When the world tells you, “Work hard and sacrifice rest to succeed,” what do you reply with? Is it “Yeah, that’s the way,” or “Uhmm… I’ll prioritize both.”
Most people fall into the former bucket and sacrifice rest to get more done. Don’t.
In his book, Rest, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang advises why, “Rest is not this optional leftover activity. Work and rest are actually partners. They are like different parts of a wave. You can’t have the high without the low. The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working.”
Here are the 5 ways to rest to increase your productivity.
1. Sleep well
“I want to sleep well, but there’s so much work overload, I can barely sleep.” You’ll hear some variation of this when you ask someone why they don't sleep for 6-7 hours. It’s not that they don’t know the benefits of quality sleep. But, they get caught in the “I want to get more things done” trap. Less sleep won’t make you productive.
Per Matthew Carter, Ph.D., and a sleep scientist, “Most people equate losing sleep with having more time to enjoy the day or getting things done. Ironically, when they are sleep-deprived, they enjoy the day less and are so unfocused that they are much slower in getting things done. You're able to get more done on a good night's sleep, not less.”
Your body requires 6-7 hours to restore the energy levels and helps you start afresh from zero. Don’t avoid it. Neuroscientist Matt Walker explains why, “Based on probably about 10,000 research study papers now. The number of people who can survive on six hours of sleep or less and show no impairment, rounded to a whole number and expressed as a percent, is zero.”
It doesn’t stop here. “Every major disease that is killing us in the developed world: Alzheimer’s, cancer, obesity, diabetes, anxiety, depression, suicidality. All of them have direct and very strong causal links to deficient sleep.”
So the jury is clear: Ensure you have at least 7 hours of sleep per night. You’ll be more focused, energetic, and productive. It will also reduce your stress and help you make better decisions.
Some tips to ensure you sleep well:
a) Let your colleagues know your work schedule. Don’t compromise your sleep for tasks outside that schedule.
b) Fix a sleep schedule and stick to it.
c) No screens (phone, computer, tablet, TV) before bed.
d) Avoid heavy food, caffeine, and alcohol when you go to bed.
e) Reduce long afternoon naps.
f) Clear your mind in the evening from schedules, work, and other thought-consuming activities.
2. Work according to your energy levels
Remote work has given us the freedom to work whenever we want. Use it to your advantage. If you’re at your peak energy levels during the morning, follow a morning routine. If you’re a night person, schedule your tasks accordingly.
Every one of us has periods of energy highs and lows throughout the day. The goal should be to work when you feel the most energized. You’ll focus better on tasks at hand, get more done in less time, and harness your creative potential.
This technique will provide you with mental rest. Because now you won’t fight your natural tendency; instead will work with it. You’ll do the same tasks by spending lower energy.
3. Take short breaks between two tasks
Many continue doing the tasks even when their brain feels exhausted. Studies advise that you don’t. Researchers have found that our brain functions for a 90-minute high-frequency activity. It then needs a break to recharge itself.
But, if you continue working, you will start losing focus. Your brain will compensate for the loss of energy by diverting your attention. This results in inefficient work and low work satisfaction.
So, timebox your tasks into 90-minute slots and then take a break of 15-20 minutes. You can walk around, journal, or just relax. It will restore your energy levels.
4. Engage in deep play
Rest doesn’t mean you sit idle. Most productive people engage in active rest rather than passive rest. One of them was the former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. He scheduled time for his favorite hobby: oil painting. It was his form of escape from the hectic WW2.
Deep play helps to relax your brain. Winston Churchill advised, “It is not enough merely to switch off the lights which play upon the main and ordinary field of interest; a new field of interest must be illuminated. It is no use saying … “I will lie down and think of nothing. It is only when new cells are called into activity, when new stars become the lords of the ascendant, that relief, repose, refreshment are afforded.”
So practice deep play. You can practice it through your hobbies. It can be cooking, reading, rock climbing, running, or anything that’s mentally absorbing. It should shift your attention from work and bring you joy.
5. Spend your time with family and friends
Humans are social beings. Every person needs ‘social rest’ to spend time with their close ones — family members, partners, friends, or acquaintances. It boosts happiness and psychological safety and acts as a stress buster.
Ensure you unplug from work during weekends — no matter what. Go to dinner and events with your friends. Spend time with your family and partner. Discuss your emotional state with them or with someone you feel safe with. It will strengthen your emotional bond and will relieve you. You should even travel with your friends and family at least once a year.
What you should avoid is multitasking when you’re with your close ones. Don’t check your phone every minute or talk about your work the whole time. The more intentional you’re about social rest, the happier and more productive you’ll be at your work.
Treat rest as non-negotiable
It starts with how you view rest. If you squeeze every second off your work schedule, you won’t enjoy the benefits of rest: getting more done in less time, creativity boost, faster recovery, and positive mental health. So, don’t compromise rest for other activities. Schedule time for it as you do for other tasks.
Then, implement the above resting techniques. Don’t worry if you aren’t seeing the benefits from day 1. No one does. Just be consistent with your resting schedules. You’ll reap the benefits for days, months, and years. Share with us what steps you take to ensure you rest.