According to Peter Zeughauser of the eponymous consulting firm, law firm partners should always have a plan for their downtime.
“Every partner in every firm should have a career development plan that’s consistent with the firm vision and the firm’s plan that should have kicked in when demand is low. If they don’t have a plan, that’s a good time to create one.”
I love this advice, yet when I recently had the opportunity to take a short sabbatical, I didn’t heed it. I had no plan for my down time.
While some would argue that sabbaticals are supposed to be a rest from work and thus “plan-free,” the intention of my sabbatical was to figure out what I wanted to do next in my career. I also had high hopes of accomplishing a few other things along the way.
Instead, I binge-watched four seasons of Younger. I worked out two hours a day. I spent time with the graduating high school seniors I adore. I bought my daughter a kitten.
Things I did not do that I wish I had:
Publish the update to my C Suite survey. [It’s coming. Just not quite yet.]
Write and film a video for my website.
Go hiking in Park City.
Despite this unfulfilled wish list, ultimately, I consider my sabbatical a success because I figured out what I want next in my career.
The Why Behind the Downtime Plan
So… now I am back at work and I spent a good chunk of this first weekend after returning to work planning for my downtime (although I don’t foresee having much of it). When I do have a free fifteen minutes, I am not going to waste any time figuring out how to spend it.
My downtime plan includes short projects that can be started and stopped easily. These include:
- Clean up/out my Outlook contacts.
- Update my blog mailing list.
- Work on the “ugly first draft” of articles.
- Build a Hootsuite backlog.
My plan also includes work on more time-consuming projects:
- Draft client plans that identify ways I can add value to each individual client. To do this, I start with a solid understanding of each client. (More on that here.) Next, I identify topics that are of specific interest to each client so that I can be knowledgeable about those topics and share specific and relevant information with my clients. Finally, I schedule, implement and track my actions related to each plan.
- Brainstorm article topics and research projects.
Finally, my down time plan includes a “lunch hour plan.” First, I need to qualify this bullet: every day, my plan is to spend lunch with a client, prospect, or new acquaintance, building relationships. Since that might not be feasible every day, my downtime plan is:
- Spend time getting to know each team member at my new company and understanding their roles. If I don’t have a client lunch, I should have a co-worker lunch.
If you don’t already have a plan for your work downtime, maybe you should spend the next bit of downtime that comes your way creating one. I promise it will alleviate some of the angst associated with wasted time – especially if you work in a billable hour world. It also may improve your business development efforts.