and a half of the book. The author jumped around all over the place and had nothing to do with what the cover promised. I want my time back.

6 people found this helpful

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A refreshing take on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur

I am SO happy I read this book. It has made a dramatic improvement in my mental health! I am perfectionist and never feel like I am doing enough and am constantly stressed. Since reading this book, I have allowed Sundays to be my mini-vacation days. I forced myself not to clean, work, or do anything stress related on that day and it has increased my productivity and creativity! I finally feel like time is on my side again!!

I highly recommend to anyone who feels overworked and like there isn’t enough time to do anything fun anymore. This book changed my life(: I hope it changes yours too.

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needed for this generation

I really enjoyed the backstory of how we got to where we are now. it feels like I did an accidental cartwheel into it

2 people found this helpful

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Life changing, must read

This is an amazing, life changing, game changer of a novel. I can’t stop talking about it! I need it in print now to highlight and revisit it. If you are tired, exhausted, feel pressed for time, please read (listen)!

2 people found this helpful

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Good overarching idea but repetitive and inconsistent

Overall, I think the premise of the book was good but seemed like it could have been a series of 3-4 blog posts. Helpful to think about your working life (if your in a space where you have some control).

At one time she argues against the necessity or work but then in the latter chapters talks about how we all have to work.

The book was pretty repetitive though. She did an excellent job reading/narrating.

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Loved this book!!!

This was an excellent read. In a world where parents spend more time staring into their cells phones and computers than their children’s beautiful faces it helps bring to light many issues and gives some practical solutions as to how to solve them. Must read for the young and old to look at what is really important in life while still balancing work life issues.

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  • KN
  • 05-05-22

Only for a niche audience

This book taught me that I am NOT a workaholic. For example, the author had to learn that you should take at least one day off of work each week - maybe even two if you’re feeling extra spicy!
She did have some interesting information on the history of the work week/working class.

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Do Nothing

I enjoyed the overall message of the books and the narrator was great. I think many of us are always looking to improve and build ourselves and forget to just "Be" sometimes.

Good book.