Taking time out? I must be joking. Everyone is busy these days, lurching from one activity to the next, trying desperately to multi-task and keep all the balls in the air. It’s become a badge of courage, being busy – in fact sometimes I think we let it define us. After all, if we are busy, we must be important, right?
Guess what? We are all important, regardless of how we fill our days or how busy we are. There’s no actual requirement to be doing something productive all the time. Nor do we have to account for every minute of our day to anyone (aside from to an employer during actual working hours). Despite what society and the media would have us believe, our activities and our possessions do not justify our existence.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to suggest you take a whole day out. Frankly the idea of that makes even me nervous. I find it takes a huge effort to sit still anymore – and if my body isn’t busy then my mind certainly is. However recently I discovered that taking a few minutes out – sometimes even a couple of hours if I’m feeling brave – can refresh and restore me so much that I’m twice as productive when I get back to work.
Let me stress I find this difficult too. I’m a woman who rarely even sits down to watch television of an evening – I’m on the go virtually every minute of every day. But that has to change if I’m going to keep any kind of balance in my life – and it’s easier than I ever thought it could be. It just takes a little creative thinking. Here are some ways I’ve discovered to take time out in my own life without affecting how much I can accomplish during the day.
Enjoy your first hot drink of the day
Take your morning coffee or tea outside if its sunny. Sit on your front step or in your garden and spend just ten minutes enjoying your first hot drink of the day instead of gulping it down as you work. If it’s cold outside, put on something warm and spend some time enjoying the patterns the frost has made in nature. If it’s pouring down with rain, take the time to actually sit down somewhere comfortable in your house and spend ten minutes – that’s just 600 seconds – mindfully enjoying your first hot drink of the day.
Mix things up a bit
A byproduct of being busy is often an addiction to routine – we cope with a full schedule by doing things in a set order. Ever feel stressed when something unexpected crops up? That is what I’m talking about. I appreciate a certain amount of structure is vital, particularly when you have kids, but if you can change the way you do things even slightly, it can be really refreshing. Change the route of a regular journey just a little bit, have a cup of herb tea instead of a coffee (or vice versa), serve breakfast for dinner or shop in a different grocery store. A change really can be as good as a rest.
Meet a friend for tea or coffee one afternoon
Call up a friend you haven’t seen in a long time and make a date for a good catch up. Or reach out to someone you have met or worked with but haven’t managed to connect with yet. While I was in California I met Pauline Wiles, a wonderful writer who I had worked with virtually but had never actually been in the same room with. Pauline very kindly treated me to a proper British afternoon tea in Palo Alto. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting her and it was fun to discuss Saving Saffron Sweeting, a book I had thoroughly enjoyed, with the person who actually wrote it! It was a fantastic time out – and I was feeling so inspired when I got back to the apartment that I got lots of writing done before it was time to meet my husband for supper.
Be a tourist in your own city or town
Look at your hometown through fresh eyes. I live less than half an hour from London, one of the top tourist destinations in the world. But how often do I take time out to go there? Not as often as you might think! Yet when I do take a few hours out to go to one of the many museums and tourist attractions London offers, I come back completely refreshed. Exploring your local area can be incredibly rewarding. Another thing I love to do is take a drive in the countryside near our home. There are so many places nearby just waiting to be visited. Even a thirty to sixty minute excursion can be really good for the soul. Last time I discovered a new to me farm shop I can’t wait to visit again. Even if you don’t have time to go into a new place, just finding it means you can put it on the list and head directly to it next time you can allow yourself to take some time out.
This is the quickest, cheapest, easiest and most effective time out I know. Simply sit still and concentrate on your breath for just one minute. Close your eyes, let your belly fill up as you inhale and concentrate on a long slow exhale, gently contracting your belly to expel all the air. Everyone has time for this – seriously, we are talking sixty seconds here – and not only does it make you feel good, it really is good for you.
How do you take time out in your life?
Need more inspiration? You may enjoy this post.
Want to know more about Pauline Wiles and her book Saving Saffron Sweeting? Click here.