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What Do You Do with Downtime?

What do you do with downtime?

Unless you have a trip headed somewhere warm and sunny, chances are your group travel program will be quiet for the next couple months. And though quiet periods aren’t as fun as busy stretches on the road, they can prove invaluable if you learn to make the most of them.

There’s a lot of research showing that periods of downtime — unstructured stretches when it feels like you’re not accomplishing anything — are vital for mental health, creativity and long-term productivity. This makes slow periods a great opportunity to spend some time on important activities that don’t necessarily add to the bottom line.

Here are four practices I have found helpful for making the most of downtime — in midwinter or any other time it occurs.

1. Learn something new

When life is busy and business is booming, it’s difficult to make time for learning. So when things slow down a little bit, I love to get intentional about widening my knowledge base. For me, that means taking online courses, sitting in on webinars (or watching webinar replays), listening to podcasts and doing a ton of reading. Staying on top of trends in the travel industry is important, of course, but I expand my learning to include other fields and disciplines too. Learning about other topics builds stronger connections in your brain and helps find ideas you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.

2. Update a system

We’re living in amazing times. Today’s technology can solve problems and streamline processes to make life less difficult and more profitable, both at work and at home. You already know this, of course, but if you have been slow to implement new technologies and solutions, it might be because making changes during busy times feels risky. Fortunately, that risk decreases dramatically when things slow down. I always like to use downtime to evaluate my systems and habits and see if there’s an opportunity for an upgrade. And when things get busy again, I’m grateful for the time savings that came from that investment.

3. Ask big questions

During busy periods, your mental energy is focused on executing tasks and getting work done. These productive periods are great, but they can also be so full of urgent needs that you don’t get much time to think about issues of long-term importance. I like to take time during slow periods each year to contemplate bigger questions about work, family and other elements of life. When you have downtime, ask yourself some of the bigger questions about your travel organization, your life goals and other things you don’t think about often enough.

4. Make new friends

It’s no secret that relationships are the currency of the tourism industry. But when you’re busy traveling, it can be difficult enough to maintain and nurture existing relationships, let alone build new ones. That’s why I love using slow seasons to intentionally build new relationships. I have been consistently surprised by how willing people in the tourism industry are to take my calls when I reach out just for the purpose of making connections. Building new friendships will always make your organization better. And it might just help make your life more fulfilling too.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.