‘So much to do, so little time’. This has become a mantra for modern life. Although technological advances over the last few decades have given us greater organisational capabilities and flexibility – the freedom to be connected and to be able to work anywhere at any time (an absolute boon for us working parents), they have also had the contradictory effect of making us ‘busier’.

24 hour access to vast amounts of information, emails, texts, social media and news is addictive and seriously affects our self-regulation. We are ‘always on’ – ready to answer queries, check results and respond to requests. It impacts our health, relationships and sleep patterns. Work begins to pervade our personal lives and our family time.

Click here for my tips on how to stop being a tech slave

In addition to the blurring of the boundaries between work and personal spheres, modern life is just plain busy! Even if you don’t have children, fitting in a demanding career, commuting, household chores, travel, socialising, shopping, hobbies and exercising (phew! Just writing that list makes me tired!) can be exhausting. Once you have a family, trying to balance all your competing priorities without a proper strategy in place can push you to the point of overwhelm and burnout.

Click here for my post on how to balance work and family

So how do we avoid it?

I’ve explained in previous blogs the importance of having a strategy for looking after your own well-being if you want to stay healthy and sane and keep overwhelm at bay when kids come along (see my tips on self care). Central to that well-being strategy is regularly devoting time to stillness and self-reflection – this is your ‘downtime’. In our frenetic lives we all need downtime – moments to refocus and replenish our energy, to check in with ourselves to ensure we’re ok and still on the right track, and when we discover we are not, to decide what adjustments we need to make to get us back to form.

But like most of the strategies I recommend for mastering balance, fitting downtime into your day when you have so many demands on your time is a skill. One that needs to be learned and practised so that it becomes a habit that will be on hand when the time comes to have a family (This is covered in Module 3 ‘Practise Balance’ of the Babyproof Your Career Online Course ).

So don’t let another day go by where you rush from place to place and task to task. Follow these top tips for fitting downtime into your day:

downtime

downtime

1. Set yourself a goal

How much downtime do you want to fit in? Obviously this depends on your schedule and how much you already get. If you are new to the concept of scheduling time for yourself, start small. Even 5 minutes a day is worthwhile. When you get used to that, you can begin to build up the time gradually.

downtime

2. Find opportunities in your daily schedule

Brainstorm the WHEN and WHERE. When could you fit 5 minutes of downtime into your day? People who are always busy think they don’t have time for downtime. But the opportunities are there if you look for them. When you wake up? on your lunch break? At bedtime? While exercising? And where could you take time out? On the loo? On the train? Walking to the bus stop? Start thinking about it and you’ll realise the possibilities are infinite. A friend of mine swears by walking the dog – gently exercising and focusing on being present in nature. My favourite is to schedule in time to myself first thing in the morning, getting up early before everyone else when I have the house to myself. (Getting up early to focus on my own needs has been transformational in my life – I write about the benefits here).

downtime

3. Learn how to practise downtime

Learn HOW. The most common forms of downtime and self-reflection practice are meditation (being still, emptying your mind of thoughts) and mindfulness (being fully present and in the moment). If you’re new to these, ask for advice. Who do you know who meditates or practises mindfulness, what tips can they give you? Use one of the many great meditation apps like Headspace or read a book on meditation – I love Quiet the Mind by Matthew Johnstone.

downtime

4. Practise makes perfect

Practise makes perfect – no-one is born being able to meditate or be mindful. It’s called “practising” meditation for a reason! Try little and often. If you fall out of the habit or miss the odd day, don’t give up and think you’ve failed, keep going. Tomorrow is a new day.

downtime

5. Try a 30 day challenge

Try a 30 day challenge. It can seem daunting to commit to downtime/meditation every day for the rest of your life when you haven’t done it before. Instead commit to a 30 day challenge. It seems doable, and by the end, it will have become a habit. You will find that you miss it if you don’t do it!

Follow these tips and you’ll be well on your way to making downtime a priority in your life which will pay dividends when the time comes to start a family. Good luck – and happy meditating!

 

Do you already build downtime into your day and have any tips to share? Or any other favourite meditation/mindfulness apps to recommend? Join the conversation in our Linkedin Group.

 

Find out more about downtime and well-being on our Babyproof Your Career online course – launching soon. Register your interest here.