Do you feel guilty taking downtime? Force yourself to keep going when you feel uninspired and, well, dumb?
If so, you’re certainly not alone.
Yesterday morning I was sitting at my computer trying to think of a topic for a new blog post. Something interesting. Something earth-shattering. Maybe even Nobel Prize worthy, dare I hope.
Okay. Let’s not get carried away.
But I figured if I just opened my editor, something would come to me.
Instead, I stared at the blank page that stared back at me, and I swear it was mocking me. After awhile, I mosied on over to Facebook, telling myself I’d just take a peek. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see something inspiring.
Let me tell you; it was a while before I returned to that insolent blank page. Facebook, what I sometimes think of as the evil empire, had sucked me into its web.
I’d have been better off admitting defeat and taking a few hours away from work — and social media.
Make Downtime Your Friend
When you just can’t get your creative juices flowing, it could be because you’re trying too hard. You’re just not feeling it, for whatever reason.
And while there are times when you must push through regardless of how you’re feeling — short deadlines, tight schedules, demanding clients/bosses — if you can see your way clear to step away and take some actual downtime, it can do wonders for revitalizing your flailing creative energy.
After all, your mind is letting you know in no uncertain times it’s not going to play nice. It’s going to do whatever it can to derail your efforts. And the harder you fight it, the more dimwitted you feel.
Downtown – Far From Wasted
You and I and all of us here in the land of business are conditioned to believe that downtime is time wasted. That to take time away from your business tasks is to risk becoming a bum. Only lazy people take breaks.
The next time your mind leaves the building without you, why not tag along just for giggles and laughs.
Your downtime could end up being the catalyst for your next big idea.
Downtime, In All Its Glorious Forms
When it comes to taking downtime, there are many ways to work it into your routine and thereby increase your creativity.
Whether you take a short break of an hour or two or a several-week vacation, the creativity spark that can result is worthwhile. And like an overheating engine, your brain needs time to chill. Rather than viewing downtime as a sign of impending bumhood, look at it as a valuable part of your creative arsenal.
Shorties But Goodies
There are quite literally millions of ways to build short snippets of downtime into your business week. Here are a few of my personal favorites.
Take a walk
A walk around the neighborhood, or better yet, somewhere woodsy, if that’s possible, allows your mind to wander right along with your feet.
As you walk along, both physically and mentally, you’ll find new ideas and thoughts popping into your head seemingly from nowhere.
Don’t be surprised to find that by the time you’ve finished your walk, you’re all but itching to get back and capture some of those ideas.
One tip here — consider carrying a small notebook to record ideas before you lose them. Ideas can be fleeting, and you may or may not remember them later. A journal will ensure that you do.
Studies have shown that meditation unlocks thoughts and ideas that otherwise remain buried. There’s something about thinking about nothing — as best you can. It’s not always easy — that opens the mind to new ideas.
I’m always surprised how even a short ten-minute meditation session clears my head, and little sparks of creativity appear. Meditation is also a great way to take a short break during times of stress, again helping to sweep away the crud and refresh your mind.
To be clear, I’m talking the verb, to color, not the noun, here.
Remember those marvelous coloring books you loved as a child? I do. I absolutely loved watching my picture come to life!
You can still unleash your inner child with one of the many adult coloring books available today. Choose one with animals, or nature scenes, even dreamscapes. Whatever strikes your fancy.
I read somewhere coloring provides the same benefits as does meditation. Next time you feel overloaded, put away your computer and reach for your coloring book. I bet by the time you finish one picture you’ll feel refreshed and ready to focus on your work again.
Read for pleasure
People rarely have to talk me into reading. Reading has been a favorite pastime of mine since childhood.
I still remember the first book I read all the way through. It was Black Beauty. How I loved that book. From then on, I was hooked.
Reading is my absolute first go-to activity when I need to relax and unwind. Mysteries and thrillers are my favorite genre, but I’ve been known to venture into historical fiction, and even some chick lit from time to time.
Take a reading break and read something totally unrelated to business. I’m sure you read tons of business and personal development books. Sometimes you need something fun and non-demanding.
And who knows? Maybe you’ll stumble on an unexpected source of inspiration. It’s all around you, even in a work of fiction.
Swimming comes to mind mainly because it’s summertime as I write this, and it’s hot outside.
But seriously, who doesn’t love the feeling of gliding through water unfettered and free? And that little bit of aquatic downtime may reap huge benefits later on, just by clearing your head and getting the blood pumping.
New ideas are just around the corner. Might want to tuck that notebook nearby, just in case you have an unexpected epiphany.
Again, like walking, swimming or other forms of physical movement, getting the blood moving and oxygen to your brain is not only a welcome break during the day but also a catalyst for creativity.
Just releasing those endorphins refreshes you and helps you enthusiastically return to the task at hand.
Yoga has many of the same benefits you get from any form of physical exercise. The difference with yoga is that it forces your attention on your movements and refocuses your energy. Yoga relaxes both the body and the mind.
A yoga session midday, or anytime you choose, will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. It’s like meditation for mind, body, and spirit.
Now, cooking, or baking, or kitchen time in general, is not everyone’s idea of relaxation. But if cooking is one of your passions it’s a great way to break free of the workaday mold for a while and engage an entirely different part of your brain.
I may not rival Julia Child, but many a good idea has popped into my head when I’m cooking or baking. It’s another way to disconnect from your business tasks and let other thoughts into your head while you work on your latest culinary delight.
Vacations, Both Great And Small
Time off from your regular working activities is one of your best tools for clearing your mind and recharging.
When it comes to weekends, make them work free. Spend time with family and friends, relax with a good book or putter around the house. Whether you do things alone or with loved ones, or a little bit of both, the downtime will help recharge your batteries, open your mind to fresh perspectives and ideas, and wipe the slate, just a bit, for the coming week.
Don’t give up your weekend downtime. You need it for your mental and emotional health if nothing else.
Downtime makes it easier to retain whatever new information you’ve learned over the course of your week. Weekends are an important part of your productivity, and you should always take them, guilt free. Click & Tweet!
And please don’t skip your vacations, for longer periods of downtime, on a regular basis.
There’s been a movement in recent years, which hopefully is beginning to change, that vacations are unnecessary; that they cut into our productive time detrimentally.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Downtime, whether for only an hour or two or a week or more, is as much a part of being a professional as answering emails, attending conferences, writing marketing content, or anything else you do as part of building your business.
So throw out the guilt.
Recognize the value of downtime. Embrace it, even.
Build downtime into your business day, your week, your month, and throughout the year.
And the next time you find yourself staring at a blank screen that sits there mocking you, close down your computer.
Get up from your chair.
Leave your business tasks behind.
And take a hike.
Both figuratively and literally.
And let the creative juices flow.
Further reading you might enjoy: