The Importance of Downtime
by Steph Beth Nickel
I’m filling in for our church administrator while she’s on maternity leave. For 30 hours each week, I can’t work uninterrupted on writing or editing. I can’t tend to my volunteer responsibilities. I can’t work around the house—Wait! Scratch that. That wouldn’t be how I spent the majority of those 30 hours anyway.
Since coming to work at the church mid-February—which, for the most part, I really enjoy, by the way—I’ve been somewhat overwhelmed by my To Do list. Granted, the Lord had previously been teaching me how to focus on the Now (this very moment), but until recently, it hadn’t been an undeniable necessity for my mental wellbeing.
MAKE A LIST … AND CHECK IT TWICE
I’ve been a list-maker for as long as I can remember, but these days, I guarantee if I don’t write something down, it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to happen. In the past I haven’t cared if I put too much on my list. I would just move it to the next day. But no more! I have to be realistic about what I can accomplish, especially between 3:00 and 11:00/12:00 at night.
It didn’t take me long to realize there was no way I could keep up the frantic pace without paying a high price. In fact, I became short-tempered with friends and family members if they even suggested I take on something else—even something simple. Beyond that, I found myself annoyed for no apparent reason. Not good.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO TAKE DOWNTIME
Slowly, I began to give myself permission to take time away from my responsibilities to regroup. I would watch a movie with my hubby, play a game of Scrabble (which I won, by the way), even go away for a sisters’ weekend with NO computer access. Woohoo!
And beyond any of that, I was so busy doing good things that I was neglecting the best thing: time with God. I have slowly begun to again study the Word for the exclusive purpose of drawing closer to the Lord. I still need to devote more time to prayer, but that will come.
And while I was driving the two-and-a-half hours to my sister’s, I popped in a couple of new contemporary Christian music worship CDs, refused to watch the clock, and simply worshiped all the way there. It was glorious.
PLAN A GETAWAY
This weekend, my writers’ group, which has been meeting for over a decade, is going on our first ever writers’ retreat. That designation is valid because we are all writers. However, from what I’ve heard from the other ladies, it would be better to call it a writing-reading-crafting-napping-walking on the beach retreat. In other words, we all need downtime. I’m sure we will accomplish a lot of writing, but I don’t think that will be the most important aspect of the weekend.
As some of you know, I am an extrovert—on steroids (figuratively speaking). I have found myself desperately needing uninterrupted alone / quiet time. So not me! I am actually hoping we have a No Chat policy for certain hours of the day while on our retreat. I just want to focus on my reading and my writing. I know if I’m not deliberate about this, I’ll chat far too much.
So how about you? What do you do to get refreshed? [Scroll down to join the conversation.]
Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.
I am a firm believer in down time, Steph, and the irony of the timing of this post is that my to-do list today is long enough that it spills into tomorrow’s square on my calendar. *sigh* Enjoy your weekend getaway, and be refreshed!
The getaway was simply amazing, but now that I’m back, I’m having trouble getting back to routine / uptime. 🙂
Down time is such a struggle for me. I discovered it last year and have tried to take 15-20 minutes a day to read or relax. It makes a world of difference for me. Thanks for the reminder to not let busy get the better of me.
I agree, Kelly, it does make a difference if we take even just a small amount of time to refresh and recharge. Steph’s already away for her weekend break, so she won’t see comments until next week. Enjoy some extra reading/relaxing time this weekend!
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Kelly. May you enjoy downtime and be refreshed.
It’s those calm quiet moments when life finally begins to make sense to you. That’s the moment when the universe speaks to you. You need to be still and quiet at such a time – because when it speaks, it usually whispers.
Nice blog entry, Steph.
Words of wisdom, Steve. Sometimes I wonder how many whispers we miss by being so noisy. And when there’s a lesson I need to learn, I’d rather learn it from a whisper than wait for the message to escalate to a shout (or a cuff upside the head).
Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Steve. Your words remind me of Psalm 46:10 from the ESV, which says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Stillness is something we don’t cherish enough (or at all).