Productive downtime

Productive downtime

The electricity went off a couple of hours ago. Nothing terribly exciting in the greater scheme of things, just a clunk as the lights went out and the UPS cut in to safely save the open files and shut down the computers.

With that decisive clunk of course, went our electronic access to the outside world, including the phones. This is, on the face of it, a bad thing.

Dark screens in this corner of the office this morning – just like all the other corners!

I was jumping up and down because although I’d known about this planned maintenance for days, I’d failed to make a coffee before all went dark and I just needed to finish that email to Martin and I need to check out that report I’d found early this morning, even the phone doesn’t work. What can I do? … Well, you get the picture; I was completely frozen. Until I thawed out.

First priority was a coffee so it was over to the house which was deliciously silent. No radio, no fridges humming. It was like being outside on a silent night, but indoors in the daytime. 10 minutes passed while a pan of water heated on the very old, solid-fuel Rayburn.

We’ve all walked around the house in a power cut unthinkingly switching “on” the lights, right? I was full of ideas about writing up notes, checking tomorrow’s meetings and all that malarky. Oh, dammit, no, I can’t.

Patiently waiting for the coffee gave time to really think about what to do – that wouldn’t entail mains electricity or internet connection. It also gave time to think about what would be the most useful things to do.

Since then, I’ve been getting familiar with new camera firmware and thinking about implications for some of the new facilities for our productions. I’ve put a bit of productive time into thinking through the approach and shoot for an upcoming job. Nothing was written down or saved in Evernote. This was pure thinking time; such rarity in the normal way of things. No, I’ve nothing to show for it right now, but I know I will have in time. A really productive use of time and I wouldn’t have had time to do it today if the studio wasn’t “disconnected”.

A couple of hours later and the power is back on again. I’m not going to pretend that this isn’t a good thing. It’s great to be connected again and to have all the facilities and services available. But, do you know, some of those tasks I was locked into first thing don’t seem quite as urgent as they did this morning and my plans have updated a bit.

So, it was’t the restoration of power that unfroze me, it was the acceptance that the power was off and it meant that:

  1. I could fully concentrate on a bunch of other important stuff that wasn’t electricity dependent.
  2. I had the space to step back and reassess priorities. What’s more I know that the stuff I’m working on this afternoon is more important than this morning’s tasks.

Perhaps we should pretend there’s a power cut every now and again and use it as the excuse to think about the important stuff rather than just leaping to attend to the urgent. We could occasionally switch ourselves off and back on again, clear our memory then make a clean restart. Our days might be all the more productive for it.

How do you achieve a reset?

Could planned downtime be part of your productivity and creativity drive?

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