9 Productive Time Sinks – When Wasting Time is Time Well Spent

Productive Time SinksSuccess is achieved when you manage your time in such a way that you accomplish everything you want to do in addition to everything you have to do.  I call this the art of balance.  A simple metaphor for getting everything done without abandoning the seemingly inconsequential tasks you actually enjoy spending your time doing.  Many people think of these inconsequential tasks as a complete waste of time, time sinks that just drain your life.  But is this true?  Or are these time sinks helping you accomplish your goals in a roundabout way?

The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
– Bertrand Russell

In my experiences with tackling projects at both work and home I have come to realize that some of the most productive moments, the moments where complex problems are solved and the greatest ideas come to fruition, occur when I take a break and waste a little time.  This time I appear to be wasting indirectly places my mind in a zone of creativity, solving problems completely unrelated to my immediate actions.  Productivity cannot be measured in the time directly spent achieving a goal, but instead in the level of excellence achieved in the end result.  Taking a break from the project can be essential to reaching this level of excellence.

So when your brain hits that brick wall and needs a break, what type of time sinks are most effective at refueling your creative and productive thought processes?  I’m sure the possibilities are plentiful.  I absolutely cannot think of them all, but here are 9 solid ideas to get you started with wasting your time wisely.

  1. Exercise – Take a walk, swim or go to the gym for an hour.  A good workout is a healthy “pick me up” that gets your blood flowing and energizes both your mind and body.
  2. Get Away, Relax and Think – Physically removing yourself from a problem and relaxing in a totally different environment will sometimes lead you to the answer you seek.  When your mind is not bogged down by frustration it solves problems more effectively. 
  3. Read Something that Inspires You – It could be a book, your favorite blog, or a poem.  Read something you love, something that allows your mind to creatively wander.  A little inspiration goes a long way.
  4. Listen to Your 5 Favorite Songs – Music makes you think, it gets you going, and it sets your stream of consciousness on a positive course.  We are motivated by the songs we love, so listen to your favorite 5.
  5. Write it All Down or Type it All Up – This could be in a journal or on a blog, the medium is irrelevant.  Sometimes transcribing your thoughts into writing helps you to organize and analyze them from a totally difference perspective.
  6. Visit the Local Museum – The museum is both educational and inspiring.  It gives you a taste of history and allows your mind to muse on other people’s creativity.
  7. Take a Nap – Sometimes your mind and body need a real rest, the kind of rejuvenation that can only be acquired with sleep.  Use an alarm clock, but never feel guilty for taking a little nap.
  8. Have an Intelligent Conversation – An intelligent conversation on any topic can help spur the creative juices in your brain.  The simple act of discussing something that interests you is usually enough to put your mind back on track.
  9. Do Something You Love for 15 Minutes – This could be anything.  It doesn’t matter what the activity entails.  As long as you love to do it and it doesn’t kill you, it’s almost certainly a perfect way to ease your mind of stress and spark some creative energy.


  1. says

    Regarding to point number 7, “Take a Nap”, let’s distinguish 3 different types:

    – Power nap
    Power-napping is thought to maximize the benefits of sleep versus time. It is used to supplement normal sleep, especially when a sleeper has accumulated a sleep deficit. The short duration of a power-nap is designed to prevent nappers from sleeping so long that they enter a normal sleep cycle without being able to complete it. Entering a normal sleep cycle, but failing to complete it, can result in a phenomenon known as sleep inertia, where one feels groggy, disorientated, and even more sleepy than before beginning the nap. Scientific experiments and massive anecdotal evidence suggest that an average power-nap duration of around 20-30 minutes is most effective.

    – Cat nap
    While a power-nap and a cat-nap can be considered to be synonymous in terms of duration and effect, the vernacular usage often makes a behavioural distinction: a power-nap involves a break from activity, while a cat-nap is of a more leisurely nature. Thus, one may take a power-nap in the middle of a busy work day, and a cat-nap on the couch during a lazy afternoon.

    – Caffeine nap
    An interesting one, when you need not only rest a while but also increase our performance afterwards (study, work, drive, etc). The Caffeine Nap is simple: you drink a cup of coffee and immediately take a 15-20 minute nap. Researchers found coffee helps clear your system of adenosine, a chemical which makes you sleepy. The combination of a cup of coffee with an immediate nap chaser provided the most alertness for the longest period of time in tests. The recommendation was to nap only 15 minutes, no more or less and you must sleep immediately after the coffee.

    Source: Wikipedia and sleepdex.org

  2. says

    Daniel, thanks for the added insight. I’ve never heard of a caffeine nap before… sounds like an oxymoron to me, but I can’t shoot it down until I try it. 😉

  3. says

    Hey Marc,
    I’m not sure what happened to some of my links. I run it with another person and we were hacked a few weeks ago. But its all good now.

    I like #3, and I also like to visit TED.com. There are some amazing, intelligent videos about things that will blow your mind. Check it out.

    Stay well,

  4. Seye says

    Thanks for the posts, they were really helpful, i especially agree with #4, one cant underestimate the power of music


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