Gun For Hire: Downtime

A funny thing happened today: I actually ran out of things to work on. My clients were happy, news of my new job was in motion, and I had no access to my home setup. What is a young creative to do?

I think you can tell a lot about someone with how they use their “down time.” While I caught myself staring at the screen wondering what just happened – I don’t really know what it’s like to have free time – there were a few salient points that I found helpful with redeeming that availability.


I’m much more apt to perform a “Four-Hour Sleep Night” than a “Four-Hour Work Week.” My personal M.O. is largely inspired by what one of my favorite pastors once said:

“Work as hard and fast as you can, then leave it there and get back to your family.” — Paul Washer

This idea of constant motion intrigues me. I come from a family of workaholics, so this can be a snare whenever I am tempted to put my head down and plow forward. I don’t like to sit idle and feel that every moment – especially when we’re on the clock – should be able to be defended when we have to account for the way we used them. Why anyone would believe that they should only put forth the minimum effort is truly beyond me.

Sometimes, however, you just run out of things to work on. Now what?

Reclaiming the time doesn’t have to mean that you’re on the go 24/7 with all cylinders firing at maximum efficiency. Arguably, that kind of pacing would kill us very quickly. What we need is a plan for what happens when things go really well instead of just planning for failure.

What? Plan for success? How does that work?

The idea is really simple: Make a plan for what happens when things go exactly as they should, when things run smoothly, when you work at peak speed. Asking yourself to imagine what this would be like is more than just a pipe dream, you’re forcing your brain to visualize what success will look like. This helps you evaluate your goals and, ultimately, understand what the finish line looks like before you catch yourself running extra laps.

The day that I “ran out of things to do” was a time when I really lost perspective on the larger picture. It was easy to look around and think that everything was done, but still somehow feel buried later that day. Why? I lost sight of the goal, even with a great task list of projects and objectives.

I think this is where the definition of your real work and priorities come in. Any time you try to work (or live) for something that doesn’t really matter, you will burn yourself out a lot faster than you expected. This is why I believe that Christians need to have a firm grasp on their identity in Christ – don’t settle for definition within a trade!

Try thinking about what to do when things are going better than expected. You may find that you have extra time in your day to do other tasks that truly matter. In a day of staring into pixelated wastelands, I urge you to plan ahead, and be better. Go make something!