Memory designed by Anne-Marie Nguyen from the Noun Project

Memory designed by Anne-Marie Nguyen from the Noun Project

Focusing intently on a task can be beneficial for both creativity and productivity. But how you waste your time matters too, according to Nautilus writer Greg Beato:

Wasting time, they say, can make you more creative. Even seemingly meaningless activities such as watching cat videos on YouTube may help you solve math problems…

So what kinds of distractions, exactly, are best? “You want a distractor that’s pretty far away from what you want to process unconsciously,” Bursley says. If you want your brain to unconsciously process a math problem, it would be better to have the distractor be something totally different, like playing tennis, he says, rather than something similar, like a spatial puzzle.

The right distractions can boost creativity while others can leave us feeling drained. For example, if you’re stuck on a writing project, try doing something that doesn’t require you to create, something like watching funny videos. Or, if you’re starting to feel burnt out on a project proposal, do something that doesn’t require you to strategize, like free writing or browsing Reddit.


  • Kevin Laprocino

    I think this is dangerous. I get that we should take some time to step away from our creative project, but browsing Reddit seems to be a mind-numbing activity. I think a nice walk or reading some fiction rather than putting your brain on auto-pilot would be a better idea.

    • tannerc

      It depends, as the research states. If you find that browsing a site like Reddit is relaxing for you, what makes it any less beneficial than reading a book? Ultimately it’s a personal decision, and what works for you may not work for someone else.

      The point remains: spending your “down time” doing an activity that utilizes a different part of the brain yields the most benefit. For some that means taking a walk, for others that’s watching funny videos.

      Thanks for reading and commenting Kevin!

      • Charles Messinger

        Beneficial depends too.

        I discover for myself that life can be easy to recover: If the mind is full, use the body to relieve the tension. That’s why workout is so good. And if the body is tired, use the mind to control the breath. Almost like Yin and Yang 🙂

      • Kevin Laprocino

        it might be just me though. My down time cannot be filled with computer screens given the amount of time I already spend in front of my computer due to work and school.

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