Downtime is Not Lazy. It’s a Healthy Essential.

Raise your hand if you feel guilty for clicking over to Facebook at work, or browsing recipe sites when you know you have other things on your to-do list? We wake up and see how many hours we have in the day, and feel we can definitely get them all done if we just hunker down and power through.

But, after working on a project for an hour, without thinking you are scrolling TikTok, or texting your friend you forgot to text back. Then, you beat yourself up for “wasting” time.

Maybe you even start reading productivity hacks because, surely, there is something that needs to be fixed if you can’t focus for more than an hour!

Guess what. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you! Nothing needs to be fixed, either.

You may have 8 hours at work, and you may even be told that you can use all of those hours at peak productivity, but you are human and we weren’t designed to do that. We aren’t computers!

I’m not just saying this to ease your guilt. Downtime is essential to our mental and physical health.

Downtime can dramatically improve mental and physical health and our personal relationships. One study, for example, found that employees who unplugged and took time off reduced serious health issues like coronary heart disease.

Harvard Business Review

We also get more quality work done when we insert downtime and limit the length of time we spend on any one project.

So, all of this might sound great and like a relief, but how do we make constructive downtime part of our routine, instead of hitting the wall then mindlessly scrolling which doesn’t feel good either?

Read This: Social Detox: How to Clean Up Your Feed

Use time-blocking to schedule it in

Instead of looking at your day as one big chunk, break it up into time-blocks so you know what your focus is for each block. I like to cap mine at one hour. After a focused work block, buffer 5-30 minutes (depending on the day and your scenario) to clear your head before diving into a meeting or the next work block. Have these downtime blocks sprinkled throughout each day.

Create a downtime options list

What won’t leave you feeling refreshed is staring at your computer or worrying about how to best spend your downtime. If this concept is new to you, write a list of all the things you enjoy and/or wish you had time for. This doesn’t have to be pure “self-care” like reading a book or calling a friend. Also include things that simply use different brainpower.

I work from home and after writing a blog post or two, I might unload the dishwasher or fold laundry to a podcast. Laundry is a productive task, but my mind is getting some R&R doing something monotonous and I can listen to something that has nothing to do with my work.

Know your go-to’s so you feel you’re not on autopilot but actually getting what you want out of those blocks, and out of your day.

Set boundaries

Just because you have the time available, does not mean you need to fill it. I often hear women say that they can’t turn down overtime or attending an event even though they do not want to, because they don’t have any actual conflict at that time.

Read This: Say No to Others and Yes! To Yourself

Not wanting to is enough! When someone asks something of your time, pause, even letting them know you’ll think about it and get back to them shortly, and really think if this is how your time is best spent. Will you resent saying yes? Start viewing your downtime as a sacred space to be protected!

The obsession with productivity is hurting us, but it’s so so difficult to fight against it, even when our health is at risk. I help women overcome the constant battle of overwhelm and guilt. Together, we set purpose-powered goals in a way that protects them from overwhelm and burnout, allowing them to do what really matters in a sustainable way.

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