Give Your Brain A Break: How Successful People Use Free Time

Give Your Brain A Break: How Successful People Use Free Time

Lifestyle | Posted by - March 23, 2017 at 12:30 am

Aside from managing your time well, success comes from how well you rest. The human brain can only consume up to 45 minutes of information before its attention wavers, which tells us mental breaks during the day are important to recharge and refocus. 

Author of Why We Get More Done When You Rest Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says sometimes the best break we can take is to do nothing at all. He says we underestimate the value of what psychologists call mind wandering, that mental state you get into where either you are sitting and nothing is happening or where you are doing something on automatic that doesn’t require concentration, like folding laundry. 

Thrive Global, a journal about finding rest in our lives and work, recently asked business professionals around the world what they choose to do with 15-minutes of unexpected free time. YouInc rounded up the best examples of how successful business professionals around the world give their minds a rest: 

Nap Or Meditate 

“If it’s mid-afternoon and there’s a bed or couch available, I’d take a power nap :)” - Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos 

“I wish I could say I meditate, but the truth is I organize, either tidying up my office or home, or updating my ongoing “To Do” list. In some ways, this IS my meditation because I feel I’m doing something for me to improve my peace of mind.” - Alexis Christoforous, Journalist, CBS News


“I call someone. Astonishingly in 2017, three friends and my mom actually answer the phone regularly. Spontaneous conversations are a gift.” - Susie Lee, CEO, Siren 

“Touch base with an employee I haven’t spoken to in a while. There’s no substitute for an in-person conversation.” - Samer Hamadeh, CEO, Zeel 

Get Outside  

“Take a brisk walk outside or (if it’s raining) pick up reading my latest favorite book where I last left off.” - Amy Gutmann, President, The University of Pennsylvania

“Stroll around the block, grab a power nap, or just walk around the building and check in with some of the people I work with.” - Richard Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations 

Finding rest has to do with what works best for your rhythm during the day. If you’re someone who tends to be on email most of the day, then use 15 minutes to do something away from your computer. Or, if most of your day involves commuting and meetings, then perhaps 15 minutes is best used to read a book or nap. Find what works, and do you. 

Tell us, what do you do with 15 minutes of free time?

Tags: alex aoojung kim pang, downtime, meditation, mental health, reading, relax, social, taking breaks, thrive, time management

Kristen Marano

Kristen Marano is a writer based in Toronto, Canada, and Perth, Australia. She’s passionate about connecting women in business to share honest stories and perspectives about the emotional challenges of their work. Follow Kristen on Twitter at

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