The Importance Of Downtime On Productivity by Cindy Stradling CSL, CPC

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.

~Steve Jobs

One of the most common misunderstandings in the business world is about productivity and downtime. The focus in many businesses is to look for the employees that put in the longest hours for recognition and promotions. This is often the mindset of managers from supervisors up to CEOs, and with this mentality, the issue of “downtime” becomes a taboo and a sign of someone who is not production minded.

In reality, this is absolutely false. In fact, in studies in highly productive workplaces, downtime is not just a nice option; it is a regular, valued, and planned part of the business environment. In studies completed throughout the years, downtime also called breaks or diversions, increased not only focus but also productivity, error-free work, and attention to details. In a study published in 2011 in Cognition, researchers at the University of Illinois found that  in a 50 minute task, the group that was provided 2 short breaks maintained their accuracy while the groups that either took no breaks or did two tasks in the same period of time showed a dramatic decrease in accuracy over the same duration.

Building in Downtime

The good news is that the breaks are not just effective in our business life. They can also occur in our time spent with family and friends, and these types of “mental holidays” allow us to stay more focused on relationships and have a greater enjoyment of life in general.

The key is in finding ways to build in breaks or downtime in your life. There is no one size fits all approach, and everyone can develop his or her own approach to adding in some mental and physical relaxation into their life. To get started, here are some simple suggestions for how to create downtime in your busy day:

  • Use apps – there are several ways to use apps on your phone to take a little mental break. Play a game, challenge yourself to some type of puzzle, download a coloring app with your favorite design options, or just enjoy a feel-good online video. Remember, small breaks throughout the day are more effective than long breaks after work in maintaining mental energy and focus.
  • Get organized – a lot of the time spent at work as well as doing chores around the house is due to the inefficient use of time. By organizing your day, you can structure your tasks and chores and get them done in less time, giving you more time to spend doing the things you enjoy.
  • Prioritize downtime – just as you make specific tasks at work and at home a priority, start to think of downtime or breaks as a top priority, rather than something to fit in if and when you have time. By thinking ahead and planning breaks, you will find you have more time in the day.
  • Focus on things that make you smile – use your downtime to do things you enjoy. Take a walk, read a good book, call a friend or a loved one, and have a conversation. By making downtime meaningful to you on a personal level, you will find it is much easier to prioritize.

Creating downtime is not just for your productivity. It is for your mental and physical health, as well as for your emotional well-being.