Now that another school year has ended and both students and teachers are looking forward to a much-needed summertime break, the time has come to praise the productive side of “downtime.” Do you ever look at your scribbled-over calendar days, resting your eyes with relief on an upcoming “blank” day when nothing is planned? You are not alone.
Our busy world tends to valorize constant activity, but the truth is that taking breaks and having strategic downtime is crucial to doing your best work. Even the Harvard Business Review acknowledges The Upside of Downtime.
What is downtime? For most students, the grinding schedule of weekday school hours suddenly melts away in the summer, and the student gains control of his or her time. Jobs, camps, trips, and summer sports begin to provide some structure to the upcoming days, but overall most students have more power to design their own days than they did during the school year. Motivated students will likely want to “get ahead” by beginning test prep for the SAT and ACT or enrolling in an academic skills program to help them achieve their best when they return to the high school grind. We encourage all of these great activities, but we also want to remind both students and parents that there is great power in doing nothing for a while. Daydreaming and napping are ways to let yourself really relax and recharge during these golden days of less deadlines and shorter to-do lists. If your summer schedule is beginning to fill up, remember that you can–and should–set aside blank time for yourself to just rest and recharge.
One undervalued activity that likely got pushed aside when you were caught up in the grind of school, sports, tests, and work, is an important activity to relish now: sleep. Most teens need more than 9 hours of sleep a night, yet very few come close to that number during school. Whether you let yourself go to bed early, sleep in, or take a sun-splintered nap in the afternoon, take the time to add more sleep to your life.
Strategic downtime is integral to doing our best work. Resting time or blank daydreaming time facilitates more creative thinking. When we return to the table after a refreshing break we often have enhanced clarity and can see our way through challenges that before seemed insurmountable or unduly tangled. So, this summer, please take the time to relax: pour a cold drink, put your feet up, and forget about everything for a while!