Why I take sketch breaks instead of internet surfing

Posted on Oct 26, 2011 in Web Development | 16 comments

Staring at a pair of monitors for 10+ hours a day can get rather taxing. That’s why I pepper in small breaks throughout the day, like most people. When I need five minutes to untangle my brain I reach for my pile of art pens and the closest post it note (the back of a print out will also suffice).

Compared to the things I used to do on breaks, like surfing the web or secretly playing a iOS game, sketching has a defined end point. Once you put the pen down, nothing jumps up on my monitor or flashes on my desk to tempt me to resume. By doing something nontechnical, it’s very unlikely the break will stretch on for too long because once I’m done doodling, I’m not thinking about it at all. The inverse is also true, once I’m doodling my mind couldn’t be farther from my daily work, which is more therapeutic than getting caught up in any digital distraction.

You don’t have to be Picasso either. By no means am I an artist, nor do I do much doodling in my spare time. I just grab a pen let my mind wander for a few minutes a day to clear my head. I don’t plan on framing these half-hearted gems or having a self-indulgent showing at some gallery because that’s just ludicrous. Point is, doodling only works if you don’t take it too seriously.

Here’s some examples of how I don’t let my artistic ineptitude hinder my hobby:


I implore you give it a shot sometime!

Follow on Lifehacker &and Hackernews!

Since I posted this, HackerNews has developed a pretty good discussion around my post here.

Lifehacker repusblished this article here as well.


  1. Actually, you’re quite good at it.

  2. When I first saw the title I misread it as “stretch breaks”, so I immediately stood up and started stretching…

    Either way, thanks for reminding me to take a break!

  3. I found this post on HN while web surfing, not doodling. But now I think I should doodle more, which might preclude finding good ideas like this one via web surfing. So I’m a little torn but I will indeed doodle. I also recommend the stretch break and a little walking – good to get the body moving once in a while.

    Doodle time!

  4. have you seen this Ted talk on Doodling? you’re actually improving your thinking :)
    “Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite!”

  5. Genius idea!!! Will make sure to pick this up at my next job! I used to doodle like crazy when I was a kid, and it’s a pass time that I kind of miss. I find fiddling with an instrument like a guitar for a bit also helps, of course this is harder to get away with in most offices.

  6. Ditto. With a two year old in the house though, my masterpieces are typically executed in crayon. Does the job. http://twitter.com/#!/Mama411_/status/129703839824744448/photo/1

  7. Oh yeah – I’m all about this. I do lots of calligraphy/graffiti doodling. I can’t even help it.. I’ve done it for years. Every margin on every paper is covered in tags.

  8. Nice idea, I’m gonna give this a shot.

  9. I definitely agree with you that non-technical things are best for breaks. I like to read books about topics that have absolutely nothing to do with what I’m working on. Just a chapter or two usually does the trick and then I can resume my work.

  10. Nice drawings and a good way to relax. Here’s another thought… the pencil and paper are still technology. They’re still human inventions. Try taking a short stroll through the woods, or sitting on a fallen tree, and just observing and thinking, without the technology demanding your attention. It’s fun and interesting and is really good for breaks.

  11. Sounds good – I wish I could bring my digital piano in the office so I could take breaks and play…

  12. I think that the hardest thing for me about taking sketch breaks, is that when the time I’ve allotted myself is up for my break, I just want to keep drawing. It’s a very theraputic excercize, that not only helps me develop creative ideas, but also de-stress.

    And since Jim Plush put up a link to the awesome TED talk by Sunni Brown, I thought I’d share this other sweet video about doodling: http://vimeo.com/21119709

  13. I haven’t doodled since I was in school.

    I gotta give this a shot…time to find my old sketch book.

  14. Funny that even though drawing is a focus for me, I waste ridiculous amounts of break time surfing the web. I’m on board, Glen – thanks for the inspiration!

  15. I work on I.T. Support and mainly sketch whilst I am on the phone to customers. I draw about 2 or 3 pictures a day and these are drawn in 10-15 stretches until they are completed. I often draw seascapes which is strange, as where I am working is in the middle of England far away from the sea.

  16. Agree very much with this post, when I was a kid I loved to sketch then was ridiculed at one point and lost all my confidence with it :( This is inspiring so thanks very much!


  1. Why I Take Sketch Breaks Instead of Internet Surfing | Got2.Me - [...] Sketch Breaks | Glen Elkins [...]
  2. » Sketch Breaks Bending Spoons With Mind Bullets - [...] Why I take sketch breaks instead of internet surfing | Glen Elkins Blog. [...]
  3. Why I Take Sketch Breaks Instead of Internet Surfing | The Irish Timez - Breaking the truth from Ireland ... - [...] Sketch Breaks | Glen Elkins [...]
  4. Breaks at Work at Aaron's Ramblings - [...] Why I take sketch breaks instead of internet surfing | Glen Elkins Blog Why I take sketch breaks instead …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy this password:

* Type or paste password here:

11,928 Spam Comments Blocked so far by Spam Free Wordpress

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>