The Case for Offline Breaks: Sudoku Books and Better Rest

In the age of “everything is an app now,” you may wonder why so many puzzle books are still produced. After all, you can download for free any number of puzzles and games on your phone and carry them with you forever. You don’t even need a pencil anymore. It’s just you, your phone, and a couple of thousand intrusive ads (lol). That’s the attitude I had for a very long time, watching my mother carry her trusty sudoku book wherever she went. I wondered why she needed to have a physical book when she had an app as well.

And then, of course, I grew up and got a job where I look at a screen all day. Electronic activities that were previously restful, such as scrolling through social media or playing computer games, simply did not feel like rest anymore. These activities felt more like useless eye strain and weren’t helpful. I needed offline breaks!

A blank example killer sudoku grid
An example of an empty Killer Sudoku puzzle

Addicted to Killer Sudoku

I’ve been addicted to this ~relatively new~ version of sudoku called Killer Sudoku for about five years now.  It’s the same game you know and love, but with an added sub-grid of divisions. The divisions are randomized in shape and size and have sums attached to each of them. Numbers within a subdivisionSudokuall add up to the sum shown, cannot be repeated, and should still adhere to traditional sudoku rules. The additional grid allows you to solve puzzles that start out entirely blank. It’s pretty cool! However, as I mentioned before, doing the puzzles online or in an app was burning me out.

All this nerding out of mine is leading up to one thing. On a whim, I bought a killer sudoku book, and it’s my favorite thing ever. I love doing my little puzzles, and zoning out while I add up numbers in my head. I’ve even formed habits and patterns around when I work on puzzles throughout my day, specifically:

  • Before I context-switch at work
  • Every time I need a break from the screen
  • When I’m bored or waiting for something
  • Just for fun :)

Here are the benefits I’ve observed since I started using this Sudoku book on my breaks.

A Full-Stop Break from Screens

There is widespread knowledge on why less/no screen time is ideal. However, in software development, that’s pretty difficult to accomplish. Giving my eyes small breaks greatly improved my ability to last without eye strain throughout my work day. It’s also pretty common advice in computer-heavy fields to take 15-minute screen breaks for every hour of screen time. I don’t necessarily get to that level, but any effort there is a good effort.

Physical Separation Between Work and Rest

Another thing beyond screen time that impacts your ability to work or rest is your surroundings. It’s a lot harder for me to relax while looking at the same things in the same place I’ve been at all day. Even with video games or puzzles, it just doesn’t feel the same. With the puzzle book, I can close my screen, get up, sit somewhere else, and solve a puzzle for a bit. It keeps my computer time more work-focused, and my non-computer time less work-focused, creating healthier boundaries around my focus and intentions.

My sudoku book decorated with Washi tape and some extra stickers
My Sudoku book decorated with washi tape stickers and some other random stickers

Engaged and Interesting Rest Periods

With something like a Sudoku book, my focus becomes fully involved in the puzzle I am solving. This allows me to fully take my mind off of whatever I was doing before. I mentioned earlier that I utilize the puzzles when I intend to context-switch. And it works! I find it hard to ruminate on a previous or upcoming issue when I’m trying to do quick arithmetic in my head instead. It clears my brain of previous context and lets me slide into the next thing with ease. The Sudoku puzzles also keep me much happier and more engaged than any video game I’ve found, and that joy keeps me going through my day.

Pavlov-ing Myself with a physical object

It’s true, I have classically conditioned myself into better rest. Focusing on the physical object rather than my phone allows me to center not only the activity I’m doing but also the context I’m in. I have certain pens I use, the book itself, and a more comfortable location to set the stage for a period of rest, focus, and fun!

The inside of my sudoku book! Image shows 4 completed puzzles in colored pen.
Some examples of completed puzzles in my book

You may not want to become a Sudoku wiz, but there are so many activity books out there. There are watercolor books, coloring books, logic puzzles, crosswords, and word searches, to name a few. Whatever it may be, I hope you’ll consider using a tangible activity to create meaningful rest for yourself.


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