Do you distinguish between work time, creative time, and downtime when you think about your productivity at work?

Here’s what I mean….

In the past, I've thought about creative time and downtime as one and the same. So when I used to consider I was having a break from work (downtime) by going for a walk for example, and I was actively thinking of things to do on a video or a blog post that might support my community, that was actually me being creative. This type of walk is something that allows me to be more joyfully productive when I get back to my work.  So it's not “downtime” in the traditional sense of the word. It’s creative work time.

On the other hand, many of you will use a walk purely as downtime.  You’ll go out with your music player and listen to music, podcasts or the radio. You might walk your dog or simply experience nature. It might be a way of you replenishing. And it is that for me sometimes too, particularly when it’s a long walk, or when I’m with friends or family. I completely switch off from work.

But that's what I mean about making a distinction.  Because it can be counterproductive to think about them in exactly the same way when they may serve different purposes. 

Which means examining the thought “I’m not working and therefore not productive when I’m walking”. Because going out for a walk can be a way both to replenish or maintain my sense of well being, as well as a way of encouraging me to be more creative.  So although it could be downtime for me, it’s much more likely to be creative work time when I’m walking during my usual work hours.

And the more I acknowledge this, consider the purpose of any breaks, or set out with a specific intention, the easier it is for me to distinguish between what is essentially still work time (even though it’s creative and doesn’t ‘look like work’!) rather than downtime.  Because it’s a way of capturing what my subconscious mind is working on, by allowing it to pop into my conscious mind, rather than thinking or ‘working at it’! And of course this is not just about walking. I’ve simply used it as an example because it’s something I do regularly.

Why is this important?  

It's important because we can deny ourselves what we view as personal or downtime activities. Rather than actively encouraging them. When we encourage more creative time, and can recognise it as such, rather than thinking of it as procrastinating or skiving, we can be more joyfully productive when we’re back at work. And of course when we’re productive, we’re taking less time!

So what about downtime?  When we take a complete break from work? 

This can be difficult if you struggle to switch off. But differentiating between creative thinking time (still work) and downtime (not work) can help. 

When you add up all of the time you work doing actual activities, as well as all of your creative time when you're thinking about work (still work) then you might be surprised at how little real down time you actually have.  Time when you’re not thinking about work and you’re thinking about something completely different. It might be even less time than you previously thought!  

Which means this distinction might help you not only with your productivity at work, but also when thinking about your downtime hours and activities. For many of us that will probably mean considering how to get more!!

Questions to Consider

  • Where are the distinctions for you between productive work time, creative work time and downtime? 
  • What constitutes downtime for you? 
    • How do you replenish? 
    • How do you fill your soul? 
    • How do you chill and relax?  
    • How do ensure you have sufficient energy, motivation, and resilience at work?

  • What is creative time for you?  
    • What do you do currently?  
    • What would you like to do?  
    • What will enable you to be more creative at work? 

Please do take the time to explore and act on your answers. At the very least, the way you think about productivity and work time may open up for you.  And even a small change in perception can alter your experience of time and productivity. And who doesn’t want to feel more creative and productive, AND have enough relaxing and nourishing downtime too?

Let me know how you get on by leaving your comments here...