My challenge: I find it difficult to follow structured systems similar to the Pomodoro Technique developed by Franscesco Cirillo. You work 25 minutes and take a break for five minutes. The first time I tried it I felt like I was training for a marathon. I had to start with one minute and work up to the recommended five. The idea of how to spend larger blocks of downtime was even more frightening to me until I had a game changer revelation. There are times when not doing anything can be more productive. This insight led me to appreciate the value of investing in quality downtime. I began to see improvements in my performance and wellness right away by simply doing less instead of more.

Everyone’s situation is unique and certain recommendations will speak to some and not others. I outlined what worked for me so you can adapt them to work for you.

Making time for Downtime

The tricky thing about optimizing downtown is how to first figure out what small increments of time resting or relaxing looks like for you. Think seriously of creative ways you can utilize snapshots of free time. Moments can pop up unexpectedly and if you aren’t prepared by knowing how you want to use them you can easily default to your norm. ie: social media! Write ideas down and refer back to them the next time you are stuck wondering what to do with yourself.

Create a Don’t Do it list

Try making a list of time wasters in your day as they appear and put them on the “don’t do” list. Checking your email too frequently? Add Don’t check email outside of scheduled times for less disruptions. Track the time you spend on instagram or youtube and then save that time for a reward once your ‘must do’ tasks are completed.

Mind Your Inner Clock

Give yourself permission to create a system that fits your comfort zone. Morning person? Respect that time and reserve it for creative and quiet work. Taking care of essential items first thing in the morning for you can make for a productive day. Night owl? Be true to your inner clock. You will be less stressed and you will be more productive if you proceed on your own terms.

These tips and tricks won’t work long term unless you commit to integrating them as part of your daily schedule. Changing your routine takes time. No pun intended. I started by taking small tangible action steps and building up to more of a comfort level. Try committing to implementing these changes for 90 days and then check in on how you feel. Time is a critical variable impacting the path of our career and lives. You don’t get it back and it is the one thing money cannot buy. Choose to spend it wisely.

IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images