Down time?

中国日报网 2018-02-06 11:14



Down time?Reader question:

Please explain “down time”, as in “enjoying some down time at the beach”.

My comments:

It means some busy person is having some time off, and spending it by the seaside, swimming in the sea or sunbathing on the beach.

Although “down time” means they’re off work and resting, relaxing and fooling around, people enjoying some down time are usually very busy people.

“Down time”, you see, originally refers to a power failure or machine failure, during which time workers all put their working tools DOWN and have some idle TIME taking a much welcome rest.

This is opposite of, of course, up time or uptime, when power is on and all the machines are up and running, everybody hurries back to work.

One can imagine, for example, how valuable a little down time means to those working at an assembly line. They can always use a few minutes of break to relax and stretch their muscles and perhaps go to the loo. Understandably, they won’t be able to do any of those things while the assembly line is moving, of course.

Anyways, metaphorically speaking, down time refers to a period of break, hiatus or sabbatical during an otherwise hectic and busy schedule.

This is why I say that someone “enjoying some down time” necessarily implies that they are otherwise very busy people. Finding time for the beach isn’t easy for them.

In other words, if a local fisherman is found dosing off under a coconut tree, he would not be enjoying any down time. He’s just enjoying a normal noon break or simply living a fisherman’s life when he’s not fishing.

For a busy office executive, however, it’s different. We often hear, for example, someone claiming that they’re “either in a meeting or on the way to a meeting”. If such a busybody is found sunbathing under an umbrella on the beach, then he or she is, thank goodness, having some precious down time.

For him or her, a little down time at the beach happens only once or twice a year – which is why it’s valued or relished.

Okay, let’s read a few media examples of people, all busy in one way or another, using some down time:

1. Spend a day on tour with Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Jimi Westbrook and Phillip Sweet and it’s easy to see why their friendship is even tighter than their harmonies.

As the group, who’s been together for 17 years, boarded a speedboat for a ride on Long Island Sound last month, they were all giggling and excited to have a little down time before their gig in Greenwich, Connecticut. Then Fairchild realizes the choppy waters might lead to problems. “If anyone starts feeling sick, we have to stop,” she says. “We don’t want to mess up the show tonight.”

It’s a glimpse at how they take care of each other and why they work so well.

“We’re one big family out here,” Westbrook tells PEOPLE. “And Karen is our natural born leader.”

Over the years, the group has seen each other through many storms – professional setbacks and personal heartbreak – and also celebrated life’s joyous milestones together, like Karen and Jimi’s wedding in 2006.

- Little Big Town on Their 17 Years Together: 'We Are Family',, October 30, 2015.

2. Some people just seem unable to switch off. They see down time as a waste of time, and any interruption or delay to their increasingly urgent and growing list of assignments causes them anxiety and stress. To them, “multi-tasking” is not a dirty word but a badge of honor.

Their behavior goes way beyond the normal response to the pressures of having to complete competing tasks in a limited amount of time. For most people, an empty slot in the diary, or a completed To-Do List, can bring welcome relief. It’s a chance to unwind, decompress, have a stretch, and maybe a stroll to a coffee shop. But for others, that blank space in the diary screams, “Why aren’t you doing something?! What key task are you missing? Don’t let the bosses see that you aren’t working!”

Such anxiety and behavior has been dubbed “hurry sickness.” As our article, How to Beat Hurry Sickness shows, it’s something that affects huge numbers of managers. Cardiologists Meyer Friedman and Ray Rosenman, who coined the phrase, described hurry sickness as “a continuous struggle and unremitting attempt to accomplish or achieve more and more things or participate in more and more events in less and less time.” And the bottom line is, it’s extremely unhealthy. Stress can be a killer.

Performing under reasonable pressure can lead to excellent work, as we explain in our article, The Inverted-U Model. But individuals with hurry sickness bring wholly unnecessary pressure upon themselves. They take on too much, get stressed when they don’t have time to do it all, and chances are the activities they are getting all flustered about are not even hugely important anyway.

Prioritization and other time management strategies and techniques can only help to a limited degree. Taking on too much means just that – there is no workable schedule for “too much.” Overcoming hurry sickness requires a fundamental shift in thinking and behavior.

You have to realize that the world won’t stop turning if you take a breather and slow down. Don’t automatically accept every job that comes your way – you can learn how to say “Yes” to the Person, “No” to the Task.

There are only 24 hours in a day, and all of us only have a limited number of days. By all means work hard, but work smart. Don’t see down time in terms of potentially lost productivity, see it as an opportunity to connect with people and build relationships. Take time out to “smell the flowers.” Consider the words of American journalist Sydney J. Harris, “The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”

- Down Time Is Not a Waste of Time,, May 13, 2016.

3. Jason Aldean opened up about how the birth of his son, Memphis, helped him heal after the Las Vegas tragedy that left 58 people dead and nearly 500 others injured.

“It definitely took me a little time to wrap my head around it and I needed some down time to kind of step away from it for a little bit and get home, and one of the things that helped me, personally, was the birth of my son,” the “Dirt Road Anthem” singer, 40, said during an interview with SiriusXM’s The Highway on Friday, January 26. “That gave me a chance to focus on something else … Within a couple months I saw the worst thing you could possibly experience and then I saw the best thing you could possibly experience, with him being born.”

As previously reported, on October 1, Aldean was performing outside for a crowd of 22,000 people during the Route 91 Harvest music festival when his set was interrupted by the sound of automatic gunfire just after 10 p.m. local time. The country singer immediately ran backstage as concertgoers ducked for cover. Many people initially believed the sound was fireworks before realizing that it had actually been a gunman opening fire from the 32nd floor of the nearby Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. The gunman was later identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock. He was found dead in his hotel room.

Aldean and his wife, Brittany Kerr, welcomed their first child together on December 1.

- Jason Aldean on How His Son Helped Him Heal After Las Vegas Tragedy,, January 26, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at:, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)

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