Downtime. I’m sorry, can you repeat that word again? I thought you said downtime. You must be thinking of the wrong person.
It seems like a lofty concept to have downtime but there is a hidden power found deep within this small pocket of time that is vastly under-utilized.
I refer to this extended time as Downtime and is the third part of the Rest Phase in The Energy Cycle – Sleep / Breaks / Downtime.
Here’s are two options:
- Listen to this episode from The Energy Edge Podcast (live link or on iTunes, Stitcher, etc.)
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We have to sleep but we don’t have to take breaks or downtime.
And I want to be clear out of the gate, Downtime is NOT a break.
Here’s the progression:
1. Breaks – Micro = Seconds / Mini = Minutes / Macro = many minutes (15-30) or chunks of time
2. Downtime = Hours
3. Sabbath = Half or Ideally Full Day
What is Downtime?
Official definition – a time of reduced activity or inactivity.
Read that again. a REDUCED activity or inactivity. Easy to say, difficult to actually implement.
But as you may know, I seem to make my own definitions, for example: a break means: Move the Body / Rest the Mind.
My definition of Downtime:
Time to Be NOT to Be On
Most of us are always on. Always going. Always in Production Mode. Oh how I know, I’m the one usually cracking the whip to get more done!
Time to be means, well, we’re not on and can just be ourselves. Hair down and feet up. Human Beings not Human Doings.
Downtime is something you look forward to engaging in – a sense of anticipation.
Downtime is not a waste of time but planned time – not looking at what you’re losing or not getting done but what you’re gaining and how much more you’ll get done will make all the difference in the hidden power of downtime.
Ironically, Downtime takes time.
We need to plan that it will take a few minutes to begin to connect with downtime. Our minds are usually still fully engaged in the last task.
The Ultimate Goal of Downtime = Feeling Refreshed
This means the whole point of taking this chunk of time out of my schedule is I will feel refreshed. Now, doesn’t that sound more appealing? A worthy end game?
Downtime is also margin, the additional space in our lives that allows us to breathe. We’re good at over scheduling and sucking any possible space in our lives.
This means avoiding scheduling everything back to back. Adding margin lowers our stress and allows us to have a more natural rhythm to our day which ironically allows us to be more productive in the end.
Margins are intentional and don’t just happen. We need to implement this needed space into our schedule.
Why Don’t We Take Downtime?
1. I don’t have the time especially extended time -this is easily the top reason cited on why we don’t take downtime. It requires a commitment to time.
2. Downtime feels unproductive – believe it or not, doing nothing is difficult especially to an over-achiever who is always used to doing something.
3. Downtime is a luxury I just can’t afford – maybe when I reach a certain level but certainly not now. This is my time to hustle not to kick back and relax.
4. Downtime feels lazy – it’s an unusual feeling to experience downtime especially when others are working and I’m just laying around doing n0thing.
5. We downplay the value of downtime -and this gets to the heart of the issue, we just don’t see the benefits or possibly never experienced the benefits of downtime
Question. When was the last time you had a half day off or Full day of work? (May have been a holiday) What did it feel like? Did you look forward to it? Benefit from it?
If we’re honest, we really enjoyed it. But it was almost forced upon us. Why not gain from this natural rhythm by adding downtime as part of our week?
What Do You Do During Downtime?
Well you don’t do…
- Work – normal day job stuff
- Things that feel like work – cleaning the house / bills / anything you dread
1. Escape from the Norm – we know the norm all too well but we must escape it and for an extended period of time to benefit from downtime
2. Play – huh? Seriously, play. Nothing beats that childlike time of not having a care in the world and enjoying recess or going outside just to play. It’s in you, I promise. Maybe hire one of your kids to show you how to do this gift in life again.
3. Rest – this may be the first area most of us need because we’re just plain tired. This is relaxing by slowing down to catching up on sleep. It could be in a form of a nap or just allowing our bodies to catch up with our minds.
4. Daydream– this means allowing your mind to roam free. Nothing specific to solve or work through but just think about whatever you want to think about (that is relaxing) and doesn’t feel like work. You will be amazed at some of the ideas that come out of daydreaming.
Ideas to Find Downtime.
1. Find an Interest – what would you like to learn? Play? What do or did you like to do that brought you joy? Stress release? Something you’re good at? – draw / paint / build / create / write. You have interests so rekindle them. Here’s a hint: when have you said “I’d love to do this if I had the time” and there’s your answer.
2. Find an Adventure – many of us are adventurous and may struggle just lying around the house. But an adventure? I’m all for it! Consider hiking, taking half or full day trip. How about something spur of the moment that all you needed was a block of time? Here’s your chance.
3. Find a Luxury – spoiling ourselves seems like an after thoughts but could be the perfect starting point for downtime. Schedule a massage, manicure, facial and just enjoy being pampered. See how you feel afterwards and you’ll have a completely different outlook on downtime.
4. Find a Rabbit Trail – what activity such as a book or TV show do you want or could get lost in? For my wife and I was the TV show, LOST. For me personally it was the show, Breaking Bad. There are rabbit trails out there you can just chase and see where it will take you.
5. Find an Activity – Date Night with a Spouse. Family Game or Movie Night. Attend a sporting event. All three are personal favorites.
Now, sometimes Downtime may need to be alone. You simply need to recharge by yourself. But other times, Downtime may need people you enjoy – spouse / family / friends.
The key is knowing what YOU need to feel refreshed and allows you time to be and not to be on.
Yet of course anything of value is going to have its challenges and downtime is nothing different. You must find the hidden power of downtime.
1. Challenging career / season – the reality is life has its winter seasons where life is simply challenging and difficult. But, if you know and accept the true benefit of downtime, you’ll schedule it in to actually make this season not only more bearable but productive and possibly enjoyable along the way.
2. Having kids and the busyness of your family – this is my world ALL the time with five kids. School, sports, church, events. The schedule is part of our life but all the more reason to schedule in downtime to have energy for the family who matter the most to me.
3. Your wiring – your temperament may be go go go and downtime is asking you to stop stop stop. Well, kinda. Remember, Downtime is asking us to be not to be on and that may mean being active. You choose what allows you to feel refreshed and overcome this challenge.
But how do you implement Downtime…?
1. Plan For It – This is the WHEN Downtime will happen. It needs to be scheduled. I know that sounds like an oxymoron but what gets scheduled gets done and we need it to be a priority. Schedule the block to be not to be on. Here’s a Pro Tip: Think Small on Weeknights and Think Large on Weekends. Find something small you can do each night for downtime to give you some needed mental rest. Then hit is large and really do it big on the weekends when you have larger blocks of time.
2. Be Prepared For It -This is the WHAT will happen in Downtime. It may require set up. You may need to do some research, order tickets or items. You also need to go into Downtime realizing it will take awhile to get into true Downtime.
3. Look Forward To It – Nothing beats anticipation to build excitement. Kids are GREAT at this one. And when you look forward to something, you’re also less likely to delay or cancel.
In the End…
Downtime may be foreign to you right now in your life. Don’t give up on the concept even if you’re already begging for more time in every area of your life.
Remember, you need more energy NOT more time.
And taking Downtime is exactly you need to regain your energy and hence part of the Energy Cycle.
Find the time to be not always to be on and leverage this gift of feeling refreshed. If you search, you’ll find the hidden power of downtime and be amazed you existed this long without it. Try me.