Updated: Apr 14, 2021
In a culture that celebrates 80-hour workweeks, sleepless nights and busy work – it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
Inspirational quotes and influencers expressing your need to work harder, celebrating the daily grind, only contribute to an increasing pressure to perform.
Now, working at home with less structure then before it's become even easier to get caught in the rat race. With your office steps away from the bedroom, I’ve had clients recount answering emails from the time they get up to the time they go to bed.
Yet in my experience, the harder I worked the less I felt I was progressing. Because sometimes the most productive thing you can do is take a break.
But what about the power of downtime?
The Power Of Downtime
For the sake of this post, downtime is the time in-between tasks, meetings or mandates.
If you’re like most, you’ve tried to determine ways to be more productive at work.
Creating habits around how you organize your inbox, set meetings or prioritize your tasks.
But have you ever thought about being productive with your downtime?
Now it may sound counter-intuitive at first. Isn’t that the time I can finally rest and reset? Well yes, mostly… but you can learn how to use your downtime effectively.
Rather than feeling guilty about stepping away, using it to benefit your productivity and increase your performance.
For me a 5-minute walk outdoors at lunch made me feel more refreshed than ever! Where scrolling through 100 Instagram stories took less effort, but left me feeling more exhausted.
Mindless distractions serve to pass the time, but also deplete your energy.
Where productive downtime recharges and restores.
No matter how hard you try, unlike the Energizer Bunny, we can’t keep going and going and going…
The Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a productivity hack, which has easily doubled my productivity and focus. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel that revealed to me the power of downtime.
The brain can only function for about 90 minutes at a time before needing a break. The Pomodoro Technique promotes working in highly focused, short sprints with micro-breaks in between.
With the goal to maintain hyper-focus during “working time” and allow your mind to reset in-between sprints. Here is what it looks like:
Working time: 25 minutes
Distraction free focused on one single task (no multitasking) striving for a measurable objective (ex: finish report).
Rest: 3-5 minutes
No emails, social media, phone calls, meetings, etc. Safeguard this time to relax and let go of wherever your mind may be racing.
After 4-5 Pomodoro’s (25m sprints), you’ll begin to feel tired due to the hyper-focused nature of the activity and may need an extended break (15 minutes).
Over time you’ll learn what works best for you and can adjust the sprint and break time as you go.
As a high achiever, you’ll want to start with long sprints. I recommend going against your nature and beginning with short 25 minutes sprints before ramping up.
Where studies show that unplanned interruptions increase stress, frustration, workload, effort, and pressure, the power of downtime can alleviate these stressors.
The challenge is staying focused on one task for the entire 25 minutes, undisturbed.
As we’ve seen the power of downtime depends on how you spend it. By using your time wisely to re-energize will allow you to come back to work with a new perspective.
Here are 5 ways you can be productive with your downtime:
Movement: Will increase energy levels and release endorphins in the body leading to a more positive mood. A 5-minute walk, stretching or a few push-ups can have a lasting impact.
Nature: Click the link to discover how 40 seconds of connecting with nature can impact your productivity.
Breathing: Meditating or focusing on your breath can help release stress and regain focus.
Gratitude: Put pen to paper and write a few things you’re grateful for and it can help bring back perspective to what’s important to you.
Know Your Why: I re-read my purpose and goals as a daily reminder of what I am working towards and helps when facing difficult challenges.
The power of downtime is necessary to improve productivity and focus. Trying to work straight through your day only leads to diminishing returns on your energy and focus.
Take the time to recharge and allow yourself time to reflect on what you may be stuck on. Begin by incorporating short breaks into your day by using the Pomodoro Technique.