This blog post is SOoooooo overdue. But like, RIDICULOUSLY overdue. Which is exactly why I’m writing about the importance of non-productive downtime for your business.

I was meant to have written this blog post at the beginning of March. That’s more than a month ago. *slaps forehead and berates self for shoddy work*

But seriously, I really want to share my experience of why taking time off to be non-productive is so important.

My Name is Abigail and I’m an…

My name is Abigail and I’m a (bit of a) workaholic. I’m continually thinking and working on…work! I spend so much time thinking and doing work, that I even dream about work. During the dark hours of night when I should be frolicking with unicorns among pink fluffy clouds on a jelly bean induced sugar high, instead I’m ticking off to-do lists in my very productive dreamland environment and my dream self is telling my real self what I need to do in a few hours when I wake up.

It’s bad.

It’s good, but it’s bad.

I’ve been operating like this for years. It’s just part of who I am. Who I’ve become.

The problem is, the older (and wiser) I’m getting, the more I realise that there needs to be a change. There needs to be balance. I cannot and I should not continue like this.

At the end of February, my husband and I booked a weekend away for our anniversary. We had booked the Thursday, Friday and Saturday night’s accommodation and although we hadn’t booked any other evening’s I had made sure that my calendar was clear for the start of the week ahead. My husband also booked a few extra days leave off of work.

We headed out on our road trip and arrived at our destination about 4 hours after our departure. We’d booked the honeymoon suit, which as it turned out meant ‘Tiny’. We were up close and personal if you know what I mean!

We were out in the middle of now where with little to no internet connection, no TV and it was absolute bliss! We lit the fire every night and cooked our food out in the open. During the day I motored through several books I’d been wanting to read for ages and I made a point of not switching on my laptop. (Yes I had packed it!)

Time to Leave

So when Sunday rolled around and it was time to pack up, I found myself not wanting to go home. I didn’t have the urge to get back to my desk and check my emails. I didn’t have the urge to edit more client’s photos. I didn’t have the urge to do any work at all. This was an interesting sensation for me. It was a new sensation. Having immersed myself in the pleasure of detaching from deadlines, online connectedness and that sense of urgency, I found myself enjoying the feeling of freedom, of sitting in stillness soaking up the scenery, of being off the grid.

To give you some context, prior to us going away for that weekend, I’d been working feverishly on creating the content for my online course, which I was aiming to launch at the beginning of April. I’d been working non-stop and it was work that I was not familiar with so it took even more effort and strain to complete, and that was still while I was continuing my usual photography workload.

Spontaneous Sunday

So on that Sunday, I found that I had no interest in heading back home to continue the hard slog of work that was waiting for me. Together, on a whim, The Hubs and I decided to take the ‘long way’ home. We headed off the main highway onto a tiny, and at times, dirt country road. Eventually we found ourselves in a beautiful valley and decided in that moment that we’d look for available accommodation. It was a Sunday afternoon, so we had no idea whether we’d find somewhere open but we figured that we were close enough to home that, if we couldn’t find somewhere to stay, we could push through and drive home.

Thankfully we did find somewhere and it was absolutely delightful. It was far more glamorous and comfortable than the ‘Honeymoon Suite’ we’d left that morning and it had views that spanned the entire valley. It was truly breathtaking. We booked our one night and agreed that we’d see how we felt the next day to decide whether we’d head home. Well, as it turned out, we slept so well and the views were so magnificent the next morning that we decided to stay the Tuesday night as well. By now though, I could feel the tension rising from the fact that I was not at work doing work, but I worked┬áhard to suppress that feeling. Instead I chose to read, drink wine, and sit back and relax. With a bit of effort, the need to work dissipated.

The owner of the property let us know that because we’d paid for 2 nights, we could stay a third night for free. So wouldn’t you know it – that’s exactly what we did! I couldn’t believe what we were doing. It was so out of character. And yet, I had a sense of pride in my willingness to be spontaneous and to prioritize non-work activities above work. After all these years of sacrificing my time and attention in favor of the to-do list, I finally had a taster of what it was to choose life over work. And I liked it.

We stayed the third night and left early in the morning in time for a shoot I had booked for lunchtime on the Wednesday. I came back feeling re-energised, I felt creative again and I felt like I could see things more clearly to help me work more strategically. Later on that week I went on to produce another huge portion of my course and I swear I did it in half the time it would otherwise have taken me.

There’s 5 things I learned about non-productive downtime:

  1. I can be spontaneous and it’s good for the soul to be spontaneous
  2. I can be adventurous and it’s good for our marriage to be adventurous.
  3. I can take time off of work and it’s good for productivity in the long run..
  4. I can find non-work related activities that make me feel fulfilled and enriched.
  5. There really is more to life than work.

I’m sure that someone reading this might be thinking, ‘Well, duh!’ ‘That’s obvious.’ But the fact is, we all create our own reality and for many years my reality has been built around work and effort. This weekend away made me realise that I can create a different reality, one where I get to enjoy simple pleasures and adventure. And now I plan to create more weekends away like this! Know any good spots?

Can you relate? How often do you take time off work? Have you felt the impact of not taking time off work? How do you maintain work-life balance?