The upside of downtime

It's no wonder 8 is the traditional number of daily hours to work (I know many of us end up doing many more, and not necessarily by day), but also the ideal number, give or take, to have a good night sleep.

Given the fact any single day has 24 hours, that leaves another 8 hours to wrap it up. What to do? Ideally, that's your free time. Hobby time. Family time. Friends time. Unfortunately, more often than not we're consuming that time to compensate for the misuse of the other parts of our day. Meaning, we're working extra hours and perhaps sleeping more because we're always so tired (specially on weekends). Meaning, free time is often underrated.

"I've been busy" is more often looked at as a compliment than a fact that needs some kind of fixing. We're asked to be entrepreneurs, to leave our comfort zones but no one ever told we also need our rest to properly do this function. It's just like saying "no" so you can properly deliver on "yes".

The internet has higher and higher demand to never have downtime. If Facebook goes down, we sigh. If Gmail goes down, we twitch. If we see a Fail Whale, OMFG (and don't get me started on router downtime). But that doesn't mean us humans should behave that same way. We're living a time of "always on", where permanent connection is the paradigm, but we've got to learn to better respect our own downtime, the time where we dedicate ourselves to lighter activities, such as watching a movie, sketching or simply walking in the park.

If our ideas had a way of expressing themselves, they'd probably say they need more time. Not more time to think, but actually more time to stop thinking, which is actually a necessary step in the creative process. James Webb Young wrote a book where he puts it much better than I ever will.

The way I see it, "always on" can end up being a idea killer. And downtime can actually help you achieve mental stability to produce your best work when production time arrives.

Oh, and I stand corrected — ideas actually do have a way to express themselves regarding this issue. They just do it by showing you the solution when you least expect. Do you know that moment when you're doing something totally non-work related (showering, driving, reading a light book) and the solution just pops in your head? Some call it the "eureka moment". But it really is a form of downtime, or is it not?