Expert Tips for Being Less Productive — Lidia Varesco Design

Lidia Varesco Design
4 min readAug 10, 2023

I follow many small business blogs and they frequently share tips for productivity. But lately-in honor of National Relaxation Day on August 15-I’ve been thinking of ditching the spreadsheets, time maps, and to-do lists, and trying to be less productive.

Heidi Stevens wrote a great article for the Chicago Tribune about the “misspent summers” of our youth and how kids are over-scheduled nowadays. I remember those lazy summers well and I say: adults are over-scheduled too. We try to pack productivity into every minute of the day. The pressure’s especially on if you’re a working parent and juggling child care or school schedules.

Downtime is good for your brain

And downtime is not just for fun, it’s been proven to positively affect our brains. According to research, “Downtime gives the [brain] a chance to take the lead and recharge our batteries, allowing us to approach tasks with a fresh perspective and renewed energy.”

My kids are currently on summer break and while it was sometimes hectic coordinating work schedules with camp pick-ups and drop-offs, I thoroughly enjoyed a few unscheduled-and unproductive-days with them. It not only let me rest my work brain but opened me up to new creative ideas.

Give yourself an excuse to slow down

Creating an “excuse” for yourself to take downtime can be the solution when it’s hard to slow down. For myself, switching out of work mode is hard-I need something to force me out of my routine.

My kids’ summer break-and the opportunity to unschedule myself-came at the perfect time. Taking a weekly class or making a standing date with a friend can help too.

Learn how to do nothing

The thought of doing nothing may be either scary or completely unfamiliar to many of us. But as Winnie the Pooh says in Pooh’s Little Instruction Book: “Don’t underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”

You can’t argue with this bear’s wise advice. I’ve definitely gotten insight and inspiration on bike rides where I just let my mind wander.

Take baby steps to be less busy

For me, I started out by not checking email on vacation. Then I realized I could also unplug from social media as it was another habit that could be emotionally-draining (not the vibe you want on vacation).

As Atomic Habits author James Clear says, “All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision.” Make one tiny decision to be less productive and see where it takes you.

Do some preparation before you jump in

Now you just can’t walk away from work and call it a day. It does take some time and effort to accommodate slowing down. This may mean informing your clients or team of your new hours or time off, putting in extra hours to get ahead of a deadline, or hiring someone to take over a project or a few days of work.

Don’t let guilt stand in the way

Many of us-especially small business owners or those in leadership positions-feel like we always have to be “on” and connected to our work. Taking time off feels guilty.

I learned several years ago that I can completely unplug while on vacation and the world will carry on without me just fine (and I won’t miss any life-changing opportunities). Drop the guilt-and your digital device-and get some rest.

Four ideas for being unproductive

  1. Take a day off in the middle of the week.
  2. Meet a friend for a leisurely coffee date.
  3. Take an afternoon exercise class or training session.
  4. Read a magazine or book for an hour-just for fun (not work).

And before you worry that slowing down will affect your productivity in the long run, a Harvard Business Review study showed that “Regular breaks from work can help reduce the risk of burnout and improve overall productivity.” So there’s no excuse not to give it a try.

And as Heidi Stevens points out, we all need the opportunity to go back to our summers at age 11: “Utterly unstructured, unscheduled and unenriching. It was delightful.”

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Originally published at on August 10, 2023.



Lidia Varesco Design

Empowering organizations and entrepreneurs to make a change through branding and creative marketing | Work-life champion | Founder of @bizmamas #BizMama