One of the most important elements of my life is the time that I spend with nothing in particular to do, time that I spend being able to relax and recharge and make myself ready for whatever's coming next. I learned what it's like to live without this luxury when I spent four years in the Army, and those four years taught me to value my quiet time even more. That doesn't mean that I don't push myself--after all, I did two graduate programs at the same school at the same time; I did my doctorate while teaching full-time and coaching; I coached three sports each school year for two years. I am very often very busy--but that doesn't mean that I don't value and take advantage of quiet time.
When I take on a very busy schedule, one of the things that I make sure of is that there will be quiet time eventually in the future. Perhaps it will be a long weekend when I won't have anything planned, or maybe I'll know that spring break is there in the middle of the busy times. As a teacher, I do have an advantage with the breaks that happen in our schedules, but I also know many teachers who fill those breaks up with as many activities as they can. That's something that I simply won't do because I know that my mind and my body need a break--they need time without activity to be able to function better--or in my case, even function at all, it seems, after they've been used intensely for a long while.
Quiet time doesn't have to be time sitting around doing nothing but reading and drinking coffee (though times spent that way are quite wonderful!). Quiet time can be taking a nice long hike or going for a long run; it can be wandering around a mall and looking at things that are new and different; it could be meeting up with a friend for a cup of coffee and a nice long conversation. It has to do with purposely planning not to get stressed, not to fill my time with things that will keep me on edge. I don't try to accomplish anything that has to be of high quality during quiet time--that reach for quality implies judgment, and working to pass judgment, either my own or someone else's, becomes stressful.
One of the reasons that I love winter is because it gives us cozy, intimate moments that make for wonderful quiet time. In the summer I'm on the go much, much more, and when I do stop for a while, the good weather seems to be calling me, putting me on edge, telling me "Do something with me!" In the winter I don't feel that call, and it's much easier to curl up with a book in the lamplight and know that the snow is falling outside, but not having to do anything about it.
I'm thinking about this now because I just read a book about someone who never stopped, who never had down time. I couldn't have lived his life. In my world, taking the time to recharge and re-energize is extremely important, and I know that the quality of my life would suffer dramatically if I didn't build it in, or at least have it to look forward to sometime in the future.