The Value of taking Personal DownTime during your WorkDay

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How many of us come away from our days all coiled up with stress, frustration and anxiety. It is never pleasant when it becomes a daily routine of unwinding and de-stressing from your day … and such a routine never seems to end. That is the reality for some, if not many of the Project Management community because firstly of the nature of the job and secondly the constant movement of a typical day. For my own part, I have long since valued what I often call ‘decompression time’. This is where I attempt to create a personal space for myself and distant myself from the momentum of my workday. Do I forget about my work, no I do not … but I take some personal time and re-energise myself.

When you’re really on-song with work, the ideas are flowing and we all feel great. But it doesn’t last and there is a need to each of us to take that re-energising break from the day. Rather than attempt to extend the productivity zone, it can generally end with tiredness, lack of focus or in some cases anxiety of not having achieved everything we could. What have happened here, you have gone beyond the point of return on what you are capable of.

It is nothing to do with you, human nature just doesn’t allow us to extend beyond this point and rather than push for all we are work, why not just take the foot of the pedal and take some DownTime during your WorkDay? All I am saying here, it that a brief break is sometimes the key to getting back on track. Rather than pushing these emotions to the end of the day when, sometimes, we are not capable of dealing with them why not deal with them during the day. The reality of human nature, is that we work best when our brains are de-cluttered, rational and stress-free. This is essentially the objective of having that down-time during the day. Let me ask the question this way, when you work on a task continuously, do you tend to lose focus as the task goes on? What if the next time, during this task, you took a 10 – 15 min downtime to re-energise and refocus? Would that help?

So don’t feel guilty and try some of the following:

1. Work in Timed Blocks: – Work in burst of 60 / 90 minutes. Go full on and take advantage of pushing towards a time-limit. When the time elapses, get up, talk a walk, grab a coffee / tea / drink and relax for 5 to 10 minutes. Once you reach 3 of these bursts, then take a long break and make a personal call, catch up with a friend and do something that pleases your mind.

2. Work to the end of the task: – One of the the reasons that some of us are ultra-productive, is that we treat our day as a set of sprints. The sprint is to get a task done and once done, there is a ‘reflective’ rest. When the work is underway, it is fast and furious and the break is calm and easy. Word of caution this is only valid when the tasks are achievable within a short period of the working day (say 30 – 60 minutes)

3. Schedule your breaks per day: – Just take a break and don’t feel guilty in doing so. Take a 15 – 20 minute break and switch off by going for a walk, sit and daydream, get a coffee, doodle or whatever you find appropriate. But ensure you don’t end up talking to a colleague about the next task. Take two to three of these a day and it is often thought the most valuable one in the mid-afternoon which is the least productive time of day.

This is all very simple and straightforward but the pressures of the working day, often means that you and you mental well-being is not the priority. We cannot constantly manage the hectic nature of things and still remain focused, so yes take some DownTime in your WorkDay. So go ahead and check your Facebook page or take that latest quiz. It is constantly shown that taking time out to go online for a few minutes can be just as productive a break as any other (and better than texting or sending emails) when it comes to refreshing your brain.

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