Charles Darwin took long walks around London. Kurt Vonnegut made listening to jazz a daily priority. Fiona Apple disappeared for six years after the release of her third album.

So why do so few of us take breaks?

I ask because I can often be found agonizing over the “more.” If only I posted on Instagram more, I’ll think. I’d have more followers if I pitched to more publications. I need to blog two more times a week. I could go on.

Between you and me, I’ve gotten frustrated with myself for browsing Facebook or watching too much TV more times than I can remember.

And I’m not alone. So many of us are terrified of taking a break, creatively speaking. We won’t let a moment pass without listening to a podcast, consuming an article, or sharing something.

The cognitive load is real.

But like Vitamin D, sleep, and good food, it’s not only OK to take a break, it’s essential. Living a successful life is also about knowing when not to work. For your best output, you need to focus on your input, too.

The world won’t end if you disappear from the internet for a week or so. Your creativity won’t suddenly stop. Your time is now, but your time was also then, and it will be again.

Your dreams don’t have an expiration date.

Many of us confuse being “busy” with being constructive. But you can only do your best work by taking breaks. Because almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes—including you.

And science backs it up, too. Your brain requires substantial downtime to do its most innovative thinking. The moments of inspiration you have while driving or in the shower aren’t coincidental. They’re a result of you taking a step back, whether you’re aware of it or not. When you leave your laptop or phone behind, something always happens. A new idea or a fresh perspective appears.

Here’s a challenge for you: Let yourself take a wonderful and indulgent break. Several breaks. Hell, get downright bored. Put airplane mode on for a while. Sit down. Lie down. Be still. Do nothing. Observe. Listen to your mind. Let it do what it does without judging it.

Wallow in it. Don’t be afraid of it. Push it as far as you can.

A spark of inspiration needs an empty cave.

Take proper breaks, and do it often. Completely clear your mind. Your next best idea depends on it.

This article was originally published on It has been republished here with permission.

Photo of person taking a break courtesy of BraunS/Getty Images.

Updated 6/19/2020