The Benefits of Downtime
If the notion of working less in order to accomplish more seems contradictory, consider the last time you spend several consecutive hours completely focused on a task, and likely under a deadline. Were you feeling stressed, rushed and ultimately, burned out? These days, thanks to our ability to stay connected 24/7, productivity is easily confused with how many hours per day you work. However, it’s proven that downtime is a necessity for you to be working at your full potential.
Time away from your desk is essential so that your work hours are productive and focused. Here are some ways you can maximize your downtime so you will, in turn, supercharge your work time.
Anyone who has not slept well and then faced a grueling eight hour workday knows the benefits of a good night’s sleep! However, it goes much deeper than that. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is responsible for everything from refreshing your brain through increased pumping of cerebral fluid to the release of growth hormones that rebuild muscles and joints. Your lungs benefit from slower, more regular breathing, and your heart rate and blood pressure go down. Just like you can’t run a horse past its endurance point or use your smartphone when the battery is drained, you need time to “recharge”.
The constant demands of work and life build up stress. When you are continually stressed, your physical and emotional health suffer. Taking a vacation gives your body and brain a chance to step away from your normal routines (and normal stressors). The change of pace and enjoyable activities, not to mention time with friends and family, benefits your work life, social life, and mental health. “Vacations have the potential to break into the stress cycle,” says Phycology Today. “We emerge from a successful vacation feeling ready to take on the world again.”
Technology? Isn’t that one of the stressors we need to take a break from? Yes….and no. When you are using your laptop/smartphone/tablet etc. to frantically reply to emails at 2am or to take your work home with you, technology can cause a great deal of stress. However, technology has many upsides. Apps that walk you through hourly stretch breaks, the ability to track your steps or exercise program, even the chance to step away from your desk and browse funny cat pictures on BuzzFeed (come on…you know we have all done this!) can give you brief respites throughout the day.
Check out this great blog post that shows, through experimentation, how breaks helped one company maximize their productivity. However, this company simply proved what many other studies have concluded for years – short breaks throughout the day keep us focused, alert and working hard.
Take care of yourself
Entrepreneurs work long, hard hours and are under constant stress, but that is no reason to neglect your health. Treat yourself kindly by taking advantage of downtime. You need downtime to function. There will be no company if you are too burnt out to run it properly, so the next time you are tempted to push it for one more hour, try delegating that task instead. Don’t feel bad about five minutes of Angry Birds during the day and make sure you get enough sleep. When you are back at your desk, you’ll be even more productive.
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