So summer’s coming, and you finally have the time to unwind after a long year of hard work. As simple as it sounds, a lot of people have a hard time letting loose and getting some much-needed rest, even when they deserve it and have the spare time. Sounds crazy, right? 
One thing you need to know is that you do need a bit of downtime every once in a while, no matter how guilty you feel about leaving your work. Here are a couple of key facts that might convince you that taking some downtime isn't such a bad idea... 
 
Studies have shown that taking on heavy and never-ending workload has a negative effect on your productivity. Sufficient downtime is actually needed for a more productive and focused work life. 
Other studies have shown that downtime is necessary to restore focus as well as to prioritise and perform tasks better. 
A company called 3M introduced a 15% downtime for its employees way back in 1948 and have recorded huge spikes in creativity ever since, suggesting that taking downtime can positively affect your creativity. 
Your mental health, physical health, and even personal relationships benefit from you taking some time away from work. 

Why you need downtime 

Sometimes, in the middle of the day at work, while your brain is running on overtime, you might suddenly experience a wave of fatigue wash over you. A lot of people can relate to this experience, yet they tend to ignore it and keep going full throttle towards the finish line. However, this feeling is your body signalling you to take a break. 
 
The truth is that modern-day workers do not take enough breaks and downtime from work, and even when they do, their brains are still somewhat occupied with work anyway. This can have severely negative effects on their minds and bodies. One of the major reasons you need downtime is so that you can give your mind and body the chance to rejuvenate. Taking breaks sharpens the mind and increases your focus and creativity, and has even been said to benefit physical health as well. Don’t forget that the mind and the body are connected, so when one suffers, so does the other, and vice versa. 

How to plan for your time off 

It’s one thing to know that you need to take some downtime, and it’s another thing to actually go about it the right way. You might be wondering how to plan your downtime over the summer break - here are some implementable tips that I use myself! 
 
Actually make the time 
This sounds so obvious, however, it does need to be said. Just because you have a break over summer doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll use it to unwind. That’s why you need to make the conscious decision to use this free time to simply take your mind away from work and finally relax. Once you do this, you are one step closer to enjoying your downtime. 
 
Plan your downtime activities 
You can get very tempted to bury yourself in work tasks if you don’t fill your downtime with activities outside of work, so you need to plan ahead. What are the things you actually enjoy doing? Do you like to read? Schedule a bit of your time for reading leisurely - I try to read at least once a day for 15 minutes. Has work eaten into your work-out time? Now you have the chance to go back to the gym. You could also use this time to finally take that family break you’ve been meaning to take with your other half or the kids. The whole point is to fill up your days with activities outside of work so that you can actually enjoy this stress-free period. 
 
Do something fun! 
Everyone has those things they’ve always wanted to do but never got the chance. Some people call it their bucket list, while others call it their rainy days list. Whatever you call it, your summer downtime presents you with the unique opportunity to actually do these fun things you’ve always wanted to do. Not only will you be making memories, but you’ll also be enjoying yourself without having work on the mind 24/7! 

Other things to consider 

When taking some downtime over the summer break, here are a couple of other things you might want to consider to help you get into the habit of relaxing (and not peeking at your emails every five minutes!)... 
 
Use alarms and reminders to continuously remind you that this is free time away from work. You can actually download 'app blockers' which are designed to help people stay productive when working, but they can also be used to 'ban' yourself from certain apps (think emails, LinkedIn and anything else you use for work) during certain time periods during the day. 
Try reconnecting with your friends, family, and other loved ones during this time. It will not only be good for you but for them as well. 
Consider speaking with a mental health professional if you discover during this time that your mental health has suffered a lot due to your lifestyle. 
Try to get in as much exercise as you can during your downtime, and set some time aside to visit your doctor for a general checkup if you haven't had one for a while. 
 
I hope that you do find some time to relax this summer, particularly as it's been an especially tough year for all of us so far; can you believe that we are already half way through 2020?! I certainly can't! Here's to a hopefully more positive and less challenging Q3 and 4. 
 
 
 
 
Written by 
 
Nicola J Sorrell - 
Effective Accounting 
 
Founder | Xero Champion | IR35 Expert 
Tagged as: Self-Employed
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