Down Time is Productive Time

Have you ever watched an auto race? Cars chase around the track at high speeds and occasionally pull into the Pit. The car gets jacked up and instantly the Pit Crew swarm the car like ants on a sugar cookie. For a few minutes there is a whirlwind of non-stop activity as drills spin, bolts fly, tires rotate, fluids flow, and everything gets wiped, tightened, checked, or watered.

That level of intensity is how many organizations expect their teams to operate – at high speed, with high efficiency, attending to a million details per minute, just like that pit crew.

What some organizations or leaders forget, however, is that after the pit crew completes their work and the car pulls back onto the track, the pit crew gets a breather. And after they recover, they return to preparation mode for the next time their driver needs servicing.

What would happen if a pit crew had to be constantly ON, operating at their highest level of speed and intensity ALL the time? They’d burn out. There’d be mistakes. Things would be missed. There would be accidents.

Fact is, down time IS productive time. Down time is when the pit crew analyzes their performance. They take time to appreciate a job well done and identify ways they can improve their output the next time. It’s part of the cycle, the yin/yang of work: preparation, then performance. There is a time for each.

It’s the same for you and your team.

Do you expect yourself to be on and up and fast and perfect and creative all the time?! And do you beat yourself up when you’re not? Give it a rest! You are ONLY human, my friend. You are programmed to operate best when you take periods of rest between your intensity sessions.

Organizations that don’t know how to provide renewal time to their people are failing their teams. They create a workforce that is constantly on the edge of burnout.

Individuals that don’t take time to renew end up in the same place – burned out, anxious, unhappy and, eventually, disengaged.

So take a breath! Relax every so often. Give your own system – or your team – a chance to balance out performance with preparation and renewal. It’s the cycle of life, it’s the cycle of work.



Jim Smith, PCC, is The Executive Happiness Coach®. He is an international speaker, executive and life coach, and author. He provides his clients with inspiration and practical tools to live a happier life and build more positive work cultures. He is the author of Happiness At The Speed of Life: 13 Powerful Strategies for Finding Happiness at Home and On The Job, and has touched the lives of over 10,000 people worldwide through his work on Positive Emotion and Leadership. You can connect with Jim at