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When was the last time you took a moment to breathe? Can you recall the last time you felt well rested? Or had a day to do absolutely nothing?

Sadly, most people can’t.

Now, more than ever, people fill their schedules to the brim with tasks that feel so necessary in the moment but which, in reality, are so trivial. They make to-do lists that run miles long, packing them with reminders to get an important assignment done at work, call the hair salon for an appointment, buy some groceries on the way home, and so on.

You tell yourself that you constantly take on a plethora of activities in order to improve your life. It makes sense to take on a second job, to join another club at school, and to help out every family member on Saturday even if you haven’t had the time in your schedule to sleep eight full hours in months.

It’s much easier to do almost anything incessantly than to spend time doing nothing.

What people don’t realize is this: Doing nothing gives you the chance to grow. Being alone without obligation–without the nagging feeling that you’re doing less than you should–allows you to look inward. Without an activity to distract your mind, you must think about yourself.

The famous financier J.P. Morgan used to insist on taking two months off every year. “I can get done in 10 months what I could never do in 12,” he used to say.

It seems that the secret to success in business and in life is actually in finding the ability to be comfortable just being.

Many companies today–including Apple, Google, Nike, and AOL Time Warner–offer employees a variety of programs to help them find a healthy headspace, from meditation to yoga to stress reduction.

When you have the time to think about yourself, you will inevitably return to your obligations refreshed and work calmly and exponentially more productively.

Questioning your daily activities forces you to reevaluate where you are in life, and most important, why you do everything you do. If you have the time to remind yourself why you are passionate about your work, you will–without question–be able to improve your performance.

Take a step back from being overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and take the time to reach your full potential.

This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article above was originally published at

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