A recent survey revealed what most of us feel: that millions of Americans feel guilty about taking downtime and work on weekends and vacations.
Let me relieve you of this guilt.
Unplugging, napping and daydreaming make you better.
- Daydreaming finds solutions to complex problems. According to research by Dr. Letivin, our brain has two dominant functions: task driven and daydreaming. It can only do one at a time. When you are unplugged and daydreaming your brain makes connections from seemingly arbitrary information and thus comes up with creative solutions to a problem. This is why great insights often come when you are folding your laundry.
- Sleeping longer improves athletic performance. A recent article by Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project claims sleep, namely 8 to 9 hours per night, as a competitive advantage. He cites research by Dr. Cheri D. Mah of Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic found that athletes performed better and reported better moods and more energy on an excessive sleep (10 hours a night for 6 weeks).
- Vacation increases performance evaluations. Tony Schwartz also notes a study of Ernst and Young employees that found that for each additional 10 vacation hours they took, year end performance evaluations improved 8 percent.
- Naps improve concentration and performance. Alertness declines throughout the day and can be revived with a 10 to 20 minute nap. A great article by Ferris Jabr summarizes the research and benefits of naps.
More importantly, downtime is good for your life.
- It allows you to see what you really want. When you aren’t following your to do list, you can follow your nose as my grandmother would say and do what you crave. For the first few days, it may be rest. So give yourself permission to sleep. When you awaken, you may crave connection or fulfillment or creativity. This craving can feel uncomfortable if you don’t know how to satisfy it immediately, but resist the urge to make yourself busy just to avoid it. Instead, acknowledge it and ask how could you bring more of that into your life. Listen for what answers appear over the next few days.
- It helps you let go of what’s not working. Much of work is done on autopilot, responding as we always have. Taking a real break creates physical and emotional space to see patterns that need to be upgraded.
- It creates more satisfying relationships. When we’re stretched, it’s impossible to truly connect. Besides feeling a little empty, studies have shown that lacking strong relationships is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Taking the time to rest so you can be your best and truly present with your loved ones can rekindle and deepen relationships. (For best results, nap together.)
Try a 10 minute nap, technology free meals or 20 minutes puttering time around the house. For more ideas, check out my post on The Art of Slowing Down.