The Necessity Of Downtime (and Why I Love to Clean My House)
By Susanne Biro
I recently lamented to a colleague that I spent an entire day cleaning my home. He said he thought cleaning was a waste of time, and that I should really consider hiring a cleaning person and use my time to invest in writing, research and other things pertaining to my profession.
Surprised by his comments, I decided to give them some serious personal consideration. After careful reflection, I realized this: I really enjoy the satisfaction I receive from cleaning. The results are tangible. I start with a messy, disorganized home, and at the end of the day, it is tidy and organized. Oh, the satisfaction! It is a kind of concrete result I rarely see as directly in the work that I do (which is probably one of the reasons why I find cleaning so personally rewarding). It energizes me.
When I next ran into my colleague he asked if I had hired a cleaning person. “No, but I have not tried” I replied. He rolled his eyes as if I failed to follow through on something so obviously necessary. “You have made an incorrect assumption,” I proceeded to enlighten him. “You have assumed that the more time I have to work, the more effective I will be. I do not believe this to be the case. Some of my best ideas come to me when I am cleaning, not when I am sitting at my computer, researching and the like. The downtime is a necessity for my professional advancement. The fact that I also end up with a clean, tidy house is simply a bonus.”
In order to be truly effective at any endeavor, we must have time away from it, time when our mind can be free and engaged in an entirely different way. This is when our subconscious mind can work on the issue, challenge or opportunity ahead (also called The Incubation Period). It is in moments of downtime when we are frequently most creative and resourceful. It is one of the reasons why so many will “sleep on” a difficult problem.
The further you climb up the organizational ladder, the greater the need for white space in your days. As an organization leader, you must have time to reflect upon what is happening, where you are going, and perhaps most importantly, where exactly you need to lead your people. This creative, strategic, big thinking process requires you to get out of the day-to-day. And, just as with physical exercise, you must schedule this thinking time – and then protect it with your life – otherwise, it is sure to never occur.
“Time you enjoyed wasting is not wasted time.” – unknown.