Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Goofing Off Instead of Working

Many of us feel that if we aren’t sitting at our desks pounding away at the keyboard or are on our way to another satisfied customer we are wasting our valuable work time. This feeling is especially acute among freelancers who don’t have a boss and therefore have no one to blame for wasting time  but themselves. Because we don’t have to put in an eight hour day we may feel that time we “waste” is time taken from other activities such as family, hobbies or taking a nap. However, recent research shows that it may be good to goof off:

Daydreaming isn’t just the mind’s way of processing information, though. Other scans have found that the wandering mind also utilizes the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that’s involved in problem-solving. The upshot, says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychology at UC Santa Barbara who is studying this area, is that your idling mind is likely doing deeply creative work, tackling your hairiest long-term tasks — projects you’ve been trying to address for months, the arc of your career, the state of your marriage. “Mind-wandering is actually a very involved task,” Schooler says. “You leave the here and now and focus on more remote concerns that nevertheless might be more important. We’ve been focusing on the downside of this, but we need to think about the upside.”

Indeed, Schooler suspects that research like his explains why so many “aha” moments occur when we’re drifting — like Archimedes in the tub.

via Clive Thompson on Why Idling Mind Is Mother of Invention | Magazine.

If you want to follow through with the above you might want to consider installing a hot tub in your home office. It may even be considered a business expense.

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Personally, I can tell you that my most productive thinking time is during my 45 minute walk each day and in bed before I drift off to sleep. Both are times when the heavy duty part of my brain is disengaged.

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3 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About Goofing Off Instead of Working

  1. Absolutely true. I’ve taken to leaving a pad by my bed because as I wind down from the day, my mind fills with things I should have done or still need to do. Making a list gives me a head start for the next day and also enables me to dismiss the task until a time when I can actually do something about it.

  2. Exactly. If I don’t work and even if I just leave my desk, I immediately start feeling ashamed that I waste time. I heard a saying that a freelancer works all the time except the time he sleeps…

  3. I wonder what scientists say about feeling guilty about working too much and neglecting your goofing duties?

    Great post, Charles. Back to work now… 😉

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