It’s always near blissful when you shut the laptop down and call it a day — but just because you’re pushing away the desk doesn’t mean you’re completely switching off. Being busy is a hard habit to break, but there are things to do during your downtime that’ll help you recharge and push the ever-beckoning to-do list away.
Just think about it: How many times have you been snuggled up on the couch, but felt guilty over the fact that you really should be doing something else? Or how many times have you been caught yourself sneaking peeks at your email as your friend went to grab the next round at your neighborhood bar, or found yourself thinking of loose ends as you sat at the back of a taxi cab. Just because you’re “relaxing” doesn’t mean your brain called it quits for the day.
This means you can’t really fully recharge! But don’t worry, there are a few easy things to do during your time off to that will ensure you cut off the rambling planner list and let yourself rest instead. Below are seven things to do during your downtime to fully recharge – now put that agenda away!
1. Schedule It
Busy people love their to-do lists, so add "recharging" onto it. If you see it as a task, you won't feel as guilty about taking a weekend off — after all, it's something that needs to be done and checked off your list. You want the satisfaction of crossing it off, don't you?
According to Jackie Coleman and John Coleman at Harvard Business Review, "Just as you would schedule a work meeting and stick to it, schedule evenings off, one to two days a week free of work, and weeklong chunks of vacation every year. Unplug, and stick to it." If you have it in your planner, it'll feel more official and something that needs to be done. It won't feel like a whim to slack off, but rather another important piece to your schedule.
2. Take Care Of Anything That'll Leave You Fretting
Chances are you're a busy person, and with busy people comes a running to-do list that runs like a loop in their heads. To really be able to recharge, take away those obstacles that'll leave you worrying about forgetting. A great way to do that is to write a catch-all to-do list so you can feel assured you have everything you need to do on paper, so you don't have to think about it while you're unwinding. You're no longer responsible for remembering it, so there's no point of worrying about it or giving it your attention while you're trying to relax.
Coleman and Coleman share, "In Getting Things Done, author David Allen states that having tasks on our mind is like using up RAM on our personal computers because there is limited capacity in our short-term memory. Instead of going through the day on mental overload, distracted by those fleeting to-dos, it helps to keep an organized list and physical folders containing all of the tasks that take up mental space. Feeling organized enables worry-free downtime."
3. Step Away From The Phone
It can be super tempting to reach for your phone and scroll through Instagram while relaxing on the couch, but if you want to fully recharge, fight it. Our phones have the ability to help us relax, but they're also linked with work and other stresses. It can be just as easy to quickly check your email or respond to an SOS text as it is to scroll through your DIY board on Pinterest — don't tempt yourself with work as you're trying to unwind.
According to Christy O’Shoney at self-development blog Nectar Collective, "You know that compulsion you have to reach for your phone every 30 seconds? Fight it. I hate to be the bearer of the most unsurprising news ever, but as we all know at this point, too much screen time is terrible for your rest. In fact, studies have shown that that it can actually have a damaging effect on your brain’s ability to exercise cognitive functions, make decisions, process emotions, and control impulses." So leave your phone in your purse or in your room — if you want a real rest, it can wait.
4. Don't Feel Guilty About It, Not Even For A Second
While a rest is always well-deserved, sometimes our hyperactive minds can ruin the moment by letting guilt settle over the one-on-one couch time. You begin to think of all the things you could be doing that moment, and you end up unwinding but feeling stressed out over the fact that you're doing it. To really recharge, leave the guilt at the door.
O'Shoney points out, "What if someone needs me? Is this really a good use of my time? Everyone else is working right now, so I should be working, too. If these thoughts are creeping into your rest time, shut them down. This thinking is born from a lie that says, 'Good people are busy people.' Quick reminder: You are not a bad person for taking time to take care of yourself. In fact, you’re actually just healthy." Everyone needs a break, no matter how close to super woman they are! Realizing that, let yourself enjoy these lazy moments. You'll be back to your to-do list before you know it.
5. Do Something Completely Outside Of Your Routine
You know how you spend a full day just lounging about, but when you get back into the grind you still kind of feel like you haven't had a proper break? The reason is that you didn't actually do anything with your time, and while that's perfect for some occasions, other times you need a real jolt to your routine to feel like you took some proper time off.
According to business writer and consultant Larry Alton at Entrepreneur, "Our work rituals can cause us stress, even before we get into the office. Disrupt your usual schedule by sleeping in, eating dessert for breakfast, or by getting tickets for an exciting event. If you have a hard time relaxing, then you might just need to jolt your subconscious into recognizing that it's a holiday break." So go do something outside of your usual box to feel like you actually took some down-time. Go to a concert, try a fancy new restaurant on a chi-chi "gotta try" list, buy a cheesy Groupon activity — anything!
6. Do Something That'll Feel Satisfying
Sure, a good five hour crash on the couch sounds amazing, but you might feel even more recharged if you do something a little more enriching with your downtime. O'Shoney offers, "Once you’ve allowed your brain to work through what it needs to work through, it will likely be hungry for new sources of stimulation. Instead of feeding it with a Netflix marathon, think about some healthier options. A few ideas: listen to a new podcast, visit a museum, go for a walk in your neighborhood, read that book that’s been sitting on your nightstand."
It can feel amazing doing nothing but watching TV, but sometimes even that can become tedious. Instead, focusing your mind on something equally as stimulating as the work you're taking a break from can leave you feeling more recharged than a lazy day. So go work on that side project or take that walking tour you've always been curious about — when you get back to work you'll be newly inspired and excited to jump in again.
7. Take Stock Where You're At
It doesn't feel good to feel like you're constantly trying to keep your head above water, so during your down time take a moment to see where you are in terms of things. Think of everything you accomplished this month, give yourself a pat on the back, and think of where you'd like to see yourself in a month. Thinking of your goals and aligning them while you're relaxed is different than when you're doing it harried and stressed out at your desk.
In Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, David Allen says that this type of mental tidying and rearranging is important, "You clean up, close up, clarify, and renegotiate all your agreements with yourself and others. I just suggest that you do this weekly instead of yearly.” By thinking about where you'd like your schedule and to-do list to take you, it gets you excited and motivated to jump back into it come Monday!
You deserve a break, so make sure you're doing as much as you can to fully reap the benefits of that break.