Downtime. That illusive thing we all say we are going to have in our life, but many of us forget about because we are so busy with life and work that we do not know how to slow down until we fall into bed at night, exhausted. Many of us never take downtime. We just let it linger in front of us, knowing we need it but not able to get there; to experience it.
But we need downtime.
We need to take time for ourselves. We need to spend time with family and friends. It can’t always be about work, sometimes it has to be about us. We need to sleep in on occasion, spend a morning in bed, do some therapeutic journaling, meditate and do yoga, or go for a leisurely walk. We have to spend time with family, having barbecues and spending days at the beach. And we need to hang out with our friends; fishing, hiking, or just sitting around talking.
Relaxation is important, as is doing fun things and being around others.
How can we free up space in our schedules for downtime?
First, we must make downtime a priority. Starting right now, get out the calendar and decide what day(s) you will have your downtime. I suggest two days a week, in a row. At least to start.
Why two day’s in a row? Because if we only have one day, or a part of one day, we will work on cleaning the house or running errands. This is not downtime, and shouldn’t be treated as such. So we take two days off in a row, stopping work around four in the afternoon the day before to do the chores and run those errands.
Make these regular days off, and schedule them for each week.
Then go back through the calendar and give yourself a personal day every two or three months. This could be a mid-week day you take for yourself, or you could add it on to one of your weekends for a three-day stretch.
Going through the calendar again, mark off any holidays you feel you need to take. And then decide on two one-week vacations or one two-week vacations, if you can afford to. Or at least a one-week vacation.
How do we take downtime?
As an example, mark on your calendar that work will stop on Friday afternoon at four o’clock. At that time, go about running the errands that you’ll need to do before Monday, then bring home some take out from a favorite restaurant or something to put on the grill. After dinner, have everyone in your house help with the chores so those will be out-of-the-way for the weekend. Remember to empty the dishwasher so you can refill it throughout the weekend.
On Saturday morning you might want to sleep late, relaxing with a tea on the back deck after waking. Maybe you’ll have breakfast as a family, then go out for a walk. Or maybe yoga is more your style. The point is to take it slow. You want some time to yourself, but also time with your family.
After lunch, maybe you and your family would like to take in a movie or go fishing. Something fun, but somewhat relaxing. On the other-hand, you might be itching to go sailing or maybe you want to throw a barbecue for your entire family.
You might do something else together the second day, or maybe go shopping with friends instead.
Want to spend a day alone? Wake up, enjoy your tea while writing in your journal. Take a smoothie out the back deck and enjoy the weather, then pack a lunch and go for a hike. When you return, watch a favorite movie or read a book. Relax for a while. Enjoy the peace.
The point is that you are taking time away from work and spending it with people you love, even if that person is you!
How can downtime help you to succeed?
First, taking regular downtime helps to clear your mind. I don’t know about you, but my brain sometimes feels so full of differing thoughts and ideas that I can have a hard time concentrating on what I need to get done. A walk through the neighborhood or on the bike paths can help me to clear the clutter, allowing my mind to take a break so I can be more productive later on.
Second, this downtime helps with creativity. When I’m feeling stuck, I go for a walk to clear my mind and all of a sudden I have all these new ideas popping into my head. It is great! (I’m wondering if there is an app for my phone that will allow me to speak into it so I don’t have to stop to type things into the notes. If you know of anything, please let me know!)
Third, my walks aid me in organizing my thoughts, so I can more clearly move on with a project.
Fourth, active downtime helps to get or keep you in shape. This means you’ll have more energy.
No time for downtime?
I hear ya! I go through these periods myself where I’m so busy with my day job at the inn and a writing project that I’m at things all day and half the night, sometimes for weeks. I try not to make a habit of this, but sometimes an important project will necessitate the extra time.
What I try to do is take a morning or an evening off every two or three days. If I don’t, then I know I’ll ware myself out. This happened just recently, and it forced me to take two whole days off just to rest. I did minimal cleaning those two days, made sure I fed myself and stayed hydrated, and started re-watching Revolution. I had made myself sick, and needed to take care of myself.
What project am I working on that I wasn’t allowing for real days off? The first drafts of three novelettes. I’m about half way through the third, and have been working on them since before the new year. The last few weeks I’d been on a real writing streak, finishing book two and starting book three. My body reminded me I needed some time off, and I took it.
What benefits do you notice with downtime? Or what struggles do you find you’re going through trying to plan for some downtime?
Enjoy your day!