In our 24/7 world we are constantly “plugged in”, our brains are preoccupied with to-do lists and work. Are you suffering from cerebral congestion? Every now and then – usually around 3 in the afternoon- a familiar ache begins to saturate your forehead and your eyes trace the contour of the same sentence on your computer, two or three times, yet failing to exact its meaning. Still, you push through … so much work to do – but your brain is telling you to stop. It’s full! Sound familiar?

If you’re a multitasker and all round busy-body from the time you wake up to the post-midnight hour when you finally call it quits, this article is for you.

Despite our best intentions to live balanced lives, the modern world demands that we are always productive. Although it may seem counterintuitive to take time out when your to-do list is a mile long, studies indicate that downtime can dramatically improve mental and physical health, as well as boost productivity and creativity.

According to Tony Swartz, of The Energy Project, regular downtime at work will improve productivity by up to 8%! Yes, the truth is that without downtime, we’re actually less productive. We do not only need vacation, but a good sleep schedule, a reasonable time away from work, and again, time to do absolutely nothing.

Batteries need to be recharged and the best way to do this is to rest. Rest is often confused with recreation. Doing things like watching a movie or hiking through the woods with your earphones, trying to lose a few kilojoules, can only be termed as restful. Rest can be defined as a kind of waking sleep, while you are alert and awake. Without rest and its sibling, relaxation, we simply won’t be able to keep up.

Rest melts stress away. Practises like yoga and meditation also lowers heart rate, blood pressure, and alleviates arthritis, insomnia, depression and anxiety. The spiritual benefits are profound. Rest will allow us to reconnect with the world around us, inviting a sense of belonging into our lives. Relationships will become more harmonious and satisfying. When you slow down you get a sense of perspective on what really matters.

The brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas. It is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body. But, there’s a big difference between admiring the idea of more downtime and committing to it in practise. The more we integrate periods of downtime into our daily lives, the bigger the payoff will be.

There is not just one kind of downtime, there is at least 3, and we all need them:
The importance of sleep. Solid, good quality sleep makes it possible for the brain to revive itself. To quote Arianna Huffington: “Sleep your way to the top”. Literally. It’s as simple as that.
The relevance of going on vacation. A longer period (at least 3 to 5 days) of being away from work is a great way to revitalize. By being away from your normal routine, you get the chance to look at your life from a different perspective.
The big challenge: Regular breaks. They sound easy enough as they are relatively short, but the challenge is continuity. Tony Swartz proposes to have a break after every 90 minutes of work to be optimally productive. Studies show that brief periods of downtime, like afternoon naps, can restore focus and energy.

Jonah Lehrer has written for The new Yorker about the virtue of daydreaming and states that: “While it is commonly assumed that the best way to solve a difficult problem is to relentlessly focus, this clenched state of mind comes with a hidden cost: it inhibits the sort of creative connections that lead to breakthroughs.”

So, stop and find some quiet time in-between moments of your crazy day to take a breath and notice the amazing world around you. Program some boredom into your schedule on a regular basis and see which ideas emerge; I bet it will be brilliant!


DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.