Doing Nothing Can Actually Make You More Productive. What?!

April 29, 2021 by

Yes, that is right: One secret to boost your productivity is finding time to do nothing.

We’ve all spent over a year now trying to squeeze out effort in every second of our workday. Thus, it seems simply counter-intuitive that peering out the window, daydreaming, or closing your eyes, would actually boost one’s productivity. But according to recent neuroscience research, it does.

The scientific reason for this is that the brain uses those free moments for important “clean up” work. However, during the pandemic, the lines between home and work have become blurred, making it much more difficult to take such mental breaks.

According to Barbara Oakley, a professor of engineering at Oakland University in Michigan, “When you take a break, you may want to do something mind-consuming to help with motivation, but technically your best way of taking a break is to do something mindless.”1

Here are 8 proven tips on how to do so:

1. Go for a bike ride.
Feel the wind in your hair and enjoy the new views, to get a deserved break from work.

2. Play a game without keeping score.
Go online and play a game with a friend. Even though winning may reward your body’s dopamine system, keeping score is work. Skip the scoring and simply enjoy the fun.

3. Take a walk.
Sans Fitbit, get out of the house and enjoy the scenery. Listen to the wind, lake waves, or ocean sounds. Multiple studies have proven that being with nature is inextricably linked to better mental health benefits. Skip the focus on mileage or distance and instead appreciate the quality of relaxation.

4. Take a nap.
Many of us have been struggling to get a good night’s sleep. As such, we not only need a nap, we deserve a nap. Therefore, eschew the guilt often associated with taking a daytime nap. Go lie down on your bed or find a comfortable chair. Close your eyes and breath. A nice restful nap is one of the best ways to enhance the neurological ability to build conceptual understanding.

5. Cook a meal.
I first heard Dolce Far Niente when I studied in Florence, Italy. Dolce Far Niente means “The sweetness of doing nothing,” figuratively meaning simply cooking a meal can help create a wonderfully wandering mind. And recognize that you do not need to create the next culinary masterpiece. Find a simple recipe and ideally one that requires slow preparation. Pause and reflect between courses.

6. Take a long, hot shower.
Bury your head and mind into the shower stream. Let your mind wander. Consider using scented soap that is designed to help your brain relax.

7. Go birdwatching.
Grab those binoculars and get out into the woods to see birds. Bring along a birdwatching guidebook that will help you identify each of the bird species. Document each species that you see, as well as the date, time, and location. These records will ultimately become a birdwatching journal which you can share with family and friends.

8. Pray.
Whether in Church/Temple/Mosque or not, a lot of research has been done proving that praying helps the mind relax. Make it a regular habit to pray for three people each and every day. Praying for others helps draw the attention and stress away from yourself.


1 Source:


Kevin Sheridan is an internationally-recognized Keynote Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of Employee Engagement. For five years running, he has been honored on Inc. Magazine’s top 100 Leadership Speakers in the world, as well as Inc.’s top 100 experts on Employee Engagement. He was also honored to be named to The Employee Engagement Award’s Top 101 Global Influencers on Employee Engagement of 2017.

Having spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant, Kevin has helped some of the world’s largest corporations rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, has been consistently recognized as a long-overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement. His first book, Building a Magnetic Culture, made six of the best seller lists including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. He is also the author of The Virtual Manager, which explores how to most effectively manage remote workers.

Kevin received a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in 1988, concentrating his degree in Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior. He is also a serial entrepreneur, having founded and sold three different companies.