March 3, 2017

Now that the summer holidays are over, are you back working full throttle in your business? So often, we throw ourselves into our work letting it take over to the exclusion of all else.

We’ve come to revere long hours and multitasking. Even when we are not working we’re always busy doing something. When was the last time you allowed yourself the luxury of just doing nothing?

The term downtime was initially coined to describe periods when computers or machines were not in operation. Downtime is factored into production costs and minimising it is seen as a business efficiency. Maybe that’s why we perceive downtime as a negative? But operating 24/7 is not something humans are hardwired to do. Downtime is a must to relax and unwind.

Why we need to step away at regular intervals

Stress builds up when our minds are always switched on, or running in over-drive, which leaves us feeling distracted and unfocused. We then run the risk of missing out on what’s important. But life doesn’t have to be like this if we stop and press pause regularly.

How taking a break benefits you

Taking time out to look after and rest our minds helps us to focus and perform at our best. It helps our productivity, creativity, memory, concentration and sleep patterns.

Steven Sagmeister is a New York based designer who takes a year off work every seven years. He finds that after a sabbatical he returns to his work with renewed vigour. Over the long-term, he has found it to be financially successful because everything he designed in the seven years following his first sabbatical originated in his time off work.

While not all of us can follow Steven Sagmeister’s example, there are still plenty of ways in which we can build those vital breaks into our lives.

What you can do

  • If you spend most of your day sitting at your desk, stand up and walk around for five minutes in every hour. Research has proven that this increases energy, mood and cognitive function. Set an alarm on your computer to keep you on track.
  • At the end of your working day, take a few minutes to review what needs to be done the next day. Try and limit this to a list of the three things you absolutely must do. This practice will help you wind down for the day and free your mind from worry.
  • Build periods in the day where you don’t do any work. Step away from the desk and walk outdoors.
  • Block out chunks of time in your diary for that much-needed downtime. And then use them as intended!
  • Keep weekends work free or at least minimise time spent on work. At the very least, you should have one work-free day a week.
  • Take a minimum two- or three-week holiday every year.

It might feel counterintuitive to step away when you are frantically busy, but in fact it will increase your productivity. Countless studies have shown that taking time out restores focus and energy.

So, give yourself permission to take time off – no matter how great the temptation to continue working! Remember that taking care of yourself means that you can take better care of your business. And doesn’t that sound like a win-win?

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