Why Doing Nothing Could be the Most Productive Thing You (don’t) Do

June 30, 2013

(Originally posted at http://www.bigcheesecoaching.com)

I used to be good at doing nothing. I mean really good. I remember years ago during summer breaks as a young adult I’d hang out on the porch (when I wasn’t working at my summer job) and just relax. No goals, no agenda….just me and some music and my wandering mind. Me and my imagination. Some of my best daydreams happened in those idyllic hours. I don’t seem to do enough of that these days. Ahhh, the art of non-doing….


Wow. I miss those days. Not because of the time I had (well that too) but because I now realize how valuable and important downtime really is.

I’m not referring to hobbies. Those I do plenty. I’m referring to ‘simply doing nothing’. The act of hanging out where there is no agenda, no structure, no goal….nada.

Why is doing nothing so important?

Neuroscience experts say some of our best breakthroughs and thinking comes when we stop consciously thinking and completely disengage from goal-oriented activity.


By intentionally disconnecting from deliberate, goal-focused, conscious thinking, we give our brains a chance to “clear the cache” (that’s my expression for declutter and break from mental patterns) — and instead, engage in a process called ‘integration’. This has something to do with letting the brain access disparate information stored in our memory in a natural way. The unfolding of new connections without effort often leading to insights and creativity that far surpasses that which may come from deliberate problem solving. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should stop thinking or trying to solve our creative problems – just that we should also allow some white space too and deliberately take time to disengage.

A shout-out to leaders: doing nothing is actually a leadership competency. Add that to your to-do list!

Herbert Benson, MD and William Proctor, co-authored a book called The Break-Out Principle, which talks about this concept in great detail. They say taking breaks from thinking about an issue can trigger an inner switch (that they call “the break-out principle” that increases mental function, creativity and productivity.

Hmmm, I’ll take two orders of that please!

Actually come to think of it, while I may not disengage as often as I’d like, I have had many of my moments and share of break-out principles. In fact, just this weekend I was taking a break from my book writing project and forced myself to get out for a ‘do-nothing’ walk in the ravine. Well go figure – I came back with so many new thoughts and ideas.

The problem is this boost of creativity ends up adding to more ‘doing’ for me because of all those shiny new ideas and inspired energy (gotta actualize those ideas!) instead of taking coveted rest, rest, rest. Ahh, but that is another topic.

Well, it is summer and this weekend it’s Canada Day so hopefully many of us are getting out to do lots of nothing. Two more months before the so-called ‘busy season’ (yeah, I know, it’s always the busy season). Let’s make a pact and try to do lots more of this quality nothing.

You in?

By the way, I get into more detail on this concept in my upcoming book on managing overload in times of crazy busy. Stay tuned…and if you aren’t on my mailing list, send me a note and get onboard!

To your personal and professional wellbeing!

Eileen Chadnick

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Webinar: Need a Boost in Your Career Mojo?

March 26, 2013

Do you love your work, like it – or maybe just tolerate it? Want to get a bit more mojo out of your worklife? If so, listen up! I will be presenting a webinar (complimentary and hosted by Canadian Professional Accountants Association/CPA)) on May 14 at 12:30 ET. The CPA has generously offered to make this available to the public. And if you can’t make the date you can still listen/view the recording anytime afterwards if you have registered. All you have to do is register here. Note: it will take you to the website and ask for your email (takes just a quick moment). Your email will not be shared — not even with me.


Do you see your work as a job, career or calling? There is no right or wrong answer. And your position doesn’t have anything to do with how you see and experience your work. However, the latest research shows that how you orient yourself to your work can have a direct impact on your level of job satisfaction. Understanding your own orientation to work can help you better manage your career and successfully craft the right work situation for you without necessarily changing jobs.

This webinar will shed light on powerful research about meaning and work – and will offer you strategies to help you get more meaning and satisfaction from your work-life. Be prepared for more than a few surprises of what you thought were conditions for happiness and fulfillment at work.

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Hope to ‘see’ you there! Register here!

And if you do want to join my mailing list – please note that the CPA will not be sending me emails so you would need to send me a separate note or click on the ‘join’ button on this site. Thanks!

And check out my new Big Cheese Coaching website where you can find more news (and more links to free webinars!).

To Career Mojo and a TGIMworklife!

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Job Interview Tips (and video)

February 9, 2013

How do you prepare for a job interview? One thing for sure — never wing it. Preparation is essential. And I made sure to make that point in a new video series on interview tips at Globe Careers.

We taped seven videos for the series. I’ll post each as they get rolled out.

#1  A brief primer on how to prepare for your interview. 

#2 How to answer the ‘dream job’ question.

#3 How to discuss your ’strengths/weaknesses’ in an interview.


#4 So why did you leave your last job?


#5 So tell me about a time you solved a problem such as….?


#6 Questions you must ask in a job interview.


#7 How to answer quirky job interview questions.

Read the rest of this post at Big Cheese Coaching Blog!

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What Would You Do With An Extra 30 Minutes a Day?

January 28, 2013

(Just posted on my new Big Cheese Coaching website and blog)

Ahhh, the gift of time.  Imagine if you had an extra 30 minutes a day to do whatever you wanted? What would you do with that?

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Well the good people at Brighterlife asked me that very question. They were writing an article on the gift of time and asked me to share what I’d do in my free-found 30 minutes a day. Update: the article has just been posted Feb 19th – read it here.

An interesting question! I often say I’d like a 9-day week so I can squeeze in more of the stuff I want to do (both in work and life). When they asked me to think about an extra half hour my first reaction was ‘Only a half hour! Why not a full hour?’  But beggars can’t be choosers. 30 minutes more a day adds up to 3.5 more hours in a week.

What to do? So many choices and my first inclination was to be more productive. More writing; more work on my projects; more ‘doing’. But then I switched gears and decided to choose activities that were quite different.


A New Home (website) for Big Cheese Coaching

January 28, 2013

Big Cheese Coaching has a new home! Well, to be more precise, a new website.

Lots of changes. For starters, the url has changed. We’ve lost our dash (our website used to be: www.bigcheese-coaching.com) and that dash…kinda slowed you down from getting there didn’t it?  The new site is now: www.bigcheesecoaching.com

What we lost in our dash, I hope we gained in splash…or appeal and more functionality!

– I’ve got a new blog right on the site (see www.bigcheesecoaching.com/blog)

-I’ll still be keeping this blog (tgimworklife) as well as my Unretiredlife blogs but for now, lotsa of the ‘news’n’action’ will be over at my website and blog.

So please check it out and visit often. Lotsa, lotsa news there and in the queue!

Oh and a big shout of thanks to Joan Donough of In-Formation-Design who helped me build the next evolution of Big Cheese Coaching’s website. Couldn’t have done it without her! A fabulous, collaborative partner – I highly recommend her services.  And she’s a pleasure to work with.

Well – see you over ‘there’ real soon I hope!


12 Questions for the Year-end & New Year

December 7, 2012

T’is the season! Each December, I honour my annual tradition of reflecting on the year past and the year ahead. I focus this reflection with 12 questions and share them on my blog and newsletter. I am already starting my reflection and invite you to do the same.  I love this kind of reflection! Noting highlights and lessons learned; how I have evolved; the memorable moments and the various goals I’ve advanced towards – and more. Often, I’m surprised by how much I achieved. As we trudge through our busy lives we are often thinking about all we have not done or achieved. So I invite you to reflect on these questions to take stock and celebrate 2012 and reflect on your intentions and aspirations for 2013. 

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The Year Past:    

 1) What went well? Identify the goals you accomplished or advanced towards; and note anything else that went well and is worth highlighting.

 2) In what ways did you grow and evolve in the ‘evolution of you’? How were you tested or challenged and how did you grow as a result? What new skills, knowledge, ideas and insights  (life, work, other) have made you better or different from the beginning of the year?  

 3) What were your favorite moments of 2012? Savouring positive experiences has been proven to be a success strategy for building optimism, resilience and mojo – all essential ingredients to personal and professional wellbeing!

4) What do you need to clean-out or let go of right now from the year past to be ready to start fresh in 2013? Consider both your physical space (your office, your home) as well as your emotional and mental mindsets.

5) What and who are you most grateful for right now? Consider the people in your life; the circumstances; the gifts; make this a juicy list!

 6) If there was a theme for 2012 for you personally, what would it be? i.e. “This was the year of ____.”

 The Year Ahead:   

  7) What are your goals for 2013? Consider professional goals as well as personal goals. Consider small, medium and BHAG goals (big hair audacious goals).

  8 ) What of your strengths and assets will you deliberately use more of in the year ahead to realize your goals? Consider your personal strengths but also your assets such as your network, knowledge, experience and more. Make a plan.

 9) In what ways will you take care of your personal wellbeing to maintain or boost your “Mojo” – resilience, energy, inspiration and sense of wellbeing? Take time to reflect on your physical wellbeing as well as your mental and emotional wellbeing. If you were at your peak – what would that look like? What needs to happen to bridge the gap from where you are today to where you want to be? Make a plan.

 10) In what ways will you take care of your professional wellbeing to boost or maintain your work-life aspirations and career mojo? What new skills will you acquire or deepen? How will you foster/grow your network? What new challenges will you take on? And what support might you call on to help you achieve your professional goals?

 11) In what ways will you contribute something to the ‘greater good’  of _____ (choose a community or communities of choice)?

  12) If the year ahead is to have a personal theme for you, what would that be? i.e. “This will be the year of ____” 

 Here’s to celebrating the past and gearing up for the future. And making each day count along the way. To your personal, professional wellbeing and TGIM work + life!



Rest and Recovery: the Keys to High Performance

November 30, 2012

The notion of balance took on a whole new meaning for me these past few months. September through November tends to be my busiest season as I am involved in a particularly intense annual project and I’m juggling a whole bunch of other priorities along the way. I know that it’s impossible to go, go, go without losing steam somewhere along the way. I also have learned that the key to high performance isn’t necessarily about your ability to sustain the effort. The key is how you rest and recover.

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Rest and Recovery is Essential for High Performance. No one knows this better than high performance athletes. Did you know that Olympians focus as much on their rest as they do on their actual skill/sport training? Earlier this year, I attended the Canadian Conference on Positive Psychology and heard a session on balance and resiliency by Dr Greg Wells (one of many great speakers on a range of topics related to flourishing + wellbeing). He spoke to us via skype as he was in London getting ready to report on the Olympics. Wells works with elite athletes and is an expert on high performance. His talk was about how we can learn from Olympians’ and incorporate similar habits to live (and work) a worldclass life. Honing in the issues of maintaining high performance and resilience, Wells introduced the 1,3,2 Principle.

Wells said what distinguishes Olympian athletes is they know how to recover well. In their training these athletes stress themselves continuously to reach new heights. But most importantly, they also focus on recovery strategies so that they can perform their best.

You don’t have to be an Olympian to incorporate this into your life. We all can benefit from learning to recover better and faster from stress and demands of our work (and life). This will not only improve our capacity for greater performance in work and life but we’ll boost our mojo and wellbeing.

“Forget work-life balance,” Wells said, “It’s all about recovery and focusing on being heartier.”

Most of us will agree that the demands of work and life these days make it difficult to achieve a ‘balance’ each day/week/month so instead make sure you build in ample ‘recovery time’. He  suggests the following the 1,3, 2 formula (as a minimum). The idea is to completely unplug from work:

1 hour (minimum) of total recovery a day

3 full days of recovery a month (in continuum…not separate days)

2 weeks of full recovery a year (in continuum…not separate)

Recovery activities may look different to each of us but the key is to be intentional in creating a recovery strategy that allows you to unplug from work so that you truly do refresh, rest and rebuild your resevoir of energy.

As I step into December and will soon have my holiday break I am going to take this very seriously. And I don’t save it all up for year-end. Last weekend, I booked a two hour massage, went the gym and then I did a lot of slothing. I really needed it. Those who know me will appreciate that I don’t get to ‘sloth’ too much. But I now appreciate how important rest is to my performance.

So as you face your oncoming ‘busy season’ take a moment and ask yourself what your recovery and resilience strategies will be? And how can you put the 1,3,2 principle into action in your life?

Here’s to your personal and professional wellbeing and a TGIM Work-Life!


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A Tribute to Chris Peterson – RIP

October 10, 2012

It is with great sadness that I just learned that Chris Peterson  (Christopher)passed away yesterday. Chris was a pioneer in the field of positive psychology, often considered one of the founding fathers and lead the VIA Character Strengths project along with Martin Seligman.

One of the 100 most cited psychologists in the world, Chris was a renouned professor of psychology at University of Michigan, author of A Primer in Positive Psychology; contributing expert in Psychology Today — and so many more accolades in his professional contributions.

Nearly every ‘tool’ in my coaching toolbox has some learning, scientific backing that has come from the work of Chris Peterson and that of his many colleagues.

This past January, I was blessed to participate in a Master course on wellbeing developed and taught by Chris and offered by Mentor Coach. It was a rich, eight-week primer on much of the latest research, learnings and wisdom from the world of positive psychology. It was truly a gift to learn directly from Chris who was at the forefront of the whole positive psychology movement.  Chris was supremely generous, knowledgeable, kind and funny.

Chris had a mantra: “Other People Matter”  which encompassed all the research and learnings and implications about the impact that family, relationships and other social connections have on our wellbeing. To that end, I am sure that Chris would want people to remember the importance of nurturing relationships in our lives.

He will be greatly missed by everyone in the field of positive psychology around the world and will be remembered for his outstanding contributions to the field.

Addendum: as the tribute articles start to pour in, here is one I came across:

The Atlantic: “Very Nice Guy and Important Psychologist Dies”


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What Are You Grateful For?

October 8, 2012

What are you grateful for today? It’s Thanksgiving in Canada today so gratitude is on our minds and hopefully in our hearts!

Gratitude is not a once-a-year mindset for me — I live in that question (What am I grateful for?) nearly every day, year-round. Those who know me or have been part of my TGIMworklife community, will have heard me say that Gratitude is one of my top Signature Strengths.

Still, I embrace Thanksgiving as a great opportunity to deepen my appreciation even further and celebrate all that I have in my rich life. This weekend I took this up a notch and am living in the lens of thankfulness hour by hour, minute by minute.

I won’t write out my entire list because it would be toooo long to expect anyone to read it but to share just a few gratitude notes that I experienced in the first wee hours of my morning today. This morning, my focus was on my home, the surrounding nature and gorgeous foliage that I get to experience — all the while living in the city.

Here are a few photos to capture the essence (I took them this morning!):

This photo below was taken this morning from my balcony just off of my kitchen. This tree stands outside my backyard in the common area of my townhouse condo residence. I’m so blessed to have a home in the city that allows for beautiful space.

This next photo is just minutes into my run in the  lovely ravine just across the road.  Again, I am so blessed to have such abundant nature at my doorstep. How’s that for city living!

 And this one is just about 15 minutes into my run! This pond overlooks hole #3 at the Don Valley Golf Course….also just minutes from my home. Gotta love the urban life!

All this happened in just a couple hours. Imagine what I have in store for the next 22 hours. I haven’t even touched on the other ‘categories’ (family, friends, health, work, fun…..and more).

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend. If you are reading this – I am grateful to you for being part of my TGIMworklife community.  And I invite you to reflect on what you are grateful for today.

In gratitude,


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How Do You Define Retirement?

September 19, 2012

Reposted from my www.UNretiredLife.com blog:

Well, if you’ve read any of this blog – then it will be no surprise that the notion of retirement is changing. And with it – perhaps a new ‘official’ definition is in order? TD Bank is inviting Canadians to submit their definition of retirement in a contest that ends September 26. 

To submit your definition go to www.redefineretirement.ca and if you’d like to read the news release for more detail – click here.

Personally, I think the word ‘retire’ should be retired (s’cuse the pun…it was intentional). And instead of a new definition of retirement, we need a new word to describe this phase of life. Wanna know mine? You guessed it:


Yup, the anti-thesis of ‘retiring’ and rather than ending a chapter we are simply shifting gears. Still full of life!

To your UNretiredLife….and with personal and professional (if you choose) wellbeing in all phases of life!


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