I’ve been so busy recently Hubbers! I wrote a few weeks ago about all my various travels around the country. And, as an update, I have now fully returned to my London base (and back to my bed which I always sorely miss when I am away)… but the busyness continues.

Since I have been back, I have barely had a free evening! From meals with friends, to cinema trips, to spending time with family, there just doesn’t seem to be enough days in the week at the moment! The final episode of the BBC’s Les Miserables (which aired way back on 3rdFeb) is still waiting on the Sky planner for an evening when I’m around to watch it with Mum.

In today’s ever-moving pace of life, busyness has become somewhat of a ‘badge of honour’ and there is the attitude that every moment must be used productively – whether it is to work, to socialise, or to exercise, people strive to be constantly achieving something. Just the other day, I suggested to Sally that she might use her commute into work to listen to podcasts instead of doing work – simply because it is more fun. And yet she told me that time could be used productively for work (‘It’s 10 hours per week, Ilana!’ – time for re-assessment Sally). For me, however, I have actually come to really enjoy the time I spend commuting. I listen to podcasts, I do Sudoku, I read books… all things I enjoy and all typical things to fill a ‘spare moment’ with.

I’ve always said that life needs balance. If you spend your day working, the evening should be for relaxing. If you’ve had quite a solitary week working from home, spend the weekend with friends and family. Life should have a healthy balance of work and pleasure, being social and having alone time, being active and being still. And, in the same way, being productive and just vegging out.

In fact, one study has found that entertainment media – in this case watching videos or playing a video game – may actually have a significant restorative effect after a hard day’s work. However, interestingly, another has found that your recovery process is closely linked to whether you feel guilty about this downtime or not. The more mentally exhausted you are from work, the more likely you are to feel guilty after spending time just watching TV or playing a video game. This is because the participants in the study who worked harder and felt more drained, viewed the entertainment media consumption as procrastination and, what’s more, this had a negative impact on how likely they were to feel restored afterwards.

So there is a real balance to be struck in order for us to maximise the benefits from our downtime. I feel rewarded from my podcast-listening or Sudoku-playing on the tube because I don’t see it as a time I need to use productively. I’m getting from one place to another… I’ll do what I need to do once I get there. However, for Sally (who I admit is juggling multiple projects and workloads), she always uses that time to work, and so would feel more guilt if she didn’t, and thus less restored. (She says she will change this approach in April – I shall be chasing you Sally!).

So the bottom line, I think, is allowing ourselves the time to be unproductive. If it takes literally scheduling it in then that’s what should be done. I have one friend who schedules a minimum of two evenings during the week to do nothing. She doesn’t make any plans – she just relaxes at home. And I think if you do schedule in downtime, you don’t feel as guilty about using it to do nothing, as it is exactly what you have allocated that time for.

So don’t get swept away in this fast paced world. Downtime is imperative for productivity and wellbeing – we achieve the most when we are rested and restored and we must allow ourselves the time to get there.

See-ya, Hubbers, I’m off to do nothing for the weekend!

By Ilana