Why Rest is Essential to Getting Work Done

It seems that suggesting more rest would be counterproductive to getting things done. There is so much work to be done, so many projects to complete. We have people who need us, things to do, and places to go. Who has time to rest??

Rest can take many forms, and on the outset, it may appear to be entirely unproductive (from a work perspective). “Rest” can include walking breaks, naps, and activities completely unrelated to work. In Alex Soojung-Kim Pang’s book, Rest he shares research and examples of how we can’t afford not to rest. I’ll share three key concepts that I found not only fascinating, but doable.

  • Walking – Exercise in any form, including walking, has been shown to reduce stress, increase productivity and energy, and up our creativity. Looking at it that way, these benefits would help us get things done, better. Think you’re too busy to sneak a walk into your day? Thomas Jefferson made walking a part of his daily routine. So did Charles Dickens. Are those examples too 1800’s for you? How about Rubik’s Cube creator, Ernö Rubik who solved the design challenge of his Cube during a walk1?
  • Naps – I love napping, and while I don’t take advantage of them nearly as often as I’d like, they have true benefits. The National Sleep Foundation says, “Naps boost alertness and improve motor performance, which is why you feel energized after taking one. The length of your nap determines the benefits. A 20-minute snooze—called a stage two nap—is ideal to enhance motor skills and attention, while an hour to 90 minutes of napping brings Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which helps make new connections in the brain and can aid in solving creative problems.”2 Famous nappers include Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Thomas Edison, and Salvador Dalí (that last one is probably not as surprising).
  • Unplugging – Simply disconnecting from our work is not only beneficial to us psychologically, but similarly to walking and napping, it allows our brain to continue working on our behalf without the distraction of our conscious stream of thoughts. If you’ve ever done one of those “paint nights” where you are walked through the step-by-step process of painting a picture, you know the instructor often tells you to walk away from your painting and look at it from a distance. This perspective helps you “get out of the weeds” of your view. Or when you’re trying really, really hard to remember something, and someone advises that you not think about it at all and then it will come to you. Unplugging is like that. Shut off your phone, put away your calendar and notes, and just be. Do something unrelated to your to-do list; something fun or relaxing. While you may not realize it, your mind will continue doing some work for you behind the scenes.

Pang shares in his book that burnout “can lead to emotional exhaustion, a decline in performance, poorer decision-making, lower empathy, and higher rates of errors.”1 None of those are going to help us get our work accomplished. Instead they may sabotage precisely what it is we are trying to do.

Taking time to rest and play is not only good for you, but it will help you get your work done better and faster!

Tell me in the comments, what your favorite way to rest and recharge is.

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1 - Pang, A. S. (2017). Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. London: Penguin Life.
2 - Health Benefits of Napping. (n.d.). Retrieved November 05, 2017, from https://sleep.org/articles/napping-health-benefits/


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