The holidays are a busy time of year, both at work as well as in your personal life. Finding a way to schedule downtime over the season is an excellent gift you can give to yourself, but it also benefits those around you as well.
The Importance of Downtime
One of the challenges of being in today’s always connected, always informed, and constantly engaged workplace is that the myth of always needing to be in contact has become a reality.
Many professionals, from entry-level managers to the C-suite executives, believe that to be seen as effective, they have to be always available and always on top of the situation. In other words, taking downtime is often perceived as an action that means you are less dedicated to the job than someone else. Taking an afternoon off or not responding to emails over the weekend or the holiday may be seen as a negative reflection on your commitment to the team and the organization.
However, research and long-term studies on effectiveness and productivity show the exact opposite. When people take scheduled, authentic downtime throughout the year, they are more productive, more creative, less likely to experience stress-related health issues, and more likely to report higher levels of well-being.
What is Downtime?
Downtime is not just the opposite of uptime. Uptime is the daily activities completed at work and outside of work, as well as the commitments we have that are specific tasks and “to do” items. In other words, uptime is putting your head down and working through crises, challenges, obstacles, and problems in work and in our personal lives.
Downtime, on the other hand, is time just for you. It is time to do something that you enjoy, that rejuvenates and energizes you or something that is a passion for you as an individual. Downtime can take many different forms, but it needs to be meaningful and to have a restorative effect on your mental and physical health.
The Value of Downtime
Studies by a variety of different research organizations, including by Mary Helen Immordino-Yang at USC, found that true downtime, where people are disconnected from their social media work and doing something they enjoy, actually boosts the brain’s ability to interpret data and to resolve problems that are both professional and personal.
Downtime gives us a chance to think creatively, to follow thoughts to multiple outcomes, and to open up to possibilities as our brain is not subject to having to try to both process new information and to manage already stored and learned information.
This holiday season, make it a point to change the culture of your workplace. Encourage everyone to take an afternoon off and disconnect from work, spending time doing something they enjoy. Make it a point to talk to people about the importance of downtime, and switch the message about the need to be constantly connected. This is a gift you can give to everyone in the organization, including yourself.