I’ve just finished reading “Rest” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang; not the most engaging of books but there’s some interesting ideas in there. I’m more and more interested in the whole idea of rest and how to create a life that integrates rest and work. The basic argument in the book is that the right form of rest; which is probably more active than you might think, helps us to be more creative and productive. The dryness of the book, I think, was due in part to the endless references to scientific studies that back up each of the ten criteria for a restful life! But I guess it’s good to know that there’s a load of scientific research to back up what probably feels intuitively right anyway!
Perhaps it’s just the work I’m in, but increasingly when I ask how they are, peoples stock/knee jerk answer is usually ‘busy’ followed by ‘stressed.’ It does seem the norm these days and somehow it also feels like a badge of honour at the same time. It’s almost like, success is measured by the hours or the range of tasks/things that we’re managing at any one time. There’s an assumption that it’s only through a ceaseless, continuous effort that we’ll get everything done. Weirdly, much of the data referenced in the book talks about the value of shorter bursts of focused activity interspersed with fulsome rests, in producing superior results. It seems that shorter, shaper bursts of focused activity increase creativity and productivity!! Furthermore, even when we stop actively thinking about a problem our subconscious continues to work on it in the background; which might explain those ‘aha moments’ of insight that hit us when stop trying so hard to figure something out.
Here’s a few ‘top tips’ that I’ve taken from the book;
- We’re more productive when we work in short focused bursts. Personally, I think the good old Pomodoro Technique works brilliantly for this. Here’s a link for heaps of ideas on that https://francescocirillo.com/pages/pomodoro-technique
- When we’re stuck with a problem; we get writers block or we don’t know what to do next, it might just be time to take a break. Change state. Go for a walk. Do something else, preferably something that you enjoy.
- Find activities to help you detach from work. Activities that are challenging and absorbing increase your sense of detachment…pushing work out of your mind!
- We need to learn to monitor our energy levels and attention. If we’ve been working long and hard, we need to pause and take time to recharge and rejuvenate. It feels counter intuitive, but a lot of the evidence in the book suggests that regular, restorative breaks actually make us MORE productive not less.
- Let ideas percolate. Often with clients, particularly when some new, significant insight has emerged, I’ll encourage them to ‘sit with it’ and don’t try too hard to think about a solution.
We owe it to ourselves to ensure that we integrate work with adequate restorative activities whatever they are! Nobody is going to give you the time for this, it’s something that we have to grab for ourselves. We have to fiercely guard the space for rest and rejuvenation, which is not always easy…but maybe we need to put ourselves at the top of the list of priorities for once?
Is that too much to ask?? J
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