The Power of Downtime

We’ve already written about how to ready yourself and your business for the coming year. But one of the best ways to do that, and one we haven’t touched on yet, is to clear a little space on your calendar—and in your brain. 

You may think the holidays and their corresponding business closures automatically usher in a reset, but typically, the holiday season brings additional hustle to our already overpacked schedules. We’re doing our best to wrap up the year in paperwork, check off every giftee on our list, swing by holiday parties and host our own. We may be trying to entertain in-laws, cousins, college buddies or colleagues who happen to be in town. 

Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that this year looks a little different. That shift in plans, expectations and more actually offers us a unique invitation—one we may not get next year: to slow down, take some real downtime, and offer it to others if we’re able. 

What are the benefits of truly doing nothing for a while? Turns out, there are too many to list here—but we’ll go through a handful of them. 

It boosts productivity. Numerous studies have shown that taking time off—really, truly unplugging for a night, day or longer—makes employees more effective when they return to their desks. In fact, even a short break like a nap or a walk around the block can make a difference in energy levels and one’s ability to focus. 

It helps us see the bigger picture. You no doubt know about the benefits of working on your business, rather than just in it. Stepping away for a moment (or more) helps provide that perspective. With a break on the books, you’ll be able to see the forest for the trees—and to do so with fresh eyes. 

It increases creativity. If you’ve ever had a brilliant business idea in the shower or shortly after getting out of bed, you already understand that those quiet moments have the potential to unlock your greatest insights. 

It enhances decision-making. If you’ve ever felt the fog of having to determine too much (something we’re sure you’re familiar with as a business leader), research shows taking downtime can help you make better choices and stick to what you’ve set out to do. 

It reinforces one’s ethics. Downtime can also help you do right by yourself—and others. With a little breathing room, you can be sure you’re making choices that align with your purpose and values. 

It improves connections. Have you ever found yourself playing with your kids while your eyes were glued to your phone, or your mind was actually at the office? Or have you talked through some work conundrum with a spouse or friend, only to realize that your offloading replaced true quality time with them? When you can set work and worries aside and concentrate on making a meaningful connection with the people in front of you, you’ll notice a real difference in your relationships. 

It reduces stress. While thinking about taking a break from work seems to create more stress for many of us, actually going through with it will ultimately ease your mind and pay off in the form of your mental and physical health (a priceless asset, if you ask us!). 

Hopefully by now we’ve sold you on the importance of giving yourself a real break this year. Wondering how to actually make it happen, instead of accidentally getting sucked into a list of to-dos? We’ve got a few suggestions. 

  • Shut off your phone. It’s almost impossible to unplug when you’re still very much connected to the world of work. Turning off your phone can make a tremendous difference—even if it’s just for a few hours at a time. Worried about all the messages that will come through? Encourage your team to do the same for a set period of time. That way, you’ll be less worried about missing out on something important—and you’ll give them the gift of downtime too. 
  • Get outside. With COVID-19 cases surging around the US and across the world, there aren’t many places to go. But you can safely get outside, hitting a nearby trail, slope or beach to enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape and let your brain rest a bit. Go solo to get quiet, or bring your family along for some bonding time. 
  • Do something mindless. Don’t underestimate the benefits of cleaning your home, weeding your garden, cutting the grass or shoveling snow. These activities allow your mind to wander and reap the benefits of relaxation. And they’re an especially great place to start if the idea of doing nothing seems too overwhelming. 

As the New Year approaches, you may also want to consider how you might incorporate these strategies into your daily life—not just when it seems acceptable to do so. Your brain, body and business will thank you. And if you’re looking for some great reading while you’re away from your desk, check out some of our latest releases here.

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