Add more downtime to your life, and master the art of doing nothing — starting this weekend. (Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

Add more downtime to your life, and master the art of doing nothing — starting this weekend. (Jamie Grill/Getty Images)

When I took an extra-early shuttle flight from New York to Washington for a company celebration later that evening, a colleague asked with astonishment, “What are you going to do with all of that time?”

“Absolutely nothing,” I responded. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind.

I got the same reaction when I took a seven-month maternity leave. “You’ll be bored,” someone warned. “Not me,” I said, imagining that a new baby would keep me plenty busy and that I’d relish moments to do absolutely nothing. Besides, I thought the leave was too short — even with tacked-on vacation days and accumulated comp time.

Nothingness is uncomfortable for some people. They can’t sit still. They resort to talking on their smartphones or playing with them. I love quiet moments along a shoreline, at a park and especially in my home. Stopping to watch a cardinal walking along the rail of my deck earlier this week took me back to my childhood in Ohio. I noticed that its feathers weren’t as brightly red as our state bird. I wondered what it thought of the snow (Do birds even think?) and the whereabouts of its friends.

As a multitasking maven, I can’t get enough of nothingness. In fact, I look forward to retirement in the far-off future, when I can do whatever I please or absolutely nothing at all. In the meantime, here’s how we can add more downtime to our lives and master the art of doing nothing — starting this weekend.

First, kill the guilt. It’s really OK to carve out some “me” time. You aren’t taking anything away from other people or other things. In fact, there’s more of you to give when you put yourself first. “I’ve discovered that my time with others is enhanced by the time I spend alone,” says Susan Morrell, author of The Pleasure of My Company: Finding the Motivation and Courage to Spend Time Alone.

“Free your mind … and the rest will follow.” This is the PG line from En Vogue, but the title of a Funkadelic album is more to the point. No explanation necessary.

Do something by yourself this weekend. Sometimes you want to check out a movie, exhibit, restaurant, lecture or play, but your hangout buddies are tied up, they don’t want to go or (deep down inside) you don’t really want to go with anyone who is available. Fly solo. You might be surprised by how much you enjoy trying something new at your own speed.

Think about the health benefits. Research shows that solitude can mimic deep relaxation, Morrell points out, especially if you unplug yourself from the TV and other technology. This could result in lower levels of muscle tension, heart and respiration rates, stress hormones and blood pressure.

Keep drama and irritability to yourself. “Solitude can also benefit our social lives,” Morrell says. Besides recharging your batteries, being alone allows you to work out what’s bugging you so that you don’t inflict it on others unnecessarily.

Reboot your brain. Being alone gives you time to slow down, think a thought and boost your creativity. Sometimes it takes a moment to clear the clutter from our minds. Once that happens, you can come up with new ideas and solutions more easily.

Meditate, pray, chant — whatever works for you. Being still is good for your mind, body and soul.

Yanick Rice Lamb, who teaches journalism at Howard University, is co-founder and publisher of

About Fierce Fridays — Tips for Weekend Well-Being

We each cherish those precious days off at the end of the week, but increasingly those of us who are charter members of the sisterhood of the stressed and overworked are losing our Saturday and Sunday leisure time to weekend work and domestic duties.

To make sure that you do something every weekend that’s just for you, we’ll be sharing a little advice to make those 48 hours a great time to recharge your batteries, bring a little good news into your life, or discover a quick and easy way to improve your health.