Leveraging Your Time for Renewal

Posted 04.08.2008

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Whenever I speak with a group, we almost always get into a discussion of the incredibly fast pace everyone is keeping. When I ask the question, “How many people agree with the statement that over the last five years, every year has been crazier than the year before?” just about every hand in the room goes up.

What lots of folks are missing are high-quality opportunities for renewing their energy and perspective. Instead, as I discuss in The Next Level, many of us are running flat out until we crash. What can we do to break the pattern? Paradoxically, the answer may be getting involved in even more activities — but of the right kind.

Wall Street Journal reporter Jonathan Clements cites a recent study of 4,000 Americans that finds the happiest and most stress-free people are those who spend their downtime on “engaging leisure and spiritual activities like visiting friends, exercising, attending church, listening to music, fishing, reading a book, sitting in a café or going to a party.” By contrast, people who are less happy and more stressed tend to spend their breaks from work in what researchers call “neutral downtime” activities such as watching TV.

One of the questions I’m most interested in is what are the routines that each of us can pursue to make it likely that we show up at our best more often than not. When you take a look at how you routinely spend your downtime, what’s your assessment of the impact it has on your “at your best” performance? Are you getting the most leverage possible from your downtime?