Everyone can do large amounts of work. Sometimes they have to. Pizza nights to squash bugs before launch, evenings and weekends packing before the move, mountains of prep for due diligence. Sometimes it’s possible to do large amounts of high quality work. But not forever.

Too much for too long – when pizza become the norm not the exception – quality always suffers.

Two kinds of thinking time

Even when I’m crazy-busy, to do my best work I have to make space for two kinds of thinking time:

Think about what I’m working on: this is work-the-problem time. Gathering information, people and ideas to stir and stew before it’s time to make a decision and move. No set methods – sleeping and showering can be as useful as white boarding and brain storming – but it’s an active process before it’s time to act.

Think about something else: sometimes I need to wash everything out and reset. I can’t stop myself thinking so I do something active that demands the total attention of my thinking muscles, like running with a podcast or grabbing the photograph. Forcing myself to stop,  position, set up, frame, focus, be still, and shoot.

Standard operating procedure

A mad dash shouldn’t be standard operating procedure. Doing without thinking takes everyone off track.

Leave space to do the things outside of work that make you who you are. Make the time to take photographs – or whatever it is you do to get out of work mode: running, jumping, reading, yoga. Something that forces your brain to disconnect from the day to day.

The upside? You’ll do the day job better.

Skippy Strategy: Next time you’re elbow deep in work with no end in sight, take an hour to do something active that you love. Forget the work. When you go back, take one more moment to feel your focus coming back.