3 Ways to Reclaim your Downtime

Working from home has massively cut my commute to work time! It takes me 12-14 seconds to get from my kitchen to my office, depending on my energy levels. And yes, I got to the stage where I needed the distraction from the glue holding me to my computer - to time myself between cuppa and PC.

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I didn't realise how much I valued my commute time to and from clients until lockdown descended upon us.

I've been reflecting on why I've been feeling so tired (and hearing others say the same), and come to the conclusion that it's down to 2 key things:

1. Just because I have extra available working hours because I'm not commuting, doesn't mean I have to fill them with work

2. Filling my extra time in front of the PC or laptop isn't good for my physical or mental wellbeing ... and has reduced the variety of things in my day. 

Ultimately 'balance' is what's missing, and for me balance comes from variety.

What creates balance for you?

I've started redressing balance in a number of ways, and the most important one is about creating those moments of 'downtime', whether they be individual or with family (where safe to do so!)

Right now, I define downtime as - 'time away from my home office and even thinking about work' ... something that will redress the balance I'm sorely lacking.

How would you define downtime?

What does it specifically look like for you?

Here are my thoughts around reclaiming downtime.

1) Insert something physical to your day that has nothing to do with work

I've taken up Pilates (via Zoom), and am finding muscles I never realised I had. I find it wakes up my body, and I'm already feeling stronger in my core. I'm standing straighter and have better posture at the computer. That's got to be a good thing!

2) Lengthen your commute if you work from home

I take my morning cuppa for a walk around the garden a couple of times, breathe in the fresh air, listen to the sounds around me ... and basically get present for the day ahead. It also gives me much needed variety. I repeat this with my 11am coffee, lunch and afternoon break - weather permitting.

3) Try the Pomodoro Technique to create short regular breaks

This idea comes from Italian - Francesco Cirillo, when he was a student. He used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato (popular in the 1980s!) and worked for 25 minute intervals, followed by a short break of 3-5 minutes. (NB - 'pomodoro' is Italian for tomato).

I use this technique when I have short tasks to do (e.g. checking & answering emails). With longer tasks which take more time to get into ... I go for 45-60 minute work intervals, with 10 minute breaks.

Experiment with timings and different types of task, and do what works best for you.

Perhaps most importantly in all of this is that, if you want to reclaim more downtime to help you switch off and restore your mental and physical energy, you need to make this time important. Diarise it. Protect it. 

I'd love to hear your comments below about how you create or reclaim your downtime, if this has been lacking recently!

Debbie Inglis

Resilience Coach, Square Two Development Ltd

Having spent 16 years in the education sector, I left suffering from burnout. Looking for another career - coaching ticked all my boxes. At the time it was still a growing industry and I was one of the first to gain a PGCert in Life & Business Coaching (Derby University). I'm now on a mission to help prevent school leaders and teachers leaving the profession because of overwhelm, illness & disillusionment. Loving the huge benefits of having coaching skills to support others, for the last 10 years I've been sharing that by training school leaders, teachers and managers in the private sector in coaching skills. My 4-day course is accredited by the ILM (Level 5) and the CPD Standards Office. Following overcoming a series of personal challenges, I've become interested in mental toughness and resilience, and the strategies you can use to manage and overcome life's challenges. In 2015 I became licensed to deliver 3 Mental Toughness online assessments (for adults and young people), and now use this as a support for identifying coaching goals, building leadership resilience and delivering Mental Toughness & Resilience training. With a mission to support the coaching industry, and facilitate the development of other coaches, I've led a Coaches CPD group in the East Midlands since 2011, and I'm also a Coach Supervisor. Connect with me if you'd like to chat about any of the above. Best wishes, Debbie