When To Turn Your Brain Off

Brainswitch - OFFThinking isn’t always necessary or helpful. There are a number of occasions throughout your day in which thinking is actually a bad idea. In these instances, train yourself to stop thinking and just do it ($5 in royalties to Nike). You’ll be much happier with your decisions and proactive nature.

The reason you don’t need your brain for these scenarios is that “yes” is always the best choice. On that note, there are probably some situations in which an auto-response of “no” would be helpful. We make so many decisions that it’s nice to have a few of them made ahead of time. Here are some parties to which your brain should not be invited.

Turn your brain off when…

Getting Up In The Morning

When your alarm sounds, get up. That’s it. No thinking. No gauging if you need more sleep or not. Just get out of bed and start your day. If you have to, take a nap later. I’ve realized that my ideal relationship to my alarm clock is a master/slave relationship in which I am the slave. I’m not actually a slave to the alarm clock, but to myself, because the alarm clock represents a smarter version of me deciding (the night before) when it would be best to wake up. When the alarm beckons, I must answer!

One thing I have experienced is that if you let yourself think too much about getting up, you’ll lose every time. The moment you wake up in the morning, your brain’s chemical levels are likely abnormal, as if you’ve been drugged. It’s not a good time to be making a critical decision like how much time you’ll have today. Make waking up a mindless activity and you won’t regret it. Go ahead, walk to the shower like a zombie. It’s for the best.

Considering Exercise

Recently, I had an inkling of an idea to do a few pull-ups. I wasted no time setting up my pull-up bar. When it comes to exercise, “why not?” is a great mindset. Of course, if I sat down and pondered for 20 minutes the pros and cons of exercising soon, I would have convinced myself not to. Whenever you think about working out, drop to the floor and do a few push-ups just because you can and it’s good for you.

There’s no need for pressure either, when you can just do one push-up!

If you’re like me, the lazy part of you is best friends with your brain, and if you let them talk, you’ll be taking a nap or watching TV all the time. But if you don’t let yourself think about it and start exercising instead, you’ll get in the active mood. Consistent exercise long term increases your daily energy levels and chisels you into better shape, both of which make exercise easier and more enjoyable.

It’s a positive cycle to get into, and no thinking is necessary. Hmm…maybe that’s why strong people are stereotyped as dumb oafs?

You Have An Idea To Read Or Write Something

Want to read a book? Go! Want to write a novel? Start!

Reading and writing are common abilities in today’s information society. But being well-read and being able to write well are far less common, and they both come with excellent benefits. Naturally, you are well-read when you read a lot, and you write well by practicing writing. It’s no coincidence that a high percentage of the brightest and most successful people were/are voracious readers.

Benjamin Franklin is one of my role models; he loved to read and started the first public library in the USA.

Writing is and will remain a key form of communication, and those who write well generally have a better time with business and personal communication. If you want to write better, reading will help with that too.

If you have the idea to read a good book or practice writing, take the opportunity without second thought. There will be no regret unless you read the Twilight book series, which gradually shuts your brain down as you read it. I’ve never read the Twilight series, so that isn’t fair for me to say, but glittering vampires aren’t exactly the most intellectual subject matter either.

Pondering Cleaning Up

“Hmm…maybe I should clean this mess.”

Do it!

A clean living area enhances mental clarity and reduces stress. Cleaning, unless done unnecessarily, is always a worthwhile investment of time. If you get the idea to clean, it probably means you have the time to do it too. There’s no need to have an internal debate on straightening things up. Clean up and enjoy the results today and tomorrow.

Do each of these four without thinking, and you’ll be a smarter, fitter, cleaning machine with plenty of time in your day.

It’s a no brainer. +2 pun points -2 lame pun penalty = nevermind

About the Author

I'm lazy, but you can call me Stephen. When you're as lazy as I am, you need superior strategies to live well. My strategies are so effective that I'm productive every single day. As the world tries to figure out how to always stay motivated, I create strategies that don't require it.

Douglas Prater

Stephen – Brilliant article, sir. I found your advice about not overthinking exercise particularly insightful because it’s so easy to let the laziness demons in. I read once (I believe it was in “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”, and I’m paraphrasing) that sitting around having an intellectual debate about the optimum numbers of sets, reps, load percentage, and rest time is only useful up to a point, and it can go on forever. Meanwhile, I’ll be at the gym.

On a related note, one time NOT to set your brain to auto-pilot is when you get hungry…Do you really need that cookie? If you tear into that bag of Doritos will you be able stop yourself from eating the whole thing? In those situations – like in your alarm clock example – it’s better to trust that your non-hungry self had a better plan. Especially if your non-hungry self proactively prepared some nourishing alternatives.

Stephen Guise

Hey Douglas,

It’s good to hear from you. Yeah, I’ve been the guy pouring over exercise theory before. My problem has often been timing. I’d think, “it’s not an optimal time to exercise because I haven’t eaten in 2.8 hours and it is after 7:30 PM, and then I’d never do it. At some point you have to admit that poorly timed, imperfect exercise 5 days a week is better than the perfect workout once per month. 🙂

Yeah! Food is a great example of when to use your brain. I am a proponent of brain usage in most things. It seems that in any area where you have decided beforehand what the best thing to do is, when the time comes, do it and disregard your in-the-moment feelings.


Hey Stephen! Very interesting article indeed. If I may add my two cents about the food thing plus a possible addition to this list…

With food I find I overeat when I’m thinking about something else while eating. For example, watching t.v. and snacking. BUT if I’m actually really focused on what I’m eating… the taste, smell, chewing of it all it pulls me into the present moment. When I’m paying attention to this I enjoy food more but also will notice if I’m eating just because I’m bored in which case I’ll stop eating.

As for a possible addition to the list: When You’re Thinking About Talking To Somebody – Just Do It! The actual risk of talking to someone you find interesting is super incredibly low. Even if they don’t want to talk it really doesn’t matter. The fact that you walked up and said ‘hello’ without overthinking it will make whatever subsequent conversation that much easier, it will be natural. If they don’t want to talk, no big. The question of whether you should have talked to them won’t gnaw at you later.

– J.


Your first two points respond especially well to autopilot. My alarm starts buzzing at 4am on weekdays. I never actually want to get up, but if I don’t make a move within the first 20 seconds the battle’s lost.

So I don’t even think about it.

I simply jump out of bed and get moving. Oh, and then drink half a pot of coffee to keep me moving.

As for exercise, your suggestion of doing a few push-ups whenever you don’t feel like exercising is spot on. I’ve done that and it really works. If you can make exercise a part of your daily routine, instead of fighting against yourself on whether to train or not, the benefits will carry over into every other aspect of your life.

Sometimes our brains are our own worst enemy. Fortunately, we can shut ’em down when the need calls for it.

Excellent article.


Stephen Guise

I love the addition of talking to somebody! If I hadn’t shut my brain off, I surely would have included that one because it’s a great fit in this list. I think you’re right about conversation being more natural if initiated in that way, too.

Eating is definitely something best thought about. I wrote an article a while back called “why do I eat so much?” where I referenced a couple of studies done that confirmed my suspicions. They placed out snack bowls, and found a major increase in food consumption when more food was in the bowl. Then they tested out clear vs opaque jars and 46% more was eaten from the clear jar. It shows that we naturally won’t think about portion size and eating in general. It has to be intentional.

Stephen Guise

Wow, half a pot of coffee? That’s a lot of coffee. I’m sure it really gets you going! I might need the whole pot if I was waking up at 4 AM, haha. I’m getting up at 8 AM now (early for me) and I’ll gradually scale back to as early as 5:30 AM.

For exercise, I’ve been taking the One Push-Up Challenge, where I have to do at least one push-up every day. I’ve only once done just the one push-up, and it serves as a brilliant spark for when I need to exercise. All those days I’ve only done several push-ups have actually made a difference in my strength and energy levels too.

Hmm…I might shut my brain down later today to get in a solid workout. 🙂



Oh my goodness, my brain has that conversation with the alarm clock every single morning! The only times I actually get up exactly when I need to is when I have something really exciting that I can’t wait to do, and I pop out of bed instantly (well… maybe not instantly). Recently I’ve been having trouble falling asleep every night, so when I wake up, my brain instantly knows that I definitely need to sleep for at least another hour. I suppose if I just went ahead and got up without listening to my brain, then I would be a little more tired the next night, and would probably fall asleep quicker. Aha! I’m onto you, brain! Tonight’s the night!

Also, I think another good time to turn off your brain is when you’re going to bed at night (and probably like an hour before then). My brain usually thinks it’s the most productive when my body is trying to go to sleep. I come up with the most ingenious ideas, and plan out the perfect day, as well as next few months of my life… none of which I ever seem to remember in the morning. I’ve heard that it’s a good idea to keep a notebook next to your bed, and when you have thoughts like that, jot them down and then forget them til morning. Maybe I’ll try that too. Mmk, I’m done. 🙂

Stephen Guise

I can relate with the exciting thing the next day. In those times, I wonder why it can’t always be like that. When I first launched Deep Existence, I would get up early and write for it because it was so fun and exciting to me to own a website. Now, of course, I hate it. Just kidding! I still love it. 🙂

Oooh, I like that. Turn the brain off at night and then again when you wake up. Haha, very late one night (nearly asleep) I recorded an idea on a voice note on my phone and I had no idea what it meant the next day.

I wonder if this late night brainstorming is a form of discontent or regret…as in you don’t feel like you’ve done enough for the day or in your life. So then your mind goes crazy with plans to improve. Just a thought…

It is a good idea to keep a note capturing device nearby, especially if you have a lot of night ideas. My ideas have been coming early since I’ve been waking up at 8, and it’s nice because then I have time to do something about them!


I bet you’re right! So often I am really ambitious about what I will accomplish that day, and rarely do I get it all done… (probably because all my goals are made in bed the night before, so they aren’t realistic), and then I feel discontented with the day. And I don’t feel better until I make thorough plans of how I will correct that the following day. What a terrible cycle!

Stephen Guise

I know exactly what you mean. I just wrote about this (I call it fluctuating ambition) and submitted it as a guest post to another blog. I’ll let you know when it’s up.

My theory though is that the night time dreaming is the “correct” one. Because we’re removed from the action aspect, we’re fearless with our ideas, as we should be. It’s the next day version of us who needs to shape up!

Emmanuel Obarhua

Hi Stephen, I always love the info shared here. I never knew we have the power to control the way we think. You should keep this going cos I am always inspired reading your blog.

Stephen Guise

Thanks very much Emmanuel! We do have power over the way we think, and it makes a huge difference in life. It’s great to have you here.


I usually wake up earlier than my alarm. My brain just tells me to wake up.


I like the idea about the alarm clock. I always go through this 10min – hour long battle of “Should I get up or should I sleep in?” usually sleeping in triumphs. what I’m going to try this morning when I wake up is just mindlessly stretching and then jumping out of bed without a thought.

Stephen Guise

Hey Mike, how has it worked for you? Did you try getting up without thinking?

Stephen Guise

That’s great Louise. Your internal clock is finely tuned!

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