Plan for Intentional Downtime

One of the biggest lies you can tell yourself is that in order to be productive you must always be working. It is really a myth that believes that the more hours of work I put in, the more I will produce.

In theory, this makes sense. And for a certain amount of hours the theory holds true. But once you reach a certain point, your productivity starts to decrease.

In the home, our job never really ends. Even right now as I write, there are things out of place in my home that I am shutting my mind to. There will always be dishes, laundry, or some other thing to do. The idea that I must always be “productive” is false.

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Your body will take downtime.

There will come a point when pure exhaustion will kick in, and we’ll take our down time. When we haven’t planned for it, and there is still a long list of things to do, we can easily feel guilty.

We may be sitting on the couch with our feet up while running a mental list of what we should be doing. As soon as I finish this cup of coffee, I need to send that email, wash those dishes, clean that bathroom, etc.

You have taken your so-called downtime because your body demanded it. But the entire time you were thinking about the work you should be doing, which didn’t allow you to truly rest. In the end, your downtime was pointless. Your work didn’t get done, and you didn’t really feel re-energized either.

3 Reasons to intentionally plan downtime

1. It Relieves Guilt

When you have times that you have intentionally decided are going to be non-productive times, you relieve the sense of guilt that you are not accomplishing something. (You really are accomplishing something in the way of rest, though!)

Because you planned for it you are able to enjoy your family, your hobby, your nap, without a thought to the to-do list.

2. It Motivates You to Work Harder

When I know that I have some time coming up that I can stop everything else and read, or go out with my family, it motivates me to get the dishes or laundry done.

My husband has been the key person to teach me this. Brian is one of the hardest workers I know, but he is also one of the best “relaxers” I know. (Is that even a word?) He can truly put it all aside and enjoy his downtime because he knows that he has put his work in, has been productive, and has truly given his best effort to his work.

3. It Encourages Truly Relaxing Downtime

Our bodies will take downtime in some form or another. When we don’t plan, we tend to do things during our downtime that aren’t relaxing. You may surf the internet or flip channels because you need a break from the grind. In the end though, it might not have felt truly relaxing. The problem was not in taking the downtime, but rather that you chose to do something that didn’t energize you.

When we plan, we think ahead about what would energize us. Is it reading? Is it running? Is it a walk in the park? Is it a family game night? Is it a specific TV show? Whatever it is that will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your life’s work is what you need to be doing. Don’t waste those beautiful times of relaxation doing something that doesn’t really relax you.

When and how often you take downtime depends on your temperament, your stress level in your work, etc. There is no perfect amount that is exactly right for everyone. What I have found most beneficial is to plan both daily and weekly times. The daily times are usually alone, while the weekly times are centered around family.

I plan for about 30 minutes a day to be completely not accounted for. I wish I could say that this means that I don’t waste any other time, but that wouldn’t be the truth. What that does mean is that the first 30 minutes of my kids rest time I carve out for downtime. I don’t worry about the household jobs, I try to stay off the internet (because while I find that fun and even profitable, I don’t find it relaxing), and I read.This is one way I make sure that the urgent doesn’t crowd out the important.

On a weekly basis we try to take at least a half day (a whole day when possible) where both Brian and I are completely “off.” We may go spend some time in nature, or we may just hang out at home. It all depends. The point is that we take the time to intentionally rest.

We don’t worry about what we could be accomplishing. We rest and spend time as a family. And the by-product is that we end up being way more productive and energized at other times.

I am fairly confident that having built-in downtime is what has helped me keep my sanity as a mom. It has also been key in helping us get through this current season of Brian being a student with minimal stress.

Your body will eventually demand the rest, so plan for it ahead of time.

Your power is proportional to your ability to relax. ~ David Allen

How do you plan intentional downtime?


  1. I like to say that if we don’t plan our downtime, it will be planned for us (usually through getting sick because we haven’t taken care of ourselves). I think it’s particularly hard to plan downtime as a mom because things can’t easily be checked off a list during work time. Sure, I can check that I stacked and ran the dishwasher, but there are now four more dishes on the counter waiting for me to empty and stack the dishwasher again. When I was a student I could check off the box for writing a paper and it would be done – there was nothing to revisit. Now, revisiting is the name of the game. It’s taken a big mindset shift for me to shut out what’s not done and focus on truly relaxing. Thanks for the tips.

    • Yes, I think that is why it is so hard for a mom to shut-down the to do list. Of course, we still take time off, but we seem to always be rehearsing our jobs in our heads. I have definitely had to learn how to turn that list “off.”

  2. So true. If you don’t purposely take some time to rest & re-energize – your body will do it for you. Your immune system needs that time out, or it will weaken and you’ll start catching everything that goes around.

  3. We schedule in a 2 hour quiet time during the school year. I am going to be blogging for some of it, but I am going to leave myself at least half hour to read. Reading is inspiring to me.

    • Me too…:-) I tried for awhile to do all my blogging work while the kids were napping, but I quickly realized that I need at least 30 minutes of just reading or I felt wasted.

  4. Lindsay Reimer says:

    Needed to read this today. I need to work at resting my mind!

  5. I need to work on planning and then following through on downtime! Enjoyed reading through this post on the benefits of intentional downtime.


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