Ahhh….downtime.

It’s so rare for most of us these days, but with the holidays fast approaching, many of us are dreaming of having a few days to unwind, particularly after the Christmas chaos has finally subsided.

If you’re like me, you might have a hard time with downtime. I cherish the moments when I don’t have a To Do list as long as my arm – but I tend to dread them too. You see, I hate to be bored. And the first thing that happens to me when I have downtime is…I get bored. My mind starts to work on all those tasks I need to do once I get back to work, all the errands left to do, all the household chores that are unattended. I often have difficulty really enjoying my downtime.

But something I’ve realized over the past few years is that downtime doesn’t have to mean I’m unproductive. In fact, I’ve learned some enjoyable ways to spend my relaxing hours. Here are a few ideas..maybe you can add yours in the comments too?

Sleep
We don’t get enough. In fact, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, one in five Americans is sleep deprived. Have a few days of downtime coming up? Why not get some sleep? I used to feel really guilty about sleeping – I felt it was a waste of time. But now, if I have a couple of days off, I try to get in as much as I can. I am not good at sleeping in, so I’ll still rise early – but I’ll take as many naps as I want to during the day. I’ll go to bed early. Sometimes, I’ll just lay on the sofa with my eyes closed for a while. Sleep if you want to. It does a body (and a mind) good.

Learn Something New
My brother has always been a music lover, but has never really played music (except for one, er, interesting attempt at the bassoon in high school). Last year, he bought an electric bass, an amp, and a pair of headphones (though I think the headphones may have been his wife’s idea). He went online and found some free bass guitar lessons, and proceeded to work his way through, in his downtime. He carves out a bit of time every day to practice, even if it’s only for a few minutes. And you know what? He’s having a blast, and getting pretty darn good at playing the bass, too.

We all have things we’ve always wanted to try. Maybe it’s a sport, or a craft, or playing an instrument. And the best part is, there are numerous online tutorials about all sorts of things – you can do the tutorials online, in the privacy of your home, in your downtime, and the best part is, most of them are totally free!

Go To the Library
When was the last time you went to the library, browsed around, then just sat, quietly reading? I used to love going to the library during my downtime. I’d sit in the periodicals section and browse through magazines. I’d hang out in non-fiction and read sections of biographies.

With the Internet, we can scan magazines and read books without having to make a trip to the library, so we don’t bother anymore. But there’s something to be said for the peace and quiet of a library. There are no distractions. Everyone is absorbed in what they’re doing. Feeling bored? Go to the library for the afternoon. You’ll walk away feeling peaceful and focused.

Cook Stuff for the Freezer
It’s that time of year. Cold winter days make us long for hot, comfort-food meals. However, the busy-ness of the holidays makes it difficult to find the time to cook. So, why not take advantage of downtime to prepare a bunch of meals for the freezer? Lasagna, soups and stews are all ideal, nutritious freezer foods. And, you can make it a group activity. Get a friend to bring over the ingredients for a double batch of her favourite recipe. You provide the ingredients for yours. Then, cook up both meals to freeze, and split the results. You’ll end up with two great dishes in your freezer for half the effort!

Come Up With Ideas

One of the best ways I know to spend downtime is coming up with ideas for stuff. I generally will pour a glass of wine, or some tea, and just sit, and think. I jot down what pops into my head. It might be a blog post idea, a business idea, or just an idea for a recipe to try. Roll with whatever comes, don’t judge. Write it all down, then on a day when you’re stuck for inspiration, you’ll have all sorts of fodder.

Appreciate It
Downtime is so infrequent for most of us, that we often forget to appreciate it when it comes. So, I think the most important thing to remember about downtime is to be grateful for it. Work hard, spend as much time as you can with the people that matter, and then, when you do have a few minutes to yourself, you’ll be more thankful, and want to make more use of that time. So don’t forget to appreciate your downtime, no matter how little you may have. It’s your ultimate reward.

[photo credit: frozenintime on Flickr]