The Importance of Doing Nothing with Bonnie Tsui


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Bonnie Tsui’s essay “You Are Doing Something Important When You Aren’t Doing Anything,” was one of the most shared stories from the New York Times on the weekend it was published earlier this summer. Bonnie’s theory behind the importance of lying fallow is one everyone can apply to their lives. Down time, or time spent not doing anything we usually think of as productive, is valuable. It’s in this time that we can refuel, find inspiration and solve problems.

Bonnie Tsui is an award-winning journalist and author whose body of work covers a wide range of subjects including travel, gender, food, and her Chinese-American heritage. Her upcoming book Why We Swim explores the human relationship with swimming, something that Bonnie is very passionate about. In our conversation, Bonnie ties her love of swimming into this idea of doing nothing, which she wrote about in the NYT essay. We dive into her concept of active resting time, or “lying fallow” as Bonnie calls it, and how it inspires creativity. Bonnie argues that it shouldn’t be just another life hack, but rather an alternative to the culture of busyness that overwhelms our lives. When we spend more time doing activities like swimming, or just resting and reflecting, these fallow moments ultimately improve our lives.

Listen to this episode if:

  • You feel pressured to always be productive.
  • You wish you could work from home.
  • You want to unplug from smart devices and social media.
  • You love swimming.
  • You enjoy Bonnie Tsui’s writing.
  • You want to learn about the art of lying fallow.

Key takeaways:

  • 0:00 – Rethinking the fable of the grasshopper and the ant.
  • 4:10 – Bonnie Tsui’s writing career.
  • 5:30 – Why Bonnie is so drawn to water and swimming.
  • 8:25 – Diversity at the swimming pool.
  • 14:15 – The meditative value of swimming.
  • 18:50 – What is lying fallow?
  • 26:40 – How technology is impeding on our fallow time.
  • 30:15 – How Bonnie deals with insomnia.
  • 34:00 – What Bonnie does in her down time.
  • 36:50 – Bonnie’s tips for learning to lie fallow.

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