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8 Things to Do During Your Downtime

Liz Alton
June 27, 2018

Caregivers often get some downtime during the day. Here's a list of eight different strategies for putting that time to good use.

It's easy to check items off your to-do list when you have half a day free. But what about when you only have an hour or even just a few minutes with nothing to do?

Maybe you're a nanny who has an hour free while a baby naps. Maybe you're a housekeeper who has a 15-minute train ride commute. Or maybe you're a pet sitter who has a half-hour lunch break during the day.

Rather than goofing off on your phone and letting the valuable time slip by, here are helpful tips for making your breaks more productive during a busy schedule.

Now make a list of all the things you can do with your free time and turn to that list whenever you find yourself with time to kill.

Downtime at a caregiver job can be used productively or to find more balance and relaxation in your day. How you use the time may vary day to day, but remember: make the most of it, whether you’re tackling the laundry or searching the Internet for a smile.

Liz Alton is a freelance writer from Massachusetts. You can find her writing and ghostwriting on business, technology and travel in publications ranging from the Huffington Post to Forbes.

  1. Start With the Right Mindset
    Regard these small chunks of free time throughout the day as a gift. Remember that this is time you can spend however you want, relaxing or making progress toward personal goals. Shifting your mindset from being bored to looking forward to this time is the first step in making the most of it.

    “When you're really busy and only have small breaks, it is very easy to get overwhelmed," shares Julie Hochheiser Ilkovich, co-founder of Masthead Media Company. "You need to stay focused, calm and organized in order to be productive." Small things like making lists will help you stay on track.

  2. Focus on the Good
    If you only have a few minutes of downtime during an otherwise busy schedule, use it to focus on all of the positive things that have happened that day or week. It will keep your spirits up and help you appreciate the day more.

    “Take time to think of three things you are grateful for, or write a short journal entry on gratitude,” suggests Andreas Widmer, author of "The Pope and the CEO" and professor at Catholic University of America.

  3. Learn a New Language
    Whether you’ve been dying to improve your Spanish or want to study French for au pair opportunities overseas, dedicating fifteen to thirty minutes each day is the best way to do it. Audio tools, books and apps for your smartphone or tablet are portable and easy to focus on during downtimes. Plus, families and companies are always looking for bilingual caregivers. Learning a new language can improve your professional options and increase your salary.

  4. Take on Extra Work
    Does your employer need some additional help? For example, the family you babysit for may be willing to pay you more to do the laundry or tackle some light cooking while the baby sleeps. You won’t know until you ask.

  5. Indulge in Self-Care
    Caregiving is a demanding profession, where you put all your focus on other people. What about you? Using little chunks of downtime to focus on staying calm and centered can make you happier and more effective at your job. The next time you have fifteen minutes free, try holding some yoga poses, journaling or practicing meditation. It's a quick, easy way to bust stress and energize you for the next part of your day.

  6. Fit in Exercise
    At the other end of the spectrum, sometimes we need movement more than relaxation. If your schedule makes it hard to get to the gym, use your break to do an easy workout. And, even better, a study from the Harvard School of Public Health shows that two fifteen-minute workout sessions can be just as helpful as one longer half an hour session at the gym. Bodyweight workouts, cardio that uses portable equipment like a jump rope or a simple Pilates routine can help you achieve your fitness goals in just about any space.

  7. Challenge Yourself With a Book
    Pick up a book that you might not otherwise read. It could be a biography of someone you admire, the latest New York Times bestseller or a non-fiction title that’s related to your field, such as child development or training methods for pets.

    “Challenge yourself with new ideas that broaden your horizons and make you more effective at your job," says Professor Widmer. "Small bits of time can be the best way to read these books, since you maintain focus without getting overwhelmed.”

  8. Watch a Cute Video Online
    If you’re having a tough day, put your break to use with some serious stress-busting by visiting YouTube. Whether it’s a few minutes of your favorite stand-up comedian’s latest act, a funny parenting video or a ridiculous clip of a singing cat, watch something that’ll put a smile on your face.

User in Houston, TX
Aug. 11, 2014

I use my down time to straighten, toss in a load of children's laundry, make a list for the parents of items needed for the children, or have lunch. I might turn on the TV just to relax for a while. It puts me In a better frame of mind if I have time for myself and I will then be better able to focus on the children when my down time is over.

May 20, 2014

I feel badly about using my free time at work to do something for me, so if there is extra time at work, I flip on the tv and then do some housework while watching one of my favorite programs. I feel like I'm getting some time to relax but I'm still being productive.

It's hard for me to take down time, even though the families suggest it to me. I will often help them out, as the children are napping, by catching them up on Laundry, or picking up around the house, sweeping, or meal prep. When these things are taken care of, I will grab a magazine and read. I usually will pick one that gives me further insight into dealing with different kid oriented situations. I'm currently practicing baby sign language.

April 1, 2014

I usually feel bad about having downtime and I do things that would usually help out the family, like cleaning. I am more than happy to do it even if the family did not require me to. I am glad I am not the only nanny with free-time, and I appreciate these suggestions!

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