I just finished reading a great book. The title alone caught my eye – “Rest: Why you Get More Done When you Work Less” (written by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang). The concept is a personal one for me as I move through what I have labelled a recovery period for myself. Coming off three tremendously exhausting and stressful years (physically, mentally, and emotionally), I have become intrigued with the impact chronic stress has on our brains and on our ability to refresh our mental energy.
I love the message of this book!
Alex Pang’s premise premise is two-fold. Rest is a skill to learn and master. And that to live a satisfying, fulfilling, and productive life, rest and work must go hand in hand.
He gives us a definition of rest that is not what you might think.
In his book, rest is not simply absence of activity. But rather, rest is purposeful activity. To rest well, one must consider recovery, exercise, deep play and sabbaticals.
He describes four factors that contribute to recovery: relaxation, exercise, deep play, and sabbaticals. And goes on to say: “breaks that are high in all four are the equivalent of nutritious and nourishing meals, those that don’t are like empty calories.” Like our food, quality of rest positively impacts our performance and results.
Exercise is a means to building strength and fitness. But in Pang’s book, exercise, especially aerobic exercise, is also stimulus for creative and breakthrough thinking. When you are fit, your body can deliver more blood to your brain when it is working. “Because the brain’s demand for oxygen and sugar [glucose] rises when you are concentrating hard, [exercise] can make the difference between grasping [an] insight or feeling like it is just out of reach.”
Deep play is a “…mentally absorbing engagement that doesn’t require effort.” It is an activity or project that lets you use the same or similar skills that you do for work. And (I found this interesting) it is a “…living connection to your past.” What did you enjoy doing most when you were young? That could be your deep play in your adult years.
Taking a sabbatical will benefit everyone whose job includes thinking or coming up with ideas. I am liking this one too! Paraphrasing from Pang’s book, sabbaticals offer an escape from everyday environments and where we are free to pursue high-levels goals without the constraints of detailed schedules.
Many of us may think of sabbaticals as long periods of time away from work, but they do not need to be. Sabbaticals of a few days are equalling satisfying. They may even be more satisfying than long sabbaticals since there isn’t the stress involved with getting everything done before you go away. And when you return, you don’t have to play catch up either. The key is to be away from your everyday life to pursue something meaningful to you. For example, a yoga certification is my sabbatical. I am attending a two day intensive training. I am looking forward to the time away but also looking forward to immersing myself in a topic that has intrigued me for a long time.
Here are additional favorite passages of mine:
“Rest is the playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas.”
Need to solve a problem in life or at work? Rest gives your mind a break and gives it a boost so it can turn its attention to finding and creating a solution.
“Too often busyness is not a means to accomplishment but an obstacle to it.”
How often do you hear yourself saying you are too busy for something that you really want to do or accomplish? I hear this so often from people who want to improve their health and fitness. They are too busy to incorporate exercise and to think about changing their nutrition. Maybe the pathway to losing weight and being fit is to rest so we can create the energy to find a solution to being out of shape and overweight.
“A firing neuron uses as much energy as a leg muscle cell during a marathon.”
It’s not just our bodies which need to rest after activity but our brains do too. Our brains need time to recover from the demands of our daily lives. We should be resting our brains after a hard day of concentrating on our work. Stepping away and disengaging is important to our health and welling being.
“A life that focuses on what matters most, makes time for rest, and declines unnecessary distractions may look simple from the outside, but from the inside it is rich and fulfilling.”
Alex Pang, in my opinion, makes a very compelling case to master the skill of resting well. If you are in search of a rewarding and fulfilling life, you may want to pick up a copy of this book. It could change your life for the better.