The Importance of Downtime

"When used intentionally, downtime instills a sense of peace.” — Addie K Martin

Like it or not, downtime is something all humans need. While it’s not ideal for a server or website to have downtime, it’s imperative that we humans integrate downtime into our lives. The importance of downtime cannot be over-stressed. It’s vital for our long term success to have periods of rest and recharge breaking up the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Last year, I wrote a post on the importance of doing nothing. This time I’m tackling it from slightly different angle and looking at it via the lens of resting and recharge, as opposed to not doing anything.

The most important thing to keep in mind about downtime is that what you’re doing needs to feel like a break or a departure from your normal activities. Maybe sitting around and doing nothing isn’t your cup of tea. Perhaps for you downtime is taking a walk in nature or spending time with friends and/or family. The form matters less than how you feel when you’re engaging in the activity. Downtime is about taking a break, and it’s also about recharging your batteries. Humans aren’t designed to run ragged. We’re basically rechargeable batteries: we can only go for so long before we must take a break and relax. You can’t achieve peak performance if you don’t rest.

Downtime is also meant to help instill a sense of peacefulness in you, even if it’s just during your downtime at first. Ideally, the positive effects of downtime emanate into the rest of your life, like the benefits of exercise, meditation, and yoga. The peaceful feelings that arise during your downtime will eventually act as a buffer between you and the rest of the world. This is why intentionally cultivating peace and stillness in life is critical. When utilized properly and for a long enough duration, you’ll be able to access those feelings and that mindset even when you’re busy or feeling a bit stressed.

Further, being intentional with your downtime also contributes to peacefulness. This is about being mindful and deliberate when relaxing. Don’t just shut off your brain, as you may be tempted to do. Take the time to tune in to how you’re feeling. Check in with yourself on how your mood or stress levels have improved since you’ve been in relaxing. Connecting with your head, heart, and body is a great way to realize the full benefits of downtime. Acknowledge the improvements in your mood or your feelings. Pay attention to what helps you feel most relaxed and what doesn’t quite do the trick. When you’re intentional about your downtime and rest, you’ll get many more long term benefits from it than if you just “turned your brain off” when relaxing.

Finally, you may be wondering when you should be turning off your brain? Frankly, I’m not an advocate for that at all. I believe in staying mindful and aware as much as possible. Once I’m relaxing and I’ve acknowledged how that’s impacting me, I’ll then migrate into just chilling out. I’m not turning off my brain, but I am putting aside anything that’s not happening to me right now. If I’m walking in nature, I forget about my email and my to do list. If Jeremy and I are watching baseball or a nature documentary, I’m not on social media at the same time. I direct my attention to the task at hand and let everything else melt away. That’s the kind of “turning off” of the brain that I recommend: still give your current task your 100% attention but let the rest fall away. Honestly, this works in any given moment, but it works especially well when dealing with downtime.

The longer term benefits of downtime are numerous, and they include being better rested, increased productivity, enhanced creativity levels, feeling happier and more satisfied, and having a greater sense of peace and calm in your life. In order to achieve at high levels, the busy-ness must be balanced with a break… downtime. That’s the life hack that will get you where you want to be. It’s not working more. It’s not multi-tasking. It’s not sleeping less. Most everything comes down to getting adequate rest and downtime. Recharge your batteries. Rest your mind. Then you’ll be ready to carpe diem!