How To Unfocus

When I was studying computer science back in college, I was so absorbed in my academic pursuits that I never made time for socializing with friends outside of class. I would read copious amounts of books, and research for hours at a time without resting.

This pattern has repeated itself throughout my life. It’s easy for me to become so focused on “busy work” that I miss out on what truly mattered to me. On far too many weekends and moments of downtime, you’d find me looking at my phone instead of spending quality time with my wife and two young kids.

It took me a while, but eventually I came to realize that busyness does not, in and of itself, equal success.

Sure, when I was first building my company, JotForm, it seemed that way. Clocking in hours upon hours trying to develop this dream I had — what could be better than that?

Here’s the thing that’s taken me a few decades to learn: We need time and space to unfocus, too. Our brightest ideas will come to us during moments of rest.

Most of our greatest thinkers have long extolled the virtues of understanding ourselves. In Ancient Greece, the act of mind-wandering was viewed as a way to guide us back into a healthy state of being — for reconnecting with a part of ourselves we might otherwise be blind to.

Your mind is never idle, even when you let it wander

Many of us are caught up in finding ways to be more productive. We write endless to-do lists and download scheduling apps — always finding activities to give our attention to.

But there’s something to be said for building in periods of the day in which we let our minds wander aimlessly.


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