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Flow Tip: Take a BREAK

Are your feeling too overwhelmed and time-starved to slack-off?

Then what you need more than time to work is downtime. You need a BREAK.

Today, take a good old-fashioned recess in the middle of the day. Go ahead and do your hardest or most dreaded work—or whatever you need to do, but after about sixty to ninety minutes of focused attention, honor your ultradian rhythms and take a break. Rest.

What do you find relaxing or rejuvenating? Is there an article you’ve been wanting to read for fun? Does your most vivid fantasy involve a nap? Do you want to spend a few minutes looking at pictures of pretty living rooms on Pinterest? Perhaps you long to go outside into the great outdoors (or the plaza across from your office) and let the sun shine on your face. Just do it. The only rule is that what you do during recess must be restful or playful; it can’t be on any task list anywhere. Anything that you have to do anyway (shower, read an article for work) doesn’t count.

Need more ideas? Try driving in silence, with your radio and phone off. (Encourage your children to look out the window while you drive them, instead of down at their devices.) Take a walk outside, preferably in nature, without a phone or music player. If that’s too hard, just try a few minutes at a time, adding a few minutes each day. Just practice; it’ll get easier, and the benefits will become more apparent.

You might already be doing this homework throughout the day, but you feel guilty about it. Don’t! Rejoice (or at least forgive yourself) the next time you find yourself staring blankly into space. You aren’t wasting time! You’re letting your brain generate the insights you need to find your flow!

This post is from a series about “strategic slacking” from the “Science of Finding Flow,” an online course I created as a companion to my book The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More by Doing LessWant to go on to the next class or start the course from the beginning? It’s free! Just go to The Science of Finding Flow course page. Enjoy!