Posted By Sue Collier on June 26, 2011
It was just a couple weeks ago that I found out I had an opportunity to take a week’s vacation on Maui. Even though I have a couple other trips planned for the upcoming summer months, it was too good of a deal to pass up. I didn’t really have time to prepare as much as I would have liked, but I knew I would have access to my office computer while there, so I could still try to stay on top of things.
My son and I—along with my mother-in-law (insert joke here)—have been here since Thursday evening. And so far I haven’t managed to do much except for spend a lot of time at the pool and on the beach. I’m up early this morning, however, because frankly, all this relaxing is starting to stress me out. As my family sleeps—apparently they are now used to the cacophony of tropical birds that begin their day around 5am—I’m thinking about getting caught up with hundreds of emails, checking in with my team to make sure projects are on track, and doing a bit of writing (including this blog post).
As I listened to the unique, Hawaii sounds this morning, I started thinking about my hectic life and how I seldom make time for downtime. I am a runner, so I do have that “me” time—at least 30 miles’ worth a week that is usually goal-oriented toward some upcoming half-marathon—but other that, I tend to be pretty highly scheduled. Rarely does that schedule include relaxing.
On some level, I know downtime is important. Lifehack.org goes so far as to suggest you actually schedule it, much as you do your productive time:
Proponents of…productivity systems have a great tool for optimizing your actions based on observation of the past week and planning for the coming week in the weekly review. If you don’t already use the weekly review I highly recommend that you take the time to check it out and implement it, since it is the wheel that keeps many productivity systems turning.
The weekly review should adopt a new component—the weekly downtime review. It’s a good chance to review your past week’s downtime, and to schedule downtime for the next week.
Why would you review your downtime? Measuring your effectiveness at tackling your task list makes sense, but perhaps this seems too clinical. It’s important, though, to gauge how effective your downtime is and how successful you’ve been at making your downtime appointments.
How much downtime did you take in the last week? How does that compare to the amount you scheduled? Did you get carried away and take a little too much downtime, affecting your productivity levels, or did you fail to take enough? Adjust your plans accordingly. If your plans were fine but your follow-through wasn’t, it’s time to crack open a book on self-discipline.
Downtime is important. The first hurdle one must overcome is often to realize that relaxing isn’t a total waste of time, even if the lack of action makes it feel that way.
So as I “force” myself to relax in the upcoming days, I know I will not be able to completely unplug from my work since this trip was unexpected and unplanned. But perhaps I can overcome my feeling for future vacations that relaxing is a waste of time and schedule myself for 100 percent downtime.