Balance, Career Advancement, Featured

Too much to do at work? 4 ways to schedule time to breathe

Photo credit: Archiwiz, Shutterstock

Photo credit: Archiwiz, Shutterstock

A while back, we shared how LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner schedules time during the day just to think. He uses that time (up to two hours each day in 30-to-90 minute increments) to process meetings, next steps, and ideas.

Time to think, reflect, and plan? Who wouldn’t want that?! But, of course, it’s easier said than done. After all, when you’re juggling multiple priorities and projects, taking a vacation is hard enough; how are you supposed to schedule time for yourself while you’re in the office?

Here’s the thing: You don’t always need huge blocks of alone time to clear your head. Below are a few tips for giving yourself a little breathing room at work.

Figure out how much time you need

First, you should determine how much down time would be best for you, and how often you want to schedule it. Maybe you’d prefer a daily 10-minute break with coffee and your journal, or 20 minutes with a book every other day. Initially, it helps to schedule time when there is little going on in your day or as a buffer between meetings.

Also, determine what point during the day works best for you. As a morning person and a journalist, I often had end-of-day deadlines to meet, so taking an extra 10 minutes in the morning helped me focus and be prepared to tackle the day. Or maybe you’d rather relax after turning in a project, with a walk in the evening. At the beginning of the week, or whenever you are planning your day, set aside the necessary downtime for the day.

Clarify how you want to use your time

Jeff Weiner suggests taking time to reflect on the day and digest your experiences. We recently shared a video touting the importance of a career journal.

Over on Kivi’s Nonprofit Communications Blog, Kivi Leroux Miller is encouraging readers to take a “free day” at work, where you don’t schedule any meetings and (hopefully) have no interruptions. She asked what people would do on such a day, and many said cleaning or organizing, planning ahead with strategy, or taking time to read and write. If you are looking at this downtime as a way to get focused on your career, consider these ideas.

If technology isn’t necessary, leave it alone

If you need your time to brainstorm, being able to do a quick Google search can be really helpful. However, if you find that technology is a huge distraction when you’re trying to plan, review, and think about your big ideas (who can resist checking email when a notification pops up?), it is important that your downtime is tech-less time.

A recent article in The New York Times listed several suggestions, including declaring a device-free section of your office and, if you prefer to use your device to play music or for some other relaxing activity, turn off all notifications or put it into airplane mode.

If technology helps you as you work, limit distractions by installing apps on your computer that help you better manage and monitor your time. For example, Concentrate allows you to list the tasks you need to accomplish, then blocks programs that aren’t related to that task. Check out additional apps on 99u.

Stick to it

This is the hardest part, but if you want to make the most of your downtime, you need schedule it and stick to it. To start, place the time on your calendar as a recurring event so that you (and your coworkers if they can also see your calendar) get used to seeing that time blocked out. Additionally, by scheduling it, you’re less likely to leave your downtime up to chance.

Do you take time for yourself each day or week? How has it helped you? What advice do you have?

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