6 Ways to Recharge

Alexandra Samuel
4 min readApr 10, 2024
Watching The Lazarus Project is one the ways I recharge at the end of a workday

We can only sustain our attention for so long before we need a cognitive break.

That’s one of the key points in Attention Span, by Gloria Mark. Her book takes decades of research on human attention and pinpoints the reasons our devices make it so hard to focus.

Listening to a book like this — something that’s work-related, but that I can digest while knitting or going for a walk — is one way that I integrate breaks into my day. After years of working remotely, I’ve developed the habit of keeping different books, shows and articles on the go, so that it’s easy to take different kinds of cognitive breaks throughout the day and week. My recent brain breaks have included….

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
This fun supervillain caper lured me in with the promise of a heroine whose power lies in spreadsheet mastery. Sadly, there are not that many passages about spreadsheets, but I suspect that is not a big drawback for most people: There is plenty of action and silliness, in a nice departure from the usual superhero stories. This is the kind of thing I listen to when I just want to chill and don’t necessarily have a lot of attention.

Day by Michael Cunningham
This story about an intertwined family both before and mid-pandemic reminds me of how soul-quenching it is to immerse myself in a more ambitious piece of fiction. It’s been my morning listen, great for inspiring a day of deep thinking and creativity.

The Lazarus Project A British show about secret government agents who travel through time to stop apocalyptic events. It’s mind-bending enough to require pretty close to full attention. When Rob and I have a sci-fi nerd show that is not only fun to watch, but fun to discuss and argue about, it’s like two times the recharge power.

Upload This near-future Amazon show about a dead guy who is reincarnated as a digital upload provided a relaxing and goofy show while sipping my morning coffee or doing a bit of knitting. The slight relationship to my work (thanks to the AI and tech references) inevitably prodded me off the sofa and into my work day.

The New Look An Apple TV show about Christian Dior and Coco Chanel at the end of World War II, as a way into the history of French complicity and resistance during the Nazi occupation. This is currently my most demanding show, so it’s the thing I save for a weekend morning when I want to give something my full attention.

Recharging is work

Over many years of working from home, I’ve come to see that recharging is part of my work.

I sometimes worry that I use my early morning or evening hours for something more “productive” than watching TV or listening to a novel. But I need some daily and weekly windows when I can switch off my hyperactive brain, in the way I used to switch by having a drink or smoking a joint. Fiction is my off switch, and it doesn’t come with a hangover.

It’s hard to embrace the off switch in a culture that puts so much emphasis on doing and making and being productive. Knitting and crocheting has made it a little easier, because I can see some kind of output from all the hours I’m logging on the sofa.

But the biggest shift has come from recognizing down time as inextricable from professional effectiveness — because turning off my brain for a few hours a day is what allows me to turn it back on at full power.



Alexandra Samuel

Speaker on hybrid & remote work. Author, Remote Inc. Contributor to Wall Street Journal & Harvard Business Review. https://AlexandraSamuel.com/newsletter