This week my travels find me at home (of course), meeting virtually with our teams around the world.
As I like to say, when you’re at work, be at work. When you’re off, be off. It’s just as important to be in the moment during your downtime as it is to be focused during go-time when you’re working hard with team members to execute and accomplish your goals
The concept of work and downtime came up just this week. Mike Frazier, a great leader and the president/CEO of ReeceNichols, said he was committing to checking his email twice per day on his upcoming vacation.
I said, “Mike, maybe think about this: Set your auto reply to let recipients know that from this date until this date you’ll be checking your email once per day.”
A lot of people get tense if they completely shut off their email, wondering what kind of messages they’re receiving or what information they’re missing. By checking once per day, you can stay in the loop, spend a dedicated amount of time reviewing your emails and then deal with whatever you don’t get to the next morning.
For example, I vacation a lot with my family in Hawaii, which is three hours behind California time, (where my home base is) and six hours behind the East Coast. So, whenever I’m in Hawaii, I get up before anyone in my family and spend 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. checking my emails as my daily check-in. I know some of you are reading this and thinking, Gino, you’re up at 5 a.m. during your vacation? And yes, I am. I usually have the opportunity to take a nap in the afternoon while on vacation anyway, so the 5 a.m. wake-up doesn’t feel inconvenient.
In the modern world, (and especially in today’s new fully digital world) it’s hard to really ever disconnect. Time off becomes much trickier in this environment of hyper-connectivity, where we’re just one app away from diving right back into a project or replying to dozens of emails. There’s an argument to be made for drawing more distinct lines around work and non-work, especially when spending time outdoors, exercising and relaxing with family can actually increase your productivity and focus when you do return to the office. As writers Jackie Coleman and John Coleman explained in an article for Harvard Business Review: “There’s an upside to downtime.”
Ferris Jabr, author of “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,” said this about dedicating yourself to real downtime: “Downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics…downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.”
So, what’s the message? Downtime is important not only for its physical benefits on your well-being, ability to boost productivity in the long-term and biological capacity for helping our brains process information, it’s also a critical element of self-reflection and ideation. Ideas incubate in the space between…it’s why you experience an epiphany while brushing your teeth, in the shower, out on a jog or walking your dog. Downtime affords us the necessary breathing room our brains require to sift through information and formulate it to fit the execution of our goals.
This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.