How To Actually Enjoy Your Downtime

  • Published on:
    June 2, 2021
  • Reading time by:
    4 minutes
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As a mom, business owner, and wife to a guy with a never-the-same ER schedule, I’ve objectively got a very full plate and manage ever-changing logistics. Not only are there business projects and tasks to do, but then there’s getting dinner on the table, taking my daughter to soccer practice, and making sure all of us have clean clothes. If I were to make a list of everything that needed to be done, it’d likely be shock-inducing and I’d feel compelled to never stop working. 

Despite this, we all know that taking breaks to recharge is critical. The American Psychological Association reports that employees who take time off feel less stressed, more energized, and more productive with a higher quality of work. Plus, we all know it makes us happier, which benefits our relationships and just helps us enjoy our lives more.

To get there, you hear a lot of advice like, “just carve out time for self-care/fun.” But if I turned to you right now and said, “stop working for the next 30 minutes and read a fun book,” would you feel relief – or just more anxiety? I’d bet that suggestion causes most, if not all, of us more tension. That’s because we know we wouldn’t be able to enjoy that time “off” because we’d just be anxiously thinking about everything else we should be getting done, right?

So, how do we actually take breaks and enjoy them?

First, create peace of mind about your to-do’s so you can actually enjoy your time off

How many times have you found yourself trying to catch up with a friend or drawing with your child only to find your mind hijacked by all of the tasks you have to get done? It’s not long before you’re sweating about how you’ll get things done and no longer present in that moment you really want to pay attention to. 

To avoid those nagging thoughts, we need to know that everything on our to-do list can get done in the future and that we don’t need to do it right now. Make sense?

But how? To avoid feeling the pressure to do everything right now, schedule all of your tasks in your calendar at future times so you know that you have time protected to do them later. Schedule the 30 minutes when you’ll cook dinner tonight, the 90 minutes when you’ll tackle that assignment tomorrow, and the 15 minutes you’ll spend next Tuesday calling that doctor to schedule that appointment. 

When you see how you can get all of your to-do’s done over time, your brain understands that it doesn’t need to do them all right this second, giving you the peace of mind to truly relax and be present for the moments you value.

Next, schedule your fun

Now that we have the peace of mind to actually enjoy free time, how do we actually find time for it?

Again, I want you to protect time proactively for it in your calendar. I know, I know… when we’ve grown up using our calendars just for things we have to do, such as work meetings and doctor’s appointments, scheduling fun in your calendar can feel weird (like it’s sucking the joy out of it). 

But your calendar no longer has to be this mean boss forcing you to eat your vegetables. Instead, it can be a tool to help you design and live out a life you’re excited about that includes the fun stuff. 

If you’re still resistant, I’ll ask you this: are you getting sufficient time for fun in your life using your current system? If not, it’s likely because you’re trying to find time for yourself in your schedule leftovers after everyone else has taken their picking. If we instead schedule your fun in advance, you can protect it from other obligations and demands – upping the chance that you actually get it. 

Try it out for a month. Schedule time for fun and get specific with it. Are you going to go on a walk? Are you going to read a specific book? Are you going to watch a movie? Help tired Future You know what to do to bring joy into your life instead of default-scrolling Instagram for 45 minutes and walking away still feeling like you have no time for yourself (not just me?).

Experiment if it’s been a while since you got to have fun

If you don’t know what you’d do for fun, that’s totally fine and way more common than you realize. Often, we’ve been going full-on for so long that we don’t actually know what we’d enjoy doing anymore. Feel free to experiment! What you decide to try out for the next two weeks doesn’t need to be your new life-long hobby. Just try something, and feel free to let it go as soon as it doesn’t make you excited. Keep a list in your phone of possible fun things – like brush-lettering classes, books you want to read, hikes you want to take, and friends you want to catch up with.  

Getting serious about having fun

While fun used to come more easily when life was simpler (ah, those college days), adulting life —even the fun stuff like raising a family and enjoying an awesome home-cooked meal—comes with time-consuming tasks and makes life more logistically complicated. As a result, we’ve got to get more intentional to make sure we get to have the fun we deserve and crave. Let’s help you intentionally protect time for fun activities that truly light you up and actually enjoy them. It’s time for you to enjoy life more.

Kelly Nolan

Kelly Nolan is an attorney-turned-time management strategist and mom. Using realistic time management strategies, she helps modern working women manage everything on their plate with less stress and more calm clarity. To get Kelly’s free guide on how to ditch your overwhelm, click here: https://www.kellynolan.com/ditch-your-overwhelm

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