Mom & . . . Niksen – Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing with Olga Mecking

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Episode 1.6: Mom And… Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing, with Olga Mecking

Episode summary:​ 

In this episode, author Olga Mecking joins us to talk about the concept of Niksen. Olga Mecking is a journalist, writer and translator. Originally from Poland, she lives with her German husband and three children in the Netherlands. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The BBC, and The Guardian, among other things. Her first book, “Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing.” is out now with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 

Some of the Topics we covered this week:

What Niksen is and is not. [TS 1:08] It’s okay to scroll social media, but that’s not Niksen. The Dutch have this word that actually means “to do nothing,” and the concept is to rest your mind and body.

The best definition Olga has found. [TS 2:35.73] It was hard to find the perfect definition for Niksen, but one Olga settled on is: to do nothing without a purpose. So, you’re not actually doing nothing to achieve anything, aside from letting your mind rest and wander.

Other words for Niksen. [TS 3:31.78] There are words for doing nothing in many languages in cultures. Missy’s favorite is a Latvian phrase that loosely translates to “cucumbering around.” Olga talks about how a lot of the words and phrases don’t necessarily mean doing nothing, but they translate to doing something easy or restful.

It’s not meditation. [TS 4:11] Susanne first assumed doing nothing must mean doing something like meditation, and felt like she was doing it wrong when her mind wandered.

Some wandering is good! [TS 4:49.49] Olga talks about the benefits of letting your mind do its thing without a purpose. As long it’s not upsetting to you to start thinking about things you want – or need – to do, then it’s fine to let your mind wander. Sometimes you make important connections during that time. Creativity and inventiveness can come out of this time.

The mental load of motherhood. [TS 6:39.52] Niksen gives you moments, however brief, to release yourself from that mental load, freeing up your brain.

Guilt-free Niksening. [TS 7:10.72] It’s a brief time commitment, and there are no expectations, no required equipment, no right way to do it. We talk about valuing things that are not inherently productive (referencing Chris Bailey, productivity expert), and how we do tend to feel guilt when not being productive, whatever that word means to us. We have to learn to also value rest, play, mental health. By taking these small moments, we’re modeling good behavior for our kids.

Obligers. [TS 9:27] Olga brings up Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies, and how for Obligers, in particular, you can adopt Niksen for the benefits that your positive mental health brings to others around you. 

Excuses. [TS 10:01.76] We talk about the difference between men and women, and why women tend to feel different expectations on their time. We refer to Backfilling the Busy again, and talked about it being a worldwide phenomenon that women resist taking time to rest or Niks around. 

Covid and Niksen. [TS 13:44.01] The concept of face time at the office has changed a lot, now that almost everyone is at home due to the pandemic. This time at home, and the blurred lines between work and home, can pose both benefits and challenges to Niksen. Olga talks about the difficulty of finding time to do Niks when also helping her children with school, and managing life during a pandemic. Sometimes Niksen happens naturally, when she’s just too tired to move.

It’s easier for some than others. [TS 20:20.44] The concept of doing nothing comes more naturally to some people. Olga recommends working with what you have, and how you instinctually operate to make Niksen part your life. We talk about seeing the ability in some of our kids, but not others.

The book is gorgeous. [TS 22:35.48] We rave about the actual, hard copy book and talk about the differences in editions from other countries. 

Enneagram and other assessments. [33:30.48] Just for grins, we talk a little about the enneagram and personality assessments. Olga mentions The Big Five, a new one to us.

Resources That Came Up

People/Books/Etc. we mentioned:

Look, Listen, Learn [TS 25:24.48]

Susanne:

Missy:

  • The Crown
  • The search for an small, outdoor greenhouse

Olga:

  • Suits
  • Bridgerton
  • The Queen’s Gambit

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Musical Notes

Our delightfully happy intro and outro theme music, “We Will Get Through This” performed by Young Presidents, is used under license from Shutterstock.

Olga Mecking Niksen

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