For a lot of people who work hard for their money, they see downtime as a luxury they can’t afford. Downtime is frivolous. Downtime isn’t goal driven. Downtime might even be a detriment to your “status,” because successful people are perceived as being very busy.
The past several years, many people have had ENFORCED downtime—it’s called being laid off. It’s been a source of shame for many whose financial lives were completely disrupted by unemployment—even when the monthly expenses have been covered by another spouse or family member.
Whatever you might think of the concept of downtime, it is ESSENTIAL. In The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, by Bronnie Ware, Ware discovered that most of us die wishing we’d lived differently.
Ware interviewed patients during their final 3 to 12 weeks of life, and what she discovered these top 5 regrets:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself — not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
To put it simply: If most of us die wishing we’d laughed more, loved more, and played more . . . that we’d expressed our true feelings . . . that we’d made happiness an urgent priority, and worked far, far less . . . then (most of us) are living with inverted priorities. Out of whack. Worrying about money? A total waste of time.
Replace your worry time with downtime—what I am calling it–but it can also be what you think of as Free time. Family time. Creative time. Date night. Vacation. Road trip. Self care. Play time. We need more of it. According to Ware, our dying breath calls for it.
The issue a lot of people have with this is that they tend to think that downtime comes at the cost of less financial success. Hard Work = Money. Efficiency = Money. Perfection = Money. Is this really true? I don’t think so. And just because you’re not worrying every moment about your money doesn’t mean you’re ignoring it.
Here’s the thing. Doing more never seems to get people closer to happiness. And using money as the measure of knowing whether or not “doing more” is working for your life ends up tying too much meaning, emotion and need to our money. We know this. Yet many continue to behave as if their sole purpose in life is to advance for more compensation and professional accolades.
Here’s another thing: I didn’t start making consistently good money until I started scheduling self care and downtime for myself. After years of working 60 hour weeks, I stopped. I am finally (mostly) cured of workaholism. And my career has never been better.
I used to think downtime was to let my brain rest—I was trying to find justification for taking downtime in a logical way. What I discovered is that it’s completely illogical—the more I played, the more opportunities popped up for me to make more money. Once I took the focus off my money and back onto myself, the money worked itself out magically.
The level of money you have has nothing to do with your level of happiness (unless you let it). Sometimes we get so busy or invested in our money, that we forget that it’s incidental to our actual human experience. However . . . if you decide to start focusing on what’s important in life—what people who are dying ask for—then a nifty little by-product of more happiness and satisfaction may just be more money, too.
The connection between a more satisfying life, more happiness and more downtime are not obvious in the middle of busyness. You have to experience downtime before you can feel the benefits, just like you theoretically understand that exercise is good for you, but can’t see how good it is until you actually start doing it consistently.
Start small. You don’t need to cut back time from work, or give up anything . . . just sit still for awhile. Here’s some steps to get you to a daily practice (cribbed from Martha Beck, life coach extraordinaire):
- Start with 15 minutes daily. Refuse to be bothered by anyone or anything during that time.
- Sit quietly and notice your body. Allow it to relax. Allow yourself to be still.
- Get outside of yourself. Watch nature or natural motion, like water, fire, etc.
- Detach from thought. When you catch yourself thinking about something, stop.
- Keep returning. When you catch yourself thinking again, let go, take a breath and focus on the outer world again.
Downtime will give you more awareness about what you like and don’t like about your life. Instead of participating in the rat race every moment, you’re taking time out to remember who you are. Problems won’t seem as insurmountable. Nothing will seem as urgent. Money will stop being a character in your life and go back to being what it is supposed to be—simply a tool for your life. When that happens, you’re back in the driver’s seat. You can choose how money interacts with your true purpose, work, community and own happiness.
P.S. My free workbook on aligning your values with your money might help with all of this – you can download that here.