Career Talk

/ 3 years ago /

 Article by Daisy Leigh-Phippard

How taking some downtime can benefit your work life

This post was written by an external contributor. Daisy Leigh-Phippard explains the benefits of taking some time out .

Whether you’re a perfectionist who spends hours getting that one project just right, or if you spend those hours procrastinating on social media, we often underestimate the importance of how we spend our time in between work. That’s right – we’re talking downtime.

It’s often the case that the majority of our time not spent working can be categorised into ‘sleep,’ ‘eat,’ and maybe one chosen side hobby (and this includes Netflix binges). Believe it or not, but that chosen activity can be the most important thing for both your occupational success and personal life.

Downtime work life

Work vs. play

For some of us there’s a blurred line between work and play; the dream is for everyone to find an occupation they enjoy doing, but realistically it’s not that simple.

A good way to find the difference is to work out what activities you feel held accountable for. Are you doing those yoga sessions for you, or because you feel you have to? Do you enjoy reading before you go to bed? Do you look forward to going out clubbing with your friends? If the answer is yes – great! If it’s no, maybe you should find something that you can just do for you. And here’s why…

Me time is a must

No job can be done with only isolated knowledge of its subject area. Especially in a world that’s constantly connected to everything at once, being aware of things beyond your immediate sphere of work can only help.

Take a lawyer: yes, they have to be well versed in law and its various clauses, but lawyers also need social skills to converse with their clients, communication skills to defend them, as well as political and sociological understanding to know how best to do it.

You can flip it around and look at a career that edges more on the creative side, and the same applies.

To be a filmmaker you need to know the technical and creative processes to translate a script to a screen, but knowing psychology improves the realism of the character, knowing geography allows you to use your location or set to its best potential, and being cultured in books, music, dance and more offers you different styles to tell your story.

downtime work life

To get away from all the flowery language, allowing ourselves experiences that don’t seem directly linked to our work can only benefit it in the long run. Something we do now might become relevant further down the line.

Considering the fact that no matter how many times we’re asked it, we don’t really know where we’re going to be in ten years time, means that we don’t know what might be useful in the future.

Take care of yourself

But even with the benefits of downtime, there’s a more important one: in order for us to be able to focus during our work, we need to rest. And we also need to feel some sort of accomplishment in our free time to maintain our personal well-being.

The self-care revolution has been springing up everywhere recently, but it’s not all long baths, candles and that extra biscuit because you deserve it. Those things are great, but a key part of self-care is allowing yourself to do things that make you happy for the simple reason that they make you happy.

How it applies to your occupation doesn’t matter – which, ironically, is what makes it so useful in your work life. Allowing ourselves time to unwind and engage our brain in something that doesn’t have to be perfect, is incredibly useful, and let’s be honest, it’s fun.

And we can let it be fun because no one is marking it and our income doesn’t depend on it. Our brain learns to distinguish what is work and what is play, which is something that is becoming harder and harder in a world that’s constantly switched on to social media.

downtime work life

Finding the balance

For the benefits of both our personal time and our work time, you have to learn where the balance between the two is. Being a hard worker is great, but without recreational downtime on the side, your brain doesn’t know when to switch off.

As much as procrastinating might feel like free time, you’re not actually allowing yourself to engage in anything; you’re halfway between work and play but not focusing on either.

Don’t dismiss how useful giving yourself time for you can be, whether it’s watching a film, learning to play piano, painting or drawing, reading or talking face to face with friends. These things are important to our mental and physical health, and can always unexpectedly turn into the spark that gets you further up the career ladder.

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