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Daily Leadership Thought #149 – Everyone Needs Downtime

June 8, 2011

Free Woman Taking Photo of the Beach Stock Photo

Everyone needs downtime.  Even extreme extroverts must recharge occasionally.  It is too much work to be “on” all the time.  It is also not healthy to be constantly over stimulated.  There is no shortage of options on how you spend your time, especially if you have a job with any real responsibility and/or have children.  However, I encourage you to force yourself to find some quiet time with minimal distractions to give your brain a rest and allow it to focus on fewer things.

I worry that as a society we are becoming too enamored with activity for activities sake.  There seems to be less and less emphasis on thinking and self-reflection.  To paraphrase the great Peter Drucker, “there is nothing as pointless as doing with great efficiency that which should not be done at all.”

It feels like most of us are constantly in a hyperactive mode whether it is at home or at work.   Despite what we may think, multitasking doesn’t work very well.  Life should not just be about getting things done and then moving on to the next item on the list.

I urge you to ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time you went for a walk or hike and just enjoyed the experience?
  • Do you allow yourself time to read for pleasure and enjoyment?
  • Do you feel guilty when you are not actually doing something you believe to be important or significant?
  • How many times a day do you find yourself checking your email or text messages (and is this really necessary)?
  • How often are you rushing through your conversations and not really listening to what the other person is saying?
  • Do you regularly find yourself thinking about the next thing rather than being fully present in the moment?
  • Can you leave your work at the office, or does it always follow you home?  And, vice versa?
  • Are your weekends full of endless chores and errands? And, is your social calendar too full or demanding?
  • Are you able to clear your head and sleep soundly at night or is your brain always racing and hindering your ability to rest?
  • How much negative stress do you have in your life?  And, what are you doing about it?
  • Are you exercising enough?  Do you feel healthy and full of energy?
  • Are you genuinely happy? Do you make the people around you happy?

It’s important to ask yourself these types of questions and ponder your answers.  Self-awareness and reflection are a critical part of life.  For a society and generation blessed with so much, we are paradoxically dealing with depression and unhappiness at alarming levels.  How many people do you know on some form of medication to help them cope with life?   Many individuals I meet are stressed and see no end in sight.  They feel like they are on a treadmill that just keeps getting faster and less rewarding.  They are searching for answers but not taking the time to make sure they are asking the right questions.

The simple answer may be that “less is more.”  The only remedy for too much complexity is usually simplicity.  Instead of piling more activities on an already full plate, start removing things and focus on what is most important. Learn to say no.  Make a life decision to emphasize quality over quantity whenever possible.   Avoid needless distractions and realize that technology is only a tool to be used for the right reasons.

Make sure you are getting enough downtime to recharge your batteries, clear your head, reflect on your life, and tap into your creative and spiritual energy.  It will make a big difference!