You. Yes, you. Stop what you’re doing right now and go stare at a wall.
You didn’t do it, did you? That’s probably because it sounds like stupid advice. In this hustle-bustle, time-is-money culture, staring at a wall seems like literally the least productive thing anyone could possibly do.
Hear us out on this, though: According to digital anthropologist/author Rahaf Harfous, this very practice—breaking away from your work every so often and staring at a blank wall for 15 minutes, without any stimulation from your TV, phone, etc.—might actually boost your productivity. As Harfous told NPR, "What our brains actually need is periods of destimulation, which means no screens, no emails, no audiobooks.” Thus, wall-gazing could be exactly the reset you need.
Maybe you’ve noticed that the brain has a way of getting soggy when you’re grinding on the computer all day. In most cases, your productivity would go up if you take frequent breaks.
Especially if you work from home, there are all kinds of ways you can give your mind the downtime it needs to perform at its best. Here are a few more ideas:
Take a walk
Studies have shown that going for walks, especially in nature, can improve attention span and boost performance at work. That little dose of sunlight, exercise and novelty goes a long way in promoting relaxation, alertness, positive mood and higher energy levels. According to this TED Talk, it can also stimulate creative thought. The consciousness-unclogging effects of walking can be especially strong when you throw a little mindfulness practice into the mix. So quit hammering away at that budget report and go for a stroll. You owe it to your boss.
According to studies like this one, 30 minutes per day of low-intensity physical exertion such as swimming, yoga, golf, cycling or dancing has a positive impact on focus, motivation, perseverance and ability to meet deadlines. Besides which, exercise can improve your physical and mental health, your sleep and your appearance.
Meditation has been shown to strengthen the part of the brain that oversees many of our executive functions. This makes for sharpened focus, improved decision-making ability and other performance-enhancing upgrades.
Play a game of Wordle
Did I just see you rolling your eyes? Grope my gopher, punk. Look, it might be trendy, but Wordle is just engaging enough to take your mind off work for a short while, so that you can come back and look at whatever you’re doing from a fresh perspective. Research has shown that playing these kinds of word games can increase cognitive performance, and Wordle’s one-puzzle-per-day format ensures that you won’t cross over the thin line between recharging and procrastinating.
Studies like this one tell us that by writing down our thoughts, we can clear our minds of things that might be distracting us. Sometimes a few minutes of writing are all it takes to banish those little mental imps that are tugging at our consciousness so that we can get back to work.
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Damon Orion is a writer, musician, artist and teacher based in Santa Cruz, CA. Read more of his work at damonorion.com.
Header image by Pete Willis via Unsplash.