I’ve been resting a lot lately.
This virus thing has got us all messed up, and though I don’t want to write about coronavirus here (there are far better writers than me tackling the subject), it has got me thinking about the importance of rest.
In these seemingly endless days of isolation it’s easy to think we should be doing more. We’ve suddenly got all this time on our hands, so why not get stuck into that project we’ve been putting off for days/weeks/months/years?
But it’s not that easy. The unsettling nature of the crisis has caused a lot of anxiety and turmoil in people, myself included. So rather than declare war on unfinished projects and become a productivity machine, I’ve instead followed the much more reasonable advice to be kind to myself.
Which in turn has got me thinking about the concept of rest, and how it can actually increase productivity.
Three types of deliberate rest play an important role in our overall productivity:
1. Short breaks between periods of focused work
2. A day or two off to recharge after a week’s work
3. A longer break every three months
In a previous article I discussed focus of energy — the idea that if we focus our energy for a particular period of time (or Ultradian Rhythm), the productivity gains for a relatively short time investment far outweigh those for a less focused but longer work period.
But focus is a finite resource that must be replenished.
In his book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Pang says:
“You need time for rest because that’s when the unconscious mind can get to work.” — Alex Pang
I find that a period of rest after a period of focused work allows my subconscious to jump in and solve problems, or come up with ideas or scenes for my fiction work in progress.
Make sure you give your mind time to do it’s thing. Don’t grab the phone or start scrolling Facebook immediately as your reward for good work. Go for a walk, or grab a coffee and sit with it, letting your mind wander and your subconscious do its thing. But make sure you’ve got your notebook with you to write down the gems it ferrets out of your brain.
Your brain operates like the muscles in your body. Just like it needs smaller rest breaks throughout each day, it also needs rest to recuperate from the stresses of the week.
Taking one or two days off after a productive week, whether you incorporate the traditional weekend or pick a day that works for you, has a number of benefits. It promotes balance in your life by giving you time to pursue leisure activities. It boosts the relationships in your life by allowing time to make deeper connections. And providing your mind with an opportunity to recharge will lead to greater productivity when you do get back to work.
Sometimes we need a longer break in order to detach from work completely and allow our bodies to fully recharge. This is where the vacation comes in.
Whether you’re a fan of relaxing by the pool with a good book, catching up with family in other parts of the country, or adventuring your way across a foreign land, vacations give us the all-important separation from our work lives that is essential to avoid burn-out and recover from work stress.
Finally, rest means rest — whether it’s a ten minute break between creative sessions, evening downtime with the family, or a week on a tropical island, rest is only beneficial when you detach. Put the phone on silent, or better yet leave it in the office while you walk around the block. Don’t take your laptop on holidays, and make sure colleagues know you’re uncontactable. Detach from work and your devices during down-time and you’ll return to work well-rested and more productive than ever.
“Rest is not something that the world gives us. It’s never been a gift. It’s never been something you do when you’ve finished everything else. If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.” —Alex Pang