Here’s Some Permission to Dawdle and Drink Coffee

That inner knowing of yours won’t surface if you’re laser focused on your to-do list. Here is how making time to breathe, play, and pursue hobbies can hone your intuition and help you reach your goals more easily.

Photo: Caroline Hipple

To be more productive, you may meticulously check off those lists, block out time in your Google calendar even for calls with mom, and pound away at your laptop like it’s, well, your job. So why might reaching your #lifegoals still be as out of reach as retiring at 40? Why do you still feel overwhelmed when you’re trying so hard to keep everything under tight control?

It could be because exerting so much energy on getting stuff done is actually making you less productive and disconnecting you from your intuitive vibes.

We get it, everyone from your boss to your partner puts a lot of value on that popular buzzword, productivity. But what if making time to have fun, letting yourself get lost in something without having an agenda, or simply daydreaming weren’t seen as time wasters but legitimately valued?

We’re here to tell you that they should be, because allowing yourself to feel more and think less—to get out of your head and into your heart/body—helps you reconnect with your intuition. This is where creative ideas are born and innovation happens.

Your intuition is what helps you find imaginative solutions that you can’t uncover with logic and linear thinking alone. Learning to tune into your inner knowing will help you accomplish so much more than if you’re ignoring this subtle-but-powerful voice.

“Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious parts of our mind, and also between instinct and reason,” says Francis Cholle, Skirting the Rules co-founder and author of the Intuitive Compass.

We’re not saying that honing this skill means you won’t ever feel stuck again, but you’re much more likely to find a side door. It’s not as though people will no longer tick you off, but you’re apt to respond from a deeper, more centered place than with a top-level emotional reaction that resolves nothing. And there are no guarantees that you’ll be able to shrink your to-do list, but you’ll be able to tap into greater wisdom to better understand which tasks align with your purpose and are worth focusing on, and which ones can be done quickly as ‘good enough.’

“Learning how to follow your own inner knowing will help you live a more productive and inspired life, one that’s fuller and more interesting than you might have ever dreamed possible,” says Skirting the Rules co-founder and confidence coach Deborah Burns. “It’s a way to tap into the creative genius that you already possess and need only to unlock.”

Whether you pride yourself on being a feeling, creative person or pride yourself on being a logical, facts-driven type, learning to hear and act on your intuitive vibes can help you accomplish bigger things in your life. Check out this research that shows how some activities seen as time-wasters are actually productivity boosters.

Get a hobby to uncover answers. If you’d rate Nobel prize winners as being exceptionally productive individuals, you might want to take note: These prestigious award-winners are nearly three times more likely to have an artistic hobby (think: music, arts, writing, crafts), according to a study from Michigan State University. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why, but speculate that spending time on the arts boosts scientific productivity by giving the mind a break from all that linear, fact-based thinking. Doing so may develop a stronger ability to make more creative associations and intuitive leaps that can pay off in the lab. Hey, if it works for Nobel Prize winners, it just might work for you, too.

Sit still and focus on your breathing to get more stuff done. You’ve probably heard that meditation has a myriad of benefits, from boosting memory to melting stress. Now research shows that the practice can make you a whole lot more productive too. In fact, Aetna gauges that its mindfulness program has earned them about $3000 in productivity per employee, and now big corporations from Google to Target to Goldman Sachs are adopting the programs. Meditation’s aim to quiet the mind makes you more present—and therefore aware of—that intuitive voice which guides you to find hidden solutions so you get ‘er done.

Take a digital vacation to make quicker decisions. Over-relying on Google might make you out of synch with your intuition. Intuition comes from your ability to notice patterns and connects your conscious and unconscious minds, but we don’t have to flex our intuitive muscles when technology processes all the data for us. This may make you less productive when you have to make decisions where you can’t know all the facts, data, or possible outcomes (think: whether or not to take the job or marry the man).

Moreover, our very first, gut-level decisions are usually right—especially when it comes to goal setting, according to a study by the University of Alberta. This makes you more productive because you can reach gut decisions more quickly than if you were stuck having an internal debate in your head.

Instead of asking Siri for all the answers, try getting unplugged and mapping out possible answers yourself the old-fashioned way by writing it down. You might be surprised what you come up with that the World Wide Web couldn’t have imagined.

Dream a little (day)dream for a sharper mind. People who let their minds wander are not only good at tapping into intuitive insights, but may also have better working memories, or the knack for recalling facts when distracted, according to a study in Psychological Science. So zoning out at your desk may not make you such a slacker after all, but could actually be what you need to do to connect seemingly unrelated facts or ideas to find the innovative answers your boss craves. Take this as your permission to dream.

Caroline Hipple is a photographer, adventurous merchant, industry strategist, and fearless problem solver who chases light, life and laughter with an ancient Nikon and a big dose of wonder and curiosity.