Take Back Your Time, Part 2: Leveraging Down Time

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What do you do with your down time? Do you even have down time? Do you believe it exists? There have been seasons in my life in which I haven't believed down time was necessary because I was just trying to keep my head down and get everything done.

But that's not a sustainable way to live for very long, so here I am, talking to you about the importance of making the most of your down time.

 

This is the second post in a new series about ways to take back your time by figuring out when your ideal working hours are, making the most of your down time, making time for rest and fun, and prioritizing and eliminating. Stay in touch to make sure you don't miss the rest of the series! And if you missed the first post, you can catch it here.

 

What Down Time Is and Isn't

Down time is the little bits and pieces of time hidden between activities and tasks throughout the day. It's the five minutes you spend waiting in line to order your lunch, the fifteen-minute wait at the doctor's office, and the first twenty minutes after you get home from work.

It can also be the time you have while your dinner cooks, your children sleep, or your car gets repaired. If you're meeting a friend for coffee, and you get there early or your friend arrives a little late, you've been awarded some precious down time to use as you please!

Down time isn't twenty extra minutes that you should really be spending sleeping or taking an extra half hour to do something and causing yourself to run late to your next appointment.

It's finding and making the most of the little pockets of otherwise open space in your schedule, not stealing little bits and pieces from other commitments.

 

How to Find More Down Time

You certainly could find more down time by cutting other things out of your life, but I don't advocate that right off the bat. The place I suggest starting is paying attention to how you spend your time currently.

It's the concept behind tracking your money in order to create a reasonable budget for yourself. Before you can decide how you want to spend your time, it helps to know how you're already spending it so you can set reasonable expectations for yourself.

There are apps you can use to track your time (which I admittedly haven't used myself, but I've heard that they're great!). If that's not your style, I've created a printable time tracker you can use!

Once you know how you're spending your time now, evaluate where your time is going and how that compares to how you would like to be spending your time. Are you spending more time on social media or in front of the television than you would like to admit? Do you want to be spending more time walking outside, talking to your friends and family, or reading? Are you willing to trade one for the other?

Consider the return on investment of your time. If you're doing things that you don't enjoy, then maybe there's something better you could be doing. I say this with heaps of grace because I'm speaking just as much to myself as to you, dear friend. I don't want to admit to you how many episodes of shows I watched on Netflix this weekend. It's not always an easy switch to make, but I know that I feel happier, more productive, and more like the person I want to be when I spend more time reading good books (giving myself the permission to stop reading ones I don't enjoy), getting outside, making good food, and hanging out with my friends and family.

 

Making the Most of Our Down Time

Down time is easy to waste-- scrolling through social media, staring off into space, or watching television. Those things all have their places in our lives as ways to decompress and even entertain ourselves, but they can be a waste of time if we indulge in them too frequently and turn to them when we could be doing things that are either more productive or more life-giving.

One thing I like to do is to bring a book (or my Kindle) with me when I go places, so if I arrive somewhere too early or find myself standing in line somewhere, I can get a little reading in while I wait. I would otherwise struggle to fill the wait by scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or Instagram, which is great for all of three point five minutes, but it doesn't need to be my go-to time filler. I feel happier when I get more reading time in, and proud that I'm making the most of the time I spend waiting.

I also like to keep a running list of small tasks to do so that when I have a few spare minutes, I can check something off without taking away from my long stretches of productivity or leave me twiddling my thumbs while I wait. It's the best of both worlds!

 

You can get your time tracker here.

 

What do you do with your down time? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!