How to Have Nothing To Do

by Karine Tovmassian

February 2018

Developed, Curated and Manifested Into Readable Form by The Paper Planning Magazine’s Own Alchemist, Karine Tovmassian

My goal is to no longer get more done, bur rather to have less to do.Francine Jay

 If we are to absorb Aristotle’s words of “We are what we repeatedly do” as our mantra for being part of the modern-day organized gurus who chronically suffer from productiv-itis, then we must consider what it is that we are going about repeatedly doing to quantify our pecking order of who has been the most productive of us all. Are we holding that contest yet? How does it end? How do we know who wins? I’ll tell you, there is no winner. The contest ends when we all die, some of us as a direct result of complications from productiv-itis.

What’s the point of all the planning and organizing? The incessant cluttering and decluttering? The buying and selling of planners, inserts, stickers, paperclips, pens, I could go on. Are we all on a journey to fill up our planners with things we need to get done so that others may benefit?

Are we going to work and billing our hours to justify our paychecks that go directly to buying more things so we can work more to buy more so we can work even more?

I suggest we take a step back and look at the moments of our lives when we discovered the sun shining down on our faces through the pollution stained windows of the high-rise buildings which house the ungodly cubicles of the rat-race. Those moments, when we know we have a free day, a free hour, a free minute to do with it as we please. The ability to come home knowing ABSOLUTELY NOTHING is pending. Where do we find this? Right where we’ve been looking the whole time, in our planners.

Karine Tovmassian - Feb 2018-1I add extra time to all my meetings with clients to account for daydreaming. I love daydreaming. I love being able to arrive early, and open up my bag of tools and start recreating my desk in my home office at the current table. And why ever not? At what point did we wake up and say to ourselves, “Let’s stack as many things we can do back-to-back every day and see if that causes us happiness and satisfaction.” Never. No one ever wakes up hoping the things on their to-do list cause dissatisfaction with life. On the contrary, we sit there, pen in hand, fresh planner page at the ready hoping we can somehow juggle it all so that when it lands, it does an Olympic gymnast’s landing, allowing us to throw up our arms in the air, like we just don’t care.

Thus, we must begin to concern ourselves with our true nature, which is to function with grace and ease. If we find ourselves forcing a moment or situation, that should be our first clue to back away and let things develop organically. For example, on a travel week, suddenly EVERYONE needs something from me. The dog gets sick, the husband needs a new resume (and with a resume writer in the house, guess who is editing that resume?), clients suddenly spring up, the good-idea fairy flies fast and furiously moments before take-off. It’s inevitable. I can set my watch to it. So, what do I do? I pop out my planner and go back to what the theme of the particular month is and re-read my priorities. If the sudden “emergencies’ are aligned with my priorities, huzzah! If not, then it sucks to be that person; they will just have to wait. Haven’t you waited for others while they had their pizza pies spinning in the air? Sure. We all have. In fact, we haven’t minded one single bit, because while we are waiting, we get busy with other portions of our lives. So let people wait but also, let them know how long they will wait. This makes for happy clients, husbands, dogs, etc.

Just because I have an empty segment of time during my day does not mean I must automatically fill it with other people’s’ urgencies, or anything else for that matter.

 If we are only going to do what comes organically, then darling, let me tell you, staying in bed, ordering take away and jonesing on the entire series of “Call the Midwife” is very organic to me, sweetie.

So, why bother planning?

Well, firstly, human beings are inherently lazy. Wanting to relax is a form of avoidance as well as coping mechanism to process daily rigor. That’s why people pay good money and go on holiday to relax. You never see anyone going on holiday to the office to pile on more work. Interestingly, most people try to get to a country or nature setting to deepen their relaxation. I will explore this country versus city concept in another article. For now, suffice it to say the reason you  “upgrade” anything is because you want get away from noise and clutter. That’s the ‘First-Class Lifestyle’ I keep droning on about.

The problem with paradise is that there is nothing to do.Christopher Walken as Curtis Pelissier in Turks & Caicos, Part Two of the Worricker Trilogy

Having nothing to do eventually develops into something to do. That’s why people need to go on holiday. To build an empire requires task, purpose and motivation-it’s hard to have any of those when you are bogged down with the daily grind. NB: It’s quite possible to make the daily grind a daily art form but that’s some next-level zen. So, if we are to reign in our talents, and actually be productive members of society, getting a little plan on paper is probably the best way to start developing your empire. Especially, after having nothing to do. 

Karine Tovmassian-Feb2018-2Secondly, why bother working for yourself if you are going to be tied to your desk?! That’s the whole point of working for yourself and not someone else. The ability to go outside and play, or stay inside and nap or work 2 full days and take off 5 in a week. Planning allows us to forecast our productivity and harness it, such that our results are a direct measure of how well we are living according to our own standards.

If you didn’t get the results you wanted, go back and check your planning. Perhaps you didn’t consider all the steps? Perhaps you needed to delegate more? If you planned it correctly, you might find yourself with a slobbery, 2-year old, English Bulldog at the local boathouse taking a walk and enjoying a crisp day because you’ve banked your hours and it’s good to be the boss. If you find yourself checking your phone every 5 minutes wondering why the clients aren’t calling, go back and plan it again. If you are in panic-mode, you are living out of a lack of abundance. Guess what that kind of thinking brings on? Yep, a lack of abundance.

Thirdly, and most importantly, we ought to plan so we can appreciate our lives by living purposefully. Imagine I give you an extra $1000 to spend every month and you don’t plan what you do with it. One month you spend it all on day 1, the next month you spend $100/day afraid you might run out of money before the month is up. Now imagine a planned version where you know exactly how much you are spending every day or none at all. Imagine you plan out the amount you are going to spend on a month-on-two pages spread. You can even choose to spend it all in one day if you’ve got a plan for the rest of the month. The same goes for planning our lives. If we take the time to bank our thoughts, which is really what a planner helps us do, we guide our lives in the direction we want it to go, even if it doesn’t go the way we want every day! Purposefully declaring your intention on paper amps up your RAS. Remember that? Honey, you have got to get yourself a bigger RAS! The Reticular Activating System begins to coalesce all the unseen factors of purposeful living and wraps them up for you in daily gifts of quiet moments, money in the bank, being happy with what you have, enjoying friendships, being present in relationships and being the master of our own domain. What better way to find your life’s purpose (spoiler alert: it’s to be joyful) than to plan it out in the unhurried moments of your own First-Class Lifestyle. Designate time to do nothing. And when you finally carve out a bit of spare time, enjoy having nothing to do.

Karine Tovmassian spends her days embroiled in others’ resumes, consulting and advising military and law enforcement veterans and genuinely caring where people end up in life. If you need a resume or you have an old one you can’t really use and don’t have the heart to throw it away, or want to learn how to change where you are in life and don’t know where to start, reach out to her at

She was a speaker at the first ever Official PlannerCon, and continues to actively speak about the values of writing things down. She’s the (better) one half of the ‘gruesome twosome’, developing content and co-hosting the HitchHiker’s Guide To The Plannerverse podcast, broadcasting the first planner podcast.

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5 thoughts on “How to Have Nothing To Do

  • February 15, 2018 at 10:06 PM

    Love this no holds barred article from Karine! This is exactly what our planners are for. To ‘think smarter, not harder’ and smell the roses at the end of the list, whether it be 5pm, (tools down) or 1pm (yay early minute walk on the beach). Planners work for us not we work for them.

  • February 16, 2018 at 4:49 AM

    I needed to hear/read this today. Thank you for so clearly describing the importance of using our planners effectively to truly live a first class lifestyle. Your writing is eloquent and enjoyable. Thank you for sharing your talent!!

  • February 17, 2018 at 1:43 PM

    Thank you so much for your article. Honestly, I try to live my life by putting the enjoyment of life first. I’m retired so I don’t have many things I must do, but love my planner for getting down what is needed. If I don’t get it all done, oh well! Walks with my dog, crocheting, preparing dinner are more important.

  • February 17, 2018 at 3:56 PM

    Thank you for this article. Taking time for ourselves (as parents, wives, caregivers, the family uber driver) we find ourselves doing so much for others in our efforts to be a good wife and Mom. However the harsh reality is if we are not present, we will indeed be missed, but life carries on in our absence.

    I selfishly decided I want to be around for my wild ones (aka children) to that end I schedule time for myself first. It could be early morning, or some days in the evening or a noon time grab, but my me time is blocked out on my planner first. Like paying bills which we all have and pay based on importance, maintaining my me time, I feel makes me a calmer, less reactionary, happier person to interact with.

    Thank you again. Your article confirms the importance of time for self care and refreshing.


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