The definition of downtime is pretty simple: a time of reduced activity or inactivity; consciously choosing to do nothing; being non-goal focused; necessary to prevent burnout.
What does your relationship with time look like? How does thinking about time make you feel? Is time effortless like a breath of fresh air—or does your time feel strained and difficult to navigate? For some, time can pass by slowly during the day, as if they have too much of it. When that happens, it’s easier to become bored and unmotivated about investing those hours toward achieving your goals. Or are you one of those people who thinks there aren’t enough hours in the day to complete important tasks, take care of loved ones, and pursue your own goals and dreams? Whether time is going by slowly or fleetingly, we all are guilty of mindlessly working as a means to an end—instead of working with intention for the best desired outcome.
Most of us are givers who give until there’s almost nothing left for ourselves. We can also get so caught up in the rat race and crossing off action items that we don’t even realize we are depriving our brains of the necessary relaxation time that helps your mind reach 100% maximum potential. Constantly pushing ourselves to be successful without taking the proper time to recharge and reset can counteractively cause poorer performance. If you’re feeling like your days are frantic or chaotic, maybe you aren’t putting aside enough time for yourself and are neglecting your own need for a downtime session.
Doing Nothing is Okay
Imagine taking a block of time for yourself to do absolutely nothing. At least, to do something where you are able to mindlessly enjoy the fruits of being “out of office”—literally and metaphorically. Maybe it’s the time you spend on your drive home from work, listening to a podcast or music. Maybe it’s three minutes of meditation when you first wake up. Or even a few minutes while you’re drinking your morning coffee. You can fit downtime into all those small windows of opportunity the day offers, instead of finding one big chunk of time (which can be tough if you’re already feeling like you don’t have enough time in your day). Downtime means you can let your mind wander without the looming anxiety of needing to know exactly what to do next. Innately, this may not sit well with you or seem like a good use of time especially when it’s a societal norm to never stop pushing yourself. In reality, the impact of downtime on the brain and nervous system can be more rewarding than the cyclical rat race we put ourselves through.
You need to create a space that gives you time to think and dream. The everyday hustle and bustle of life can keep you from doing that and, in turn, take you further from your goal, not closer to it.
Finding Seven Extra Hours Every Week
In a time management workshop I recently taught, I asked people what they’d want to do if they could reclaim one hour per day—or seven extra hours per week. The answers ranged from sitting with the family for dinner, to going on a hike, to just having some quiet time to think. Some people direct messaged me during this exercise, and several of them said the same thing. “I’m crying while you talk about this. I don’t give myself space to do any of these things.”
How sad is that? But what if you did give yourself the time? What if you took one hour per day, every single day, and used it to do those things you are missing out on right now? Would you have that time you need to be creative, willing, free-thinking, and spontaneous?
According to Dr. David Rock of the NeuroLeadership Institute, when we consciously choose downtime, we are disconnecting ourselves from our habitual and linear way of thinking. From a neurological perspective, the brain’s default network is made up of parts of the brain that are more active during passive tasks than during tasks that require focused attention on an external environment. Downtime activates these regions: the medial temporal lobe (memory), the prefrontal cortex (sense of self, identity), and posterior cingulate (self-referencing, thinking about your future). Basically, disconnecting from that same old way of thinking helps us tap into our intuition, leading us to have more Aha! moments. Research confirms that in order to generate more creative insights, you must rest your brain!
If you find that you are neglecting your relationship with time and yourself, then it’s time to start thinking about how you would rather live your life. Would you rather feel relaxed and in control, rather than frantic and in chaos? Would you rather take a walk after dinner instead of spend that time checking work emails? Would you like to take the time to cook a leisurely meal, instead of working through dinner?
If so, then begin to see and feel yourself doing those things. Allow yourself to imagine the stillness and joy downtime may bring you. Literally close your eyes and bring that image to life in your brain. If you feel anything nudging at you, take an inspired action and write what comes to mind. Listen to your intuition because it is filled with those nudges you need to move toward that dream life.
For more, you can visit my website, www.RatRaceReboot.com, for free handouts that are available for download and a link to my podcast. There you can find when new episodes are being released. Remember, everything is created twice, first in your mind and second in physical form.