Why I’m Doing Less

Ben Heim
3 min readNov 10, 2023
Photo by Rémi Bertogliati on Unsplash

I’ve found that if idle hands do the Devil’s work, then the Devil’s work is pretty great.

I’m a university student, and I can largely choose the amount of work I want to have. Each quarter, I can choose whether to take 3 or 4 classes, choose the difficulty of my classes, and also set limits on how much work I allow myself to do for those courses.

This past quarter has been my busiest. I’m in the seventh week of a nine-week quarter (plus one week of finals), and I’ve been pretty drained these past few weeks. More and more time has been siphoned away towards school and away from my side projects. My schoolwork begins early in the day and ends late in the evening. But it’s been great.

I’ve loved what I’m learning this quarter. I’m learning to program in C (quite a fun process for someone who’s only ever coded in higher-level languages such as Java and Python), learning a bunch of really cool math, finally understanding economics (as much as one can understand it from one course), and spending time engaging with important religious texts. It’s awesome.

But I’ve noticed something important about myself. Free time is my greatest asset. Not solely because it helps me recharge and allows me to engage in meaningful projects but because I create my best when I have a good bit of free time.

I need to be doing something

I find it hard to sit still. If I’m not doing something, I’ll need to find something to do. At times, this has been a great source of anxiety. I get anxious when I’m not doing something, and this leads to unproductive thought spirals about my lack of productivity.

I’ve been working on that. But in this need to do is also a great strength. I’m pretty good at finding cool things to do with my free time.

Last year in my free time practices, I gained over a 1,000 followers on Medium, created a startup that won a competition, and took on a life-changing internship. My idle hands don’t do the devil’s work — they do my best work.

Reframing downtime

I’ve thought extensively and written before about the idea that taking more classes is getting your value’s worth out of college. For some this is a useful belief — they get the most learning…