Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing, and Underliving

Celeste Headlee. Harmony, $26 (288p) ISBN 978-1-98-482473-8

Journalist Headlee (We Need to Talk) joins the crush of authors speaking out against society’s addiction to “efficiency without purpose and productivity without production” in this comforting, convincing work. She begins by locating the origins of “the cult of efficiency”: before the industrial age, people enjoyed a different concept of work, one that did not consider time equal to money. Once “more hours meant more money,” the concept of work shifted, and so, too, did culture. In Headlee’s estimation, society drastically overvalues putting in long hours at the office and pursuing “constant improvement and the most efficient life possible” in hobbies, exercise routines, and even time spent with families. The cost of this, she writes, is high: it not only comes at the expense of true productivity (as opposed to “performative busyness”) , but also of happiness. Headlee provides concrete steps to help readers take control of their time, “challenge [their] perceptions,” and “take the long view.” For example, time tracking will help readers gain a clearer vision of their working and leisure hours, which in turn will help them reprioritize. While there is little new advice to be found here, this will resonate with readers who appreciate works in the spirit of Jenny Oddell’s How to Do Nothing. (Feb.)