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Preparing for Downtime

a private practice owner at home preparing for downtime

How well do you do with downtime?

Even though we all acknowledge the importance of downtime for our personal and professional well-being… I don’t think we all do such a great job of preparing for it or REALLY enjoying it.

Have you heard…

”time off just means coming back to more work” or

“ I need a vacation from the vacation”

​​Where does that type of thinking come from?

Do you sometimes feel that it is easier to stay in go mode than to plan and successfully execute a pause? ​​

Well, this time of year, even the most diehard workaholic will feel the pressure to slow down and take a break. The holiday season creates this almost mandatory downtime where we all agree that we need to dial it back a bit.

I can tell you from my personal experience as a driven entrepreneur…dialing it back is NOT always as easy as it seems. So, let’s prepare for vacation time before the vacation begins, so you are not spending days of your time off trying to unwind.

Here are a few insights in case you find yourself needing a little help switching reels:

Create the time

Accept that we all need breaks and be intentional about creating your pause. Actually, carve out the time in your schedule. Block it on your calendar. Make arrangements for backup. Do whatever it takes to actually create the time and space for the break that you want. Doing so will require some effort. Especially those who are self-employed or in private practice, but is an altogether essential and worthwhile investment.

Plan ahead

Handle as much of your responsibilities as you can prior to the days when you are going to be gone. Close as many open loops as possible. Even if you are not physically going anywhere and are planning a staycation, you want to have as many things handled as possible so your attention is not being pulled in multiple directions.

Use your Imagination

Actively envision the wonderful time you will have once you are off. A book you want to read, a movie you want to watch, a museum you want to visit, a friend you want to connect with, a room you want to decorate…you get the picture. Choose an activity that is completely outside of your normal routine and give yourself something to look forward to. For those of you who tend to over-plan, you may want to do the opposite…choose no activity at all and go completely unscripted for a few days.

Process your stress

Talk to a friend about whatever work-related things are concerning you right now. This will help you go into your downtime with a mind that is clear and not overburdened with things that are going on in your work life. ​

That is really where the downtime has to start…in the mind. ​

Even if you stop doing work-related tasks you won’t reap the full benefit of downtime if your engines are still turning in overdrive.

Negotiate some rules

Leading up to your time off, really negotiate with yourself about what you will and will not do. This is a great way to ensure you maintain the kinds of boundaries that will help you destress.

For starters:

  • Is a complete unplug-in order?…no Facebook, LinkedIn or email access?

  • How about phone calls from clients? If that’s off limits, be sure to clearly communicate with them about what constitutes an emergency

  • Develop a “while I am away” protocol and give clients (and your team if you have one) clear instructions on who to contact for support. Therapists may even want to identify another mental health professional to be on standby for emergencies if they have a client base that may require crisis management.

Do it often

Practice the art of downtime frequently. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Waiting too long to take a break will leave you over-saturated and on the verge of burnout. It’s harder to unwind when the stress has built up for too long.

Give yourself little breaks of downtime. Make it a regular practice so you can develop a pattern of rest and become accustomed to it. It will feel like slipping on a comfortable and cozy shoe.

What plans do you have to maximize your downtime? I would love to know what works for you.

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