Thursday, August 16, 2012

Down Time

Today I did something that I rarely do. I took the morning off of work for absolutely no reason. Well, that's not true there was a very good reason - I spent time with a friend of mine that I haven't seen in a little while. By no reason, I mean it wasn't a sick day, an emergency, a holiday, a family need, etc. I just simply gave myself a break to spend time with a friend.

This summer I've spent just about every other weekend working all weekend. Not as in answering client emails and planning trips (though some of that) but because I've been attending conferences every couple of weeks. While these conferences are great opportunities and I do enjoy them, they're nonstop busy. If you think networking over a cocktail isn't work, try it for a week straight and see how exhausted you are at the end of it. Add this to a full day of workshops, seminars, and/or site inspections each day, and it makes for one heck of a week. Due to this schedule of work all week and conference on the weekend, much of my summer has involved seven-day work weeks. I love to be active, but one can only do that so much until you need a break.

Let me clarify that I don't have any clients waiting on last minute trip details and I wasn't neglecting urgent emails or phone calls. I did do a few hours of work before meeting up with my friend, and I'm back on the computer now going through emails, looking at flights for some business clients, and, obviously, writing this blog - which though not work per se, is a commitment due to my "blog every day in August" challenge.

Many of us don't feel that down time, especially when we could be working, is a good use of our time. I would argue quite the opposite. While some people are indeed easy prey for the procrastination bug, those of us who push ourselves constantly, who never feel we can take a break because we'll miss something important, do ourselves a disservice. Coming back from multiple conferences in which I received so much information, it's probably going to take me at least a a week to go through and organize/attach action items to it, and I find myself getting overwhelmed. It's easy to have so much to do that you don't know where to start and do nothing productive at all. It's also easy to jump right back in where you left off before the conference, and realize that all that good knowledge that you gained is going by the wayside because you never took the time to really process and apply it.

I took time off to spend with my friend today because, quite simply, I felt I needed and deserved it. I could feel that strangling feeling that I get when I have so much going on, that makes my brain and me in general react in one of two ways - shut down or become manic, neither of which is desirable, for myself or anyone that interacts with me. Taking some down time allows me to step away from everything and relax my brain, and I find when I come back to it I'm actually more efficient. Ever notice that your best ideas come at the gym, in the shower, over coffee with a friend, or even in your sleep? There's a reason for that - your brain isn't so over-worked that it actually has time to do what it was designed to do - think!

I now feel a bit refreshed. I needed to slow down, to laugh, to visit with my friend, and to unwind a bit. I can now more effectively gather everything I've learned at the last few conferences, use them to create my action item list, and even better, actually follow through without feeling overwhelmed. So next time you're feeling similar to the way I was, I highly suggest what we in my family call a "mental health day" (or at least few hours).  Whether it's getting a massage, taking the day to relax and read your new book, or a visit with a friend, do your brain and yourself a favor, and take some down time. 

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