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The busier you are, the more down time you need (here’s how to get it)

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broker-phone-outside-coffeeGreat brokers thrive on the energy that comes with getting things done, whether it’s meeting a new prospect or shaking on a new deal. But if you’re the type that keeps getting things done, we’re betting you’re also the type who keeps that to-do list topped up.

Don’t get us wrong—we love brokers who go out there and make things happen. But the more we tune in to the science, the more we’re beginning to understand how important it is for doers to spend a little time doing, well, nothing at all.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it seems that the busier you are, the more down time you actually need. According to an HBR article on the topic, this crucial quiet time can:

  • Help you sustain energy levels
  • Positively impact learning and memory
  • Promote creative and clear thinking
  • Make you more responsive to the world around you

What’s perhaps even more important is that quiet time gives you a chance to simply be with yourself, to reflect on where you are in the world, and to contemplate your next steps. Today, that kind of time is a vanishing resource. As physicist and writer Alan Lightman observes:

“The loss of slowness, of time for reflection and contemplation, of privacy and solitude, of silence, of the ability to sit quietly in a chair for fifteen minutes without external stimulation—all have happened quickly and almost invisibly. Invisibly, almost without notice, we are losing ourselves.”

But even if you know that you need more down time, the question still remains: how do you actually add it to an already packed agenda?

Here are a few ideas to help even the busiest brokers carve out much-needed down time:

  • Don’t just fill time, make time. Sneak quiet time into the spare minutes between meetings or phone calls, those moments when you might otherwise check messages or scroll the newsfeed. That time is yours, so don’t rush to fill it (or kill it) with little distractions. Instead, “create” a feeling of having more time by simply sitting still or perhaps walking around and thinking of whatever comes to mind. Try giving yourself these extra few minutes to do absolutely nothing, and notice how it begins to change absolutely everything.
  • Try this brief musical interlude. You probably already listen to music at some point in the day, so the next time you’ve got your favorite playlist going, try this: treat yourself to a two-minute silence between songs. Research suggests that simply enjoying two minutes of silence between songs can be more beneficial than listening to traditionally “relaxing” music.
  • Give yourself a break from always thinking about what to say. So much of a broker’s job is about crafting the next pitch, constantly thinking of how you’re presenting yourself or a property. But that can be exhausting. “When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas. It’s hard to drop into deeper modes of listening and attention. And it’s in those deeper modes of attention that truly novel ideas are found,” write Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz in the HBR piece. Reserve a little room in your schedule for things that don’t require you to always be “on”, like reading a few pages of a book that has nothing at all to do with work.
  • Go outside, even if for a few minutes. Any time you can spend in nature is restorative. You may not have a forest or a lakeshore right outside your door, but you can always step outside for a breath of fresh air, a glimpse at the sun, and perhaps even lunch on the grass or in the shade of a sprawling tree. These are all things that can help you recharge, relax, and inspire your mind to wander in ways that the computer screen just can’t.
  • Limit the information you’re willing to consume. Can’t stop drinking from the information firehose? Those little bits of information you consume here and there may seem useful, but in reality they’re probably clogging up the brainwaves and getting in the way of more meaningful thinking. Think about it: can you even remember the last five articles or social updates you read? So limit the amount of information you’re exposed to each day. Start by switching off all those alerts that summon you to your social, email, and news feeds, and choose to check in on the world on your terms.