Reign in Your Inner Boss with Downtime Exercise

Nov 3, 2016 9:15:00 AM



“Must be nice to be your own boss, right? Man, I wish! My boss is….”

Let me stop you right there. My boss - the nagging voice in my head - is the absolute worst. He never stops telling me to do stuff. He often makes me skip lunch and forget about working out. The worst part: I can’t even talk bad about him behind his back because he knows!

In freelancing, where minutes equal money, it’s easy to think you should never have downtime. But, remember your old job? All the hours of pointless meetings? How much time did you waste surfing the internet waiting for your co-worker to stop holding you up?

I forgot all about this downtime when I first started self-employment. The clock in my head still ticked loudly. Not only did I feel I had to work at least 9 hours, I had to be productive the entire time. This didn’t last long and, after a strong campaign to get on the Mt. Rushmore of awful bosses I’ve had, my inner boss decided to make a change.

Downtime isn’t just an unavoidable part of any workplace, it’s an important one. Studies show downtime enhances creativity and improves decision making. Taking breaks can improve our physical and mental health. Regular exercise has similar effects, and people who combined downtime and exercise were more productive and more satisfied. Is your inner boss hearing this?

When mine finally got the message, I began to notice how helpful downtime exercise was for my work. You can only stare at a sentence or (god forbid) a blank screen for so long before you get distracted or destructive. But, instead of frisbeeing your laptop across the room, try some good ol’ fresh air and exercise to save the day (and your computer). Here’s what I do:

Make a clean break: Your commute is a great place to get your fresh air and exercise in. I bicycle to work to avoid the stress of driving or the T, but I know that’s not for everyone. I recommend getting off a stop or two early, parking a little farther away or doing a lap before you go into work or return home. It helps me decompress and approach each work day with a fresh mind and each evening with a little less stress.

Disrupt your lunch hour: An old co-worker turned me on to the magic of the lunchtime workout. It breaks up the day and makes the afternoon fly by. I like mid-day yoga. It’s great for people who sit and type all day. In just an hour, you can get some exercise, some much needed stretching, and a moment of peace from the stress and anxiety of the day. Then I come back and eat lunch at my desk like I would have anyway.

Just Get Up and Out: If you don’t think you can get your inner boss to sign off on the first two, start off with some fresh air breaks throughout the day. Take 15 minutes every few hours and take a lap around the building or the block. It always amazes me how much a short walk can do for writer’s block or other similar afflictions, especially when you leave your phone behind. Just make sure you bring a piece of paper and a pen in case a great idea pops up while you’re out.

To be honest, I don’t think freelancing or working for yourself will ever be quite as awesome as people make it out to be. But, by allowing yourself downtime and making the most of it, you can be a lot happier and a lot more productive.

Plus, next time someone says their boss is ‘like OMG, the worst ever,’ you can pat them on the shoulder and say you had a boss like that once. (Just don’t mention it was all in your head.)


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Tim Snyder

Written by Tim Snyder

Tim Snyder is a freelance writer, commentator and essayist based in Boston. He writes on current issues in public policy and culture from cove’s Kendall Square location. His work has recently appeared in the Boston Globe, Cognoscenti, and The Huffington Post. You can read more from Tim on his blog and follow him on Twitter.