Deliberate downtime….who knew it’s a thing?

21st October 2019

I’m reading “How to have a great day” by Caroline Webb and am absolutely loving it. It’s one of those books that’s dead easy to read and is packed full of practical ideas. I’m about three quarters of the way through and the message that’s struck me, squarely between the eyes, yet again is the importance of planning deliberate down time.

I think this landed more strongly because at times in the past I’ve felt that time’s been tight and that there isn’t much wriggle room in the working week. It’s a familiar story and many of the groups I’ve worked with lately have talked of the same issue. That said I don’t know any businesses that would say “we have time to spare!”…if only!!

Nobody’s going to give us our downtime, it’s something that we have to claim for ourselves. Planning for deliberate downtime helps us be more productive and there’s a shed load of evidence to prove it! On top of that the neuroscientists would say that our brains continue to work on that we’re struggling with even when we switch off.

Keeping space and making room for down time is all about managing our boundaries. Leaving the gaps and protecting them ferociously. I know for me I need to get better at saying ‘No’ and sticking to my guns even when I know time is tight. It can be soooo hard to take some down time when all you can think about is the never ending list of things that you have to do. Welcome to my life!!!

Here’s a few ideas for grabbing your down time and hanging onto it for grim death;

Work in short bursts. Taking breaks every 90 minutes improves our productivity apparently. So, breaking big jobs into chunks helps with this and the timer facility on your phone becomes your new best friend. A ninety-minute burst of activity helps us stay focused and when that timer goes, give yourself a wee reward. It doesn’t have to be long. A quick walk around the block. A quick chat with a colleague or a nice coffee on your own. Whatever it is take 5 – and then get going again! I’ve been trying this on those days when I’m desk bound and the list of things to do seems endless, and I definitely feel I get more done. But try it for yourself and see what it’s like for you!

Make decisions at peaks – know when your peaks are and plan to make the big/important decisions then. Make decisions when you’re mentally fresh rather than drained and plan that in your schedule. For me this is ALWAYS first thing in the morning. So get the big, tough or really important stuff done when your head’s fresh and you’re at your best. The great thing about doing these first thing is that you can feel on the moral high ground for the rest of the day!!

Schedule breathing room – create micro breaks between meetings or commitments. I don’t know how people bounce from one meeting to another with scarcely time to gather their breath, never mind anything else. Perhaps you could have twenty five minute meetings instead of the default thirty minutes and give yourself some space? I know for many people in large organisations, others can add stuff in your diary without checking first. So maybe in the spirit of grabbing and holding onto your own deliberate down time, you need to add them to the calendar first, so they can’t be moved? What’s the worst that could happen after all?

Build in reflection time – at the end of each major task or meeting take 30 seconds to capture your major insights. What struck you most and what will you do differently as a result? Perhaps a couple of actions come from that, which you can add to list of things to do or maybe there’s some things that you can share or delegate. Either way, reflecting on what’s just happened is another form of pause, or punctuation, before you head into the next big thing.

I think the learning for me, if I want to be the best version of myself and I want to practice great self care is recognising the importance of ‘deliberate’ downtime and making every attempt to hang onto it. I’m by no means perfect at this stuff. The intention is there for sure and like most of us, I’m doing the best that I can with what I have available…..but I am trying!!

Coaching and counselling are great examples of ‘deliberate downtime’ in my book. So, if any of this strikes a chord and you’d like to work together on finding ways to work on this for yourself, please get in touch. Let’s have an initial chat and see if we can work together to find a way forward that’s right for you!

#gillparkin #coaching #counselling #psychotherapy #deliberatedowntime