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Why Downtime Feels Wrong

An unfortunate byproduct of our 24/7 world is feeling guilt over not being productive. The expectation is to find ways to capitalize on the extra access. Finish this task! Poke in on this task! Read this task! Prepare for that task. Go, go, go…!

The expectation is to find ways to capitalize on the extra access! 

Busy parents, for example, use the traditional end of the work day as a time to pick-up dinner on the way to soccer practice pick-up. Once dinner is eaten there are no pots to clean, so unread emails can be addressed to get a jump on the competition. The store is open until 10pm, so there can be orange juice for breakfast after all because the printer is out of ink and one of the kids has a paper due in the morning.

One reason I see for the push to be productive is the lack of boundaries.

Constant ease of access encourages task completion because – why stop? In my experience, one reason for the push to be productive is the lack of boundaries. When I was growing up, natural boundaries existed. Stores closed at 5pm and had limited Saturday hours. My mom spent hours a day preparing food in the kitchen. She volunteered for PTA during the school day. Kids participated in organized activities, but most likely not on Sunday mornings or after dark. And work was work. My dad came home on the train and did not put on his work hat again until Monday morning.

As access increased, our desire to capitalize on this access created guilt about downtime. In the Five Ways to Overcome Leisure Guilt, Jamie Gruman, PhD, writes, “Many of us have learned how to strive but forgotten how to bask.” We have to allow ourselves to leave things undone, unpurchased, and not handled within twenty-four hours. It is a conscious choice that can feel like slacking. 

Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S, suggests we build downtime into our lives, so that we can have solitude without feeling overcome with guilt. Great advice! Become conscious of being OVER-productive and create space for downtime. 

Make it a priority. Put in the schedule if you have to.

And stop feeling guilty about it! Share this article!

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