Creativity and Productivity: The Importance of Focused Downtime

5 minute read

Upland Admin

If you’ve been a marketer for longer than a month, you understand we’re busy people. So busy, in fact, that everyone is obsessed with “hacking” and automating as many tasks as possible. On the content side of things, we at Kapost are constantly encouraging B2B teams to focus on overcoming the chaos of ongoing content creation—encouraging teams to streamline their marketing operations and focus on quality over quantity.

These are all essential strategies marketing teams must employ to thrive in the digital age. Without marketing automation tools like Marketo or Eloqua, teams wouldn’t be able to segment, target, or track leads at scale. Without BI tools like Domo or Looker, marketers would be living in the dark, feebly attempting to prove ROI with vanity metrics like page views. And how could content drive revenue if it was always executed ad hoc or worse, left totally unused?

What is perhaps one of the most important, yet underutilized, aspects these tools and tactics provide is time. And more importantly, learning how to use this time in an effective manner to be productive. Harvard Business Review pointed out this contradiction in their article, “The Paradox of Workplace Productivity.” In the piece, the author points out that “…data suggests overall labor productivity has only grown 1-2% per year during the tech boom.” The article goes on to explain the value of enterprise-level, organizational productivity, as opposed to personal productivity, which has revenue value without question.

However, I want to focus on a different aspect we can glean from this data, as it applies specifically to content marketing: the importance of focused downtime.

What Downtime Isn’t

Downtime Is Not Meetings

Nothing is more frustrating than time wasted in a meeting. When the marketing team at Kapost began the transition to Agile, we tried to have a brainstorming meeting. The trouble with this seemingly creative meeting was the lack of productive ideas. In concept, brainstorming in a meeting sounds like a good way to generate ideas. Instead, we ended up forgetting work in our backlog and piling on additional projects that weren’t vetted or well-thought-out. Suddenly, we had way too many ideas and no clue what to do with them.

Downtime Is Not Just Vacation

A lot of research has been done on the importance of using all your vacations days (and how few Americans do). While I completely agree with said research, it’s not what we’re talking about here. Vacation is great, and an important part of recharging. But as vacation is a time for you to not think about work, your paid time off is not focused downtime.

Downtime Is Not Email, Slack, gChat… Notifications

“I am super productive when I have all my notification apps turned on and constantly stop what I’m doing to answer messages!” said no one ever. Aside from just focused downtime, I cannot emphasize enough to anyone doing heads-down work how essential turning off your notifications is. Focused downtime requires focus. This means setting aside your phone (the “Do Not Disturb” setting is a great addition), closing your messaging apps, and closing out your email. Try it. You’re going to be pleasantly surprised how productive you are.

What Focused Downtime Is

Focused downtime is time blocked off, be it 30 minutes or two hours, where you think and ideate with no end goal in mind. It can take a different form every time. However, you must do it in guideline with the above “rules” and you must do it by yourself. I find it great to relate to an existing project or business priority, but, again, with no end goal in mind. Here’s a couple of examples of how I personally have used focused downtime:

  • Reading content: We are barraged with content every day, and some of it just happens to be really good. I have found so much inspiration by simply reading content, sometimes email copy, eBooks, research, or blog posts
  • Headlines templates: As a content manager, I write a lot. Sometimes said writing feels repetitive. Sitting down and writing arbitrary headlines helps me build a repository of email subject line templates I can return to when I’m feeling especially zapped
  • Journaling: Again, I write a lot, whether blog posts or eBooks. This writing requires time, research, energy, and editing. Nothing helps rebuild my vigor for writing by putting a pen to paper and just writing. I keep a work journal (super nerdy, I know) to help me think out loud on paper. When experiencing work stress, which is a reality for all of us, having an outlet to vent without complaining to a coworker is far more productive and positive for your team

All of these can be twisted to help address your own role. If you’re a designer, swap writing out with drawing. For demand gen, trying browsing different target emails or demo requests on websites. Journaling—well, that can apply to everyone, writer or otherwise.

With the explosion of technology, turning off is now a creative imperative. And while I can’t prove downtime is a research-based fact (although we could use a lot more of those in our world), I can anecdotally say when I incorporate downtime in my meetings, tech-driven day-to-day life, I feel happier and more productive.

If you’re ready to recharge and rediscover your creativity—and in turn, productivity—I suggest you block off just 30 minutes on your calendar for next week. Then let me know how it goes! You can find my Twitter in my bio (@kay_lockman). I cannot wait to hear about your results!



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