"Pushing harder isn't helping us anymore," writes journalist and speaker Celeste Headlee in the introduction to Do Nothing, an engaging text that implores readers to "stop treating [themselves] like machines" and instead, "celebrate [their] humanness at work and in idleness." Headlee provides readers a necessary lesson for the contemporary age on how the "cult of efficiency" predates modern technology. By doing so, she is able to demonstrate how better technology has merely sped up the pace of life, and how a constant push to save time and improve ourselves does not allow people to live fully.
Headlee reflects upon her own experiences, her brushes with exhaustion and burnout, in order to encourage readers to slow down voluntarily and spend time enjoying the things they like to do, versus or in addition to the work they have to do. Similarly, by exploring the historical construction of "work," she asks readers to reconsider how they might think about where work fits in their lives today, and how they structure their lives around it. She explains how the inverse relationship between hours of work and increased productivity has been recognized across history, from feudal serfdom through the industrial revolution. She also demonstrates the efficacy of unions at forcing employers to shorten hours and thereby increase productivity. This is not a self-help book, nor a how-to for people looking for a guide for different working habits. Rather, Headlee systematically deconstructs the toxicity of hustle culture with historical and scientific research to help readers question their habits and impulses surrounding overwork. --Michelle Anya Anjirbag, freelance reviewer