I have a confession to make. I haven’t worked on FabYOUlous Life in FOUR days. I haven’t worked on the website, I haven’t written in my book, I haven’t posted to social media, I haven’t done anything. I also haven’t run in over a week despite the fact that I have a half-marathon coming up this weekend. Instead, my hubby and I loaded up the car and took a road trip to Kansas to visit family and go to the Kansas State Fair. I had packed my laptop and my running shoes, but alas they never left my suitcase.
Now, to some people this might seem like no big deal–but to me, this is HUGE. It’s huge because I am NOT good at taking down-time. I’m the gal who packs my laptop for every vacation and who always has a mental list of tasks that I want to get accomplished–even though I’m supposed to be on a break.
Some people try to tell me that I’m too “Type-A” but that really isn’t the case. Yes, I’m ambitious and goal-driven, but the truth of the matter is–I am always grinding because I genuinely love the grind. I love working on FabYOUlous Life, I love writing and I love running (okay–that last one might be a bit of a stretch but I do love the way I feel after a run). These things don’t feel like work to me–they energize me and bring me joy.
Still–there is a time and a place for everything and these past four days were meant to be spent with my family and friends having fun. At first, I’ll admit–it was hard. I had genuine feelings of anxiety over the things that weren’t getting accomplished. However; as I settled into a groove of visiting with my parents, meeting up with my best friend at our hometown high school to watch a football game (talk about feeling old–the last time I visited that football field, I was wearing a cheerleading skirt!) and watching my husband enjoy his first ever Pronto Pup (for you non-Kansans, that’s a corn dog but at the Kansas State Fair, they are ALWAYS called Pronto Pups), I began to experience the true, therapeutic benefits of totally stepping away from the grind.
According to Kelly McGonigal, Ph.D. and Health Psychologist at Stanford University, human beings utilize a great deal of will-power in order to plow through their to-do lists. Unfortunately; will-power is a kind of energy that can become depleted over the course of a day. Just like your muscles get tired from prolonged exercise, your will-power and sense of self-control become diminished in the face of too many decisions, distractions and stressors. Lucky for us, research also indicates that our will-power (as well as our productivity and creativity) can be boosted simply by making strategic use of down-time.
So, as it turns out–my time spent playing carnival games at the fair (that’s me in the photo–with the intense look of concentration–between my nephew and my dad) and hanging out with my friend Mia are just the things that I needed to be doing in order to fill my psychological gas tank. I guess the studies are correct because my four days of doing nothing but play have left me feeling rejuvenated and ready to conquer any task that lands on my desk. I’ve already accomplished more today than I typically accomplish in two days and I’m feeling reinvigorated regarding projects that I was beginning to lose my enthusiasm over.
Don’t allow your ambition and drive to accomplish more, leave you feeling exhausted and burned out. If it helps, instead of viewing your down-time as laziness or wasteful, begin to view your down-time as a strategic part of your plan to reach your goals. When I view my down-time as a valuable component of my overall success strategy, I feel much less anxious about relaxing and taking a break and am therefore able to return to my tasks feeling more motivated and creative than before.
If, like me, you struggle with allowing yourself to truly decompress and relax, give the following suggestions a try…
- Free up your hard drive. No, we aren’t talking about rebooting your computer here–we’re talking about rebooting you. Just like a computer starts to run slow and glitchy when it gets too much info. in its hard drive, we too begin to run slow and glitchy when we don’t leave enough space in our lives for down-time. Click here for great suggestions on how to free up space in six critical areas of your life.
- Schedule your down-time. Yes–just like you schedule your dentist appointments and board meetings, you should also schedule your down-time. There is just something about taking the time to pencil in a block of time on your calendar that makes it feel more official and certainly more intentional. Then, once you have your down-time scheduled, be sure to adhere to your schedule and use your allotted time for fun and relaxation.
- Enlist the help of a friend. Not only is down-time that is shared with a friend fun, it can also be a great motivator. While, left to my own devices, I may be tempted to spend my down-time doing something “productive”, I am less apt to pass up the opportunity for fun and shenanigans if I know that a friend is counting on me (that’s a photo of me with my best friend, Mia at the Kansas State Fair). Yes–it is important that we learn to value and utilize alone time as a part of our down-time practice, but there is also incredible therapeutic value in spending time with our “broad squad”. For fun suggestions on things to do with your besties, click here.
- Allow for unplanned down-time. The headquarters for Google have both a game room and on-site massage services. Clearly, the Google folks understand that sometimes the best way to solve a problem, jump-start creativity or simply shake the mid-afternoon slump is to take a break and do something fun and relaxing. Try to follow this example by not setting such a rigid schedule for yourself that you allow no time for mini breaks throughout your day. Instead, allow room for flexibility and the time to take a walk around the block, read a chapter in your favorite book or simply close your office door and spend a few minutes meditating (if you don’t meditate but would like to learn how, click here.) Yes–a week long vacation to the beach can do wonders to help rejuvenate your spirit and increase your overall productivity but so can a few ten minute breaks scattered throughout your day.
- Disconnect. Okay–I’ll admit, this one is a struggle for me. I have a true love/hate relationship with my iphone. I love it because I can do all kinds of cool things with it (listen to music, check Pinterest, post to Instagram etc.) but I also hate the fact that it makes it so, so hard for me to be truly disconnected from work and other stress inducing scenarios (Facebook political rants for example). To combat this, I’m doing my best to not check my phone first thing in the morning and last thing at night. I also try not to check my phone during meals and especially if I am spending time with my husband or kids. I have some friends who spend their entire weekends disconnected and say that it makes their weekdays so much more productive. I’m not quite ready to go that far (baby steps!) but the small steps that I am taking have helped me to regain a sense of peace during my periods of down-time.
- Ritualize it. I’ve found that one of the most effective ways for incorporating down-time into my life is to ritualize it. Essentially, this means turning your down-time into sacred time and creating a ritual to honor it. I have a morning ritual which involves stretching, welcoming the day and setting my intentions for the day, and a night time ritual which involves taking a warm bubble bath, writing in my gratitude journal and spraying lavender essential oil onto my pillow before going to sleep. These simple rituals help me to recognize the significance of my down-time and the important role that it plays in my overall well being.
Regardless of how your down-time looks, how it feels is what truly matters. Make it a priority to do the things that allow your body and spirit to feel rested, refreshed, calmed and reinvigorated. In managing your down-time as a method of increasing your productivity and creativity, you’ll soon learn that your down-time is a critical component to living your most FabYOUlous life.