Enjoying Downtime without Experiencing a Downturn

Wed Dec 07 2016 Michael McQueen

Enjoying Downtime without Experiencing Downturn

As we draw to the end of another year, if you’re anything like me you’re looking forward to downing tools, closing up the laptop and switching off from all things work.

For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, the holiday season coincides with our summer break – that blissful and carefree time where beaches are full and office towers are empty.

For my Northern Hemisphere friends, the coming weeks may only be a short break but a break no less.

Having spent much of the year reflecting on the nature of momentum and how businesses and individuals build (and keep) it, it occurred to me recently that this holiday season can be one of the most difficult to navigate when it comes to our momentum. After all, what’s the point of running hard up to the finish line on Dec 24th only to fall across the finish line, collapse in a heap and return from the break having lost all the momentum-gains we had made in 2016.

So, how can we embrace downtime without experiencing a downturn?   

As I have been exploring this question with clients over recent weeks, here are three suggestions:

1. Slow down but don't stop 

Newton’s first law of motion states that objects in motion tend to stay in motion, while objects that are stationary tend to stay stationary.

To put this more simply, once you’re moving it only requires incremental effort to speed up. However, if you have stopped entirely, it requires much greater energy to break the shackles of inertia and get off go.

Bearing this in mind, can I suggest you avoid entirely stopping over this holiday period. While doing the epic ‘mic drop’ and walking away from your professional obligations can be tempting, the simple reality is that by stopping entirely, you are setting yourself up for a very arduous kick start next year when you’ll likely feel least inspired to put in the effort.

So what does slowing down look like for you?

  • Perhaps it means checking emails every day or two (rather than every minute or two as you might normally).
  • Perhaps it means staying abreast of industry trends and breaking news by continuing to read the trade or business journals even though you’d rather read nothing at all.
  • Perhaps it means stopping by your office or store to get a few things sorted even if you don’t open the doors to customers. To this third point, the holiday season can be a great time of the year to get the sorting, cleaning and filing done that you can justifiably ignore during the rest of the year.

To be clear, I am in no way suggesting we avoid having a break altogether. A fruitful life is always one marked by seasons and one of those seasons must involve deliberate and soul-refreshing rest. However, maybe it is smarter to see this season as a time for significantly slowing down rather than stopping entirely if you hope to maintain momentum and set yourself up for a great 2017.

2. Set the new year in motion now 

Sales and productivity guru Brian Tracy has long recommended writing a day’s to-do list the night before. That way, he suggests, you are beginning your day with intentionality and clear objectives which you set in the sober light of day (rather than the groggy lethargy of an early morning).

In the same way, it makes a lot of sense to craft your action list for the first few days of returning after the break before you take a step back. Better still, why not get started on a few of the tasks that’ll need your attention in the new year. Set a goal of getting some of those new year activities 20% completed before you go on the break. That way you’re not trying to get moving from a standing start or beginning with a blank sheet of paper when you return to work.

3. Step back to get perspective 

Finally, the best way to embrace downtime without experiencing a downturn is to see it as an opportunity to lift your gaze from the day-to-day. When we’re in the thick of things and busy, it is easy to become so focused that we lose out ability to see the forest for the trees.

Over the break, take stock of where things are at for you right now. What is working? What isn’t? Are your daily routines serving you or stunting your growth? Are you in a groove or a rut? What are you working towards - are you purpose-driven or have you become productivity-driven? 

Perhaps you could get perspective this break by reading a biography of someone who inspires you. Maybe you could get involved in some charity or volunteer work. Maybe you could go the ballet or a theatre show that is of no professional benefit but is simply an expression of beauty and creativity.

Regardless of how you achieve perspective, use this downtime to pause and reflect because the last thing you want to do is go into the new year mindlessly repeating what you’ve done over the past 12 months if it’s time to make some changes.

So there you have it. Three ways to embrace the downtime this holiday season affords without experiencing the downturn it often leads to.

Can I take the opportunity to wish you all the very best this holiday season. May you spend this time in a way that refreshes you while at the same time ensures that things remain revved up and ready to go in the new year.


Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.

He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and has written 5 bestselling books including his latest release "Momentum: How to Build it, Keep it, or Get it Back."

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