Make your downtime work for you

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No matter how great you are at managing and budgeting your time, your workload can fluctuate when running a creative business. And while the busy periods might feel like the most important moments, the lulls can be just as meaningful.

Here’s how to put your downtime into good use.

Lift some heavy, creative weights
When you’ve got fewer demands to tend to, get ahead and work on those big projects that need some serious brain power.

Marshall Short of Printable Heroes shares how he makes the most of his downtime: “I enjoy having larger content projects to work on during the slow season, or even just as a break from my regular content. [It] gives me an opportunity to push myself artistically and tackle content that I normally wouldn’t be able to fit into my usual monthly deadlines.”

So if you’ve been putting off that new website, giant script, or collaboration, these slower periods are the perfect time to cross things off your list.

Learn something new

One of the best parts about sharing your work with a community is receiving thoughtful support and feedback. Even if you’ve hit your stride, there’s always room to grow and learn more. But when you’re handling the daily business, it can be tough to carve out time for your creative or professional growth. Using your downtime to learn something new can keep you inspired and empowered as an artist, maker, and creative. And in turn, these new nuggets of information can help you build your audience, optimize processes, or even earn more money.

Angela Anderson has built a community around her acrylic painting videos. She’s dedicated to helping others learn and deliberate about continuing her own learning, too. Each summer, she takes a day off a week from her usual schedule “to refresh and use the extra time to learn new skills or explore other new venues,” she says.

Take care of business

Maybe you want to prep your holiday marketing plan, finesse a sitting draft, get ahead of your content calendar, or roll out an expense process for the new year. Well, your downtime can be the perfect moment to go deep into some strategic planning.

The sisters behind All Ages of Geek, a video series of anime reactions, reviews, and community events, use their downtime to brainstorm their next idea and reflect on what went well (and what could have gone better) in their latest work. “We plan out what events we want to have for our community, what videos we [want to] film, and what news we [will] be covering,” they share. And most importantly, this strategic planning “helps us support our patrons better.”

This strategic time can also be an opportunity to do the more “non-creative” tasks. We’re talking about paperwork, finances, and more. We know it’s not the most exciting thing to do, but if you have a slow period coming up, plan to get these things done ahead of time. Your future self will thank you later.

Rest and reset

Maybe you don’t want to plan ahead. Or strategize. Or do any paperwork. That’s totally okay, too! While it may be effective to use your downtime for all of that, it’s equally important to take care of you. Yes, you!

Sometimes, the best thing to do during a quiet period is to just… take a breather.

Mat Brunet (aka AniMat), who creates videos about animation, uses downtime as a “mental reset.”

“I take a moment to separate myself from my work. Not only do I return less tired and with my energy refueled, but I also see my progress from a new perspective. [It helps me] see what can I do to improve [my work], or how I can solve a problem.”

Learn to say no

If you’re nervous to take some downtime (let alone, carve it for yourself ), you’re not alone.

When musician and storyteller Alex Wong decided to pause his busy cycles of projects to explore new ideas, it meant saying no to some things he might normally have worked on. This new way of working was uncomfortable at first, but Wong dug deeper to find out why. Stepping back to invest in yourself or work in new ways sounds great, “but we’re so conditioned to hustle,” he says. “I’ve always derived personal worth from how busy [I am]. Doing [this] was an unfamiliar feeling, and it was scary.” Creating structure around his downtime has helped him stay accountable to himself, though that feels more “it takes some intentionality to get into that space.”

Whether your quiet periods are because of the seasons, the nature of this business, or by choice, they can all help you grow as a creator when used with the right intentions. Because downtime shouldn’t make you feel guilty or unproductive. It’s a worthy investment — through the busy times, the quiet times, and most importantly, all the times when you just need to take a break.

How do you use your downtime? Join the Patreon Creator Community Discord to talk about it.

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