How We Work

A blog post entitled 10 Ways to Be Productive During Downtime on a Job prompted an incredulous chuckle from me, along with the following question: “Who has downtime on their job?” Call me misguided, but I was under the impression that the last few years of workforce “right sizing” had left everyone else with so much to do that there wasn’t enough time for downtime. Did I miss something? Nonetheless, in an effort to learn something from what I’d encountered, I wondered whether the issue was not so much that downtime is generated when we have under-demanding jobs, but rather  that downtime is a function of how we as humans work.  If it’s the latter, shouldn’t we  plan to make the best possible use of it?

In his book, The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance,* Tony Schwartz and his co-authors remind us that we aren’t like computers — designed to be on constantly while operating multiple programs simultaneously over long stretches of time.  Rather, we’re meant to oscillate between periods of intense, focused activity, and downtime.  In his view, this downtime is a vitally important opportunity to refresh our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual resources so that we can bring them all to the work we’ve chosen to do.  Further, the downtime (if done correctly) gives our brains a chance to operate a bit more creatively, taking advantage of internal processes of which we’re unaware and cannot direct.  This suggests that even the most overworked person needs to plan for downtime.  Not because they have too little to do, but precisely because they have so much to do and need to ensure they bring their best to their work.

Whether you choose to use your downtime for chores or choose deliberately to recharge your batteries, remember that even robots require time in the workshop for renewal and repair.

[Photo Credit: Swansea Photographer]

*Disclosure: As an experiment, I’m trying the Amazon Associates program, which means that if you purchase this book via the link above, I may at some point receive a small commission from Amazon. Here’s the formal statement recommended by Amazon:  VMAbraham is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC  Associates Program, an affiliate  advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn  advertising fees by advertising and  linking to

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