Many people think that downtime means zoning out - giving yourself permission to stare at the TV, scroll through social media apps and going to the gym. But actually, true downtime means no goal and no focused attention.
All of these activities aren’t downtime because it requires focused attention.
The prefrontal cortex (PFC), task-positive network, is the goal-oriented part of your brain. It activates when you’re paying attention: making a decision, thinking through the solution to a problem, or using your working memory to make sense of new information.
The other is the default mode network, also known as the imagination network. This is the brain’s resting-state circuitry — the regions that come online when you’re not paying attention to anything in particular. This is what activates during downtime.
➡️ When you’re consciously focusing on a problem, the mind naturally tunes to the PFC, but sometimes the best insights require a creative leap. That’s why the best way to solve a complex problem isn’t by brute force. A better approach is to take some downtime and give the imagination network a chance to work its magic: consolidating new knowledge, making new connections, and imagining new possibilities.
That’s why Archimedes’ Eureka moment came to him when he was sitting in the bath, and why Newton formulated the law of gravity when he saw an apple fall in an orchard.
➡️ So, how to take downtime?
NOT: High intensive interval training
GO FOR: A walk, just by yourself
NOT: Driving a car while listening to a podcast
GO FOR: Driving a car, in silence
NOT: Bingle watching Netflix
GO FOR: Taking a shower
NOT: Mindfulness meditation
GO FOR: Painting
NOT: Social media scrolling
GO FOR: Staring out of the window