Article Bookmarked
Bookmark Removed

Why We Need To Structure Our Days Differently Than We Think


Sep. 22, 2017 Psychology Today

Once we get up, we are typically on a roll. We jump out of bed—complete our morning ablutions—do some cooking prep, maybe—slip into some clothes—grab a coffee—hop on the train or into the car—arrive at work—and grind away. Mid-morning sees the first energy drain, but lucky for us, coffee comes to the rescue. We eventually meet lunch with a deep sigh of relief, but after lunch, the uphill battle begins. The rest of the day is often either a drag or a wasteful distraction. Mid-afternoon draws our eyes to the clock with a longing for the day’s end. And just as our work days end, we have home life looming ahead. A relief, to be sure, but often filled with its own work and complications.

This automaton lifestyle may seem to get the job done, but in fact, it short-changes you more than you think. To make the best use of your brain, you really have to build short and frequent downtime—booster breaks—into it. And you have to make a habit of it for more than 2 months if you want it to stick. Let’s take a look at your objections and why you need to get over them.

1. “I just don’t have the time to build in frequent breaks”: Reality check—people spend 46.9% of their days daydreaming anyway. So you definitely have the time to daydream more effectively.

2. “How can daydreaming be effective?” I have a job that needs to get done”: Generally, daydreaming makes you miserable. But Jerome Singer has studied daydreams extensively, and he has made the point that not all daydreaming is the same. Slip into a daydream, or ruminate over the prior night’s indiscretions, and you will be sure to waste your time. But if you plan a 15-minute daydreaming time-out, then engage in some undemanding activity (knitting, gardening, or walking), and jumpstart your daydreaming with positive, wishful imagery (whatever floats your boat from tinkering underneath a car to laying on a yacht in the Mediterranean), you will likely become more creative, and more energized.

3. “Ok, so I buy the booster break idea. But exactly how crucial is this?” It turns out, it’s pretty crucial. Your brain occupies a mere 2% of your body’s volume, but it needs a lot of energy (20% of the body’s energy, to be precise) to work, when it is rest. (“What? Why does resting it require so much energy?”) In the “idle” setting, your brain is doing some of its best and most important work. This is when it is putting puzzle pieces together, driving you toward your own eureka experiences, unjumbling information, re-energizing your focus, activating memories, and also helping you stay self-connected.

4. “What does self-connection have to do with anything? It sounds bogus anyway. I know how I am” Once again, “knowing” is overrated. Most of what is going on in your brain is unconscious—you don’t actually “know” this. Yet, unconscious though it is, it matters. You are far more than your LinkedIn profile. There are subtle elements of you that really matter—they stabilize your every action.  These subtle elements of self are registered in the unfocus circuit. When you unfocus, your brain has time to put together subtle elements of who you are. Keep going like an energizer bunny, and you rob yourself of this richer experience of yourself.

5. “Okay, so I’m not going to daydream. Anything else I can do that doesn’t feel like a waste of time?” Actually, what is a waste of time is running on empty. You can’t go far without gas in the tank. What makes you think your brain doesn’t need an energy boost? I’ not just talking about “vegging out” here—I’m talking about strategic rest.

Read More on Psychology Today

Gene Upshaw Player Assistance Trust Fund

Apply Today

All Resources

Tell Me More

The Importance of Kindness

Being kind can strengthen your relationships and sense of satisfaction in life.

Read More

No, mindfulness is not a fad

Mindfulness can improve competence, relationships, happiness, even health and longevity.

Read More

Brain Imaging Shows We Can Unlearn Chronic Pain

Neuroanatomical changes observed with learning and unlearning of chronic pain.

Read More

Drug Overdoses are Leading Cause of Death for those under 50

U.S. drug epidemic brings alarming death toll and orphaned children.

Read More

How to Freeze Your Credit

Make sure you know how to respond to cyberattacks.

Read More

The Number-One Rule For Better Weight Loss

It’s not your diet or exercise routine.

Read More

Failure is not an option.

Former NFL player Freddie Scott II is back with more thoughts on success.

Read More

These Are the 20 Best Places to Work in 2018

Finding the right employer is a difficult task.

Read More