In an early episode of the excellent TV series Mad Men, agency partner Roger Sterling walks into creative director Don Draper's office to find Don gazing off into space.
"I'll never get used to the fact that most of the time it looks like you're doing nothing," Sterling quips.
Sterling should take comfort in the fact that our best creative work is done in times of reflection and idleness. Studies have shown that the wandering mind is more likely to have a "Eureka!" moment of clarity and creativity. Taking breaks and zoning out from everyday tasks gives our brains time to do a kind of long-term, big-picture thinking that immediate engagement with bosses and clients and email and meetings does not.
Designer Stefan Sagmeister takes these findings seriously. He works time off into his schedule in a way that will make you green with envy. Every seven years, Sagmeister closes his New York City–based design studio for an entire year of creative rejuvenation. During his sabbatical, Sagmeister "works," but not for clients. (He's serious about that, too. Last year, he turned down an opportunity to design a poster for the Obama campaign while he was on sabbatical.)