On Doing Nothing and Returning to Work

Today was my first day back to work. It felt good to be back. My desk was roughly in the same shape as I left it. The only change was the new glass bottle with silicone lid (the one I got in Napa Valley) that I brought it for drinking water and avoiding falling brick dust as is common near my desk.

I am in a strangely unique position at work right now. Before I left, I handed off much of my role to a coworker permanently. I come back with no defined role, and I am spending the next few days on my own, talking to peers, and talking to company leadership to craft my new job. I’m quite lucky in this regard to have such a say in what I can work on next.

Seeing my coworkers again for the first time in eight weeks was a joy. I waved to many in the hallway and was welcomed back by many in passing. While many of the exchanges were the same—”Welcome back! How was your trip?” “Good. I saw most of the west coast”—it was wonderful nonetheless to reconnect with so many friends and peers.

It only took me only a couple hours to go through those 50 emails, which I finished before lunch. After that, I began to catch up with many of the engineering and product teams to learn about the state of the Form 3 and Form 3L, which we launched at the beginning of April, as well as anything else I missed over the past eight weeks. I read through many documents and presentations, and I scheduled meetings with various coworkers to fill in any remaining blacks.

The office is rather hectic right now, as we are hosting the Digital Factory tomorrow and the Formlabs User Summit on Wednesday at the seaport—that and we just launched two major products. As many of the company leaders are occupied with these conferences for the next few days (so we won’t be talking about me) and as I currently have a clear mind, I will be going to these conferences too. I see no better way to ease back into work than by talking to our customers at the User Summit and by learning about what industry executives expect from 3D printing at the Digital Factory.

After a nice day back at work, one of my friends sent me a link to an article in the New York Times: The Case for Doing Nothing. Actually he sent me a message to an Instagram post “I’ve screenshot my favorite @nytimes headlines of the past 7 days” in which this article was featured. The article is fun and the somewhat charged headline is a bit of an overstatement.

No, it is not advocating just doing nothing all the time. Rather, it talks about the benefits of not trying to be always busy, as we so often do in the culture I inhabit. I’ve written a bit in the past about trying to avoid busyness and being OK doing nothing, so this article felt warmly familiar to my thinking.

Over the past two weeks or so, I’ve done a decent amount of nothing. Sure, I’ve reconnected with friends and family, watched a bunch of Marvel movies, and filled plenty of time reading. But there were also times were I just sat around and didn’t do much anything at all. Maybe my cat fell asleep on me for an hour and I didn’t want to get up. Or maybe I just stared outside the window at the clouds and rain. I’ve enjoyed the relaxation and stress-fighting effects that this idleness fosters.

As I return to work and the world of the busy, I am beginning to think more about how I can strike a good balance between useful productivity and stress-free tranquility. I know that one cannot exist without the other for any reasonable amount of time. If I do too much work, I become stressed and my productivity drops. Conversely if I don’t do any work for too long, I become stressed as well.

While I still am enjoying the post-sabbatical glow, I will be thinking about how I can retain this joyous feeling while contributing valuable and unique work. The goal ultimately, is to find a way to do my best and most fulfilling work, striking a balance that is sustainable for days, weeks, months, and years.

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