Once upon a time, my favourite quote was ‘Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to J.K. Rowling, Albert Einstein, and so on!’ It was one of the most motivating and inspiring quotes to me then. Every day I pushed myself to complete all the items in my to-do list within the 24 hours each day. I was comparing my days with that of the most successful writers and scientists. I didn’t realize that I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself.

The last six months have been a rollercoaster ride for me. I had to travel to my native place approximately every two weeks for one or the other work. Activities related to house construction, agriculture, family functions, and so forth. I think it was my stubborn nature of trying to finish off the maximum number of tasks in minimum time that resulted in my getting different ailments. Each trip gifted me backache, neck sprain, migraine, and so on. The doctor said it was all due to too much travel and exposure to climate changes, and advised bed rest each time. That is when I really understood that ‘all work and no play’ can take its toll.

I just could not adjust with the complete bed-rest state. Since I was used to spending my time juggling the demands of work, family and home, slowing down was not something I could enjoy. During my bed-rest periods, I used to listen to podcasts to kill time. One of them was about ‘downtime’ and its importance on our productivity on a daily basis.

‘Downtime’ is the time when a machine, especially a computer, is out of action or unavailable for use. It is usually used for scheduled maintenance. Our brains also need time off to chill out which in turn boosts our creativity and productivity! That may be why companies like 3M and Google give employees downtime to work on their passion projects!

While reading more on downtime I came across a time-management technique called Pomodoro developed by Francesco Cirillo. Pomodoro is an Italian word meaning ‘tomato’. Cirillo named it after the tomato-shaped timer he used to track his work as a university student. The principle of this technique is to work in blocks of time. I used to take downtime only over the weekend and never tried to integrate downtime into my daily schedule. On a daily basis, my downtime used to start only when I shut down my laptop and go to sleep around 11:30 pm.

But according to the Pomodoro technique, I should take a break (downtime) of 5 minutes after every 25 minutes of work, even if it is something that I love doing like blogging or decorating my home interiors. But during those 25 minutes, I should be fully immersed in the task. Each 25-minute work block is called a Pomodoro. After 4 Pomodori, I can take a longer break of 20 to 30 minutes.

During the break time, we can do a crossword puzzle, go for a short walk, meditate, back up photos, spend time on social media, or do anything else that will make us happy and recharged. Psychologists say that social media should be used only as a downtime activity and not during work hours. It should not be a dominating part of our life.

If this post is one of the many tabs you have open on your laptop/phone or your to-do list for today is fully packed with tasks, it’s high time you schedule downtime! Also if you can relate to any of the following then try to follow Pomodoro:

  1. Not enough time in a day.
  2. Too many distractions like Gmail, WhatsApp, Youtube, Facebook or Instagram.
  3. Feeling tired and uninspired.

There are many Pomodoro apps available for iOS/Android/Web to help you stay focused. We can change the duration from the suggested 25 minutes according to our need and convenience. I changed the duration of my Pomodoro timer app to 40 minutes considering tasks like cooking and home cleaning.

The quote at the beginning of this blog, “. . . You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to J. K. Rowling, Einstein and so on”, is not my favourite one anymore. J. K. Rowling needs to prepare neither Dosa and Chutney for breakfast nor Rice, Sambar and Aviyal for lunch, like me! So though the number of hours in a day is the same for the two of us, our food habits and our activities during the 24 hours are entirely different! I am enlightened now, the notable benefit in me after starting to take downtime and following Pomodoro!

Don’t ever feel guilty of taking downtime. You’re only taking care of yourself! So enjoy your downtime!

Happy empty nesting 🙂

The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it! ~ Sydney J. Harris