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Real Estate Best Practices

The Upside of Downtime

By May 28, 2018 No Comments

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.


Class of 2018

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.

Small Bets

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.

Big Chunks

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.

Lunch Hours

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.

Your Turn

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.


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