When I'm feeling my least productive, I often wonder why I'm lacking the motivation and discipline to get through my to-do list. Why am I so lazy? It's these moments when I most need to stop working and rest.
It can seem counterintuitive that we get more done when we work less. But it's not really a surprise at all. We can't perform well with a depleted engine. We need to balance exertion with rejuvenation, otherwise we're running off an empty tank – which isn't going to get us far at all.
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a wonderful reminder of the power of rest. And it's a reminder I needed.
“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."
I first came across Alex Soojung-Kim Pang via his masterclass on the Calm app; an app I use most days to help me unwind, meditate, or fall asleep. I listened to the masterclass as I closed my laptop for the day, put my coat on, and headed out for a walk around Glasgow where I was spending the last few weeks.
The author talked about how the creatives and scientists we look up to generally balance their impressive work output with deep rest and distance away from their work. They don't sit at their desk for twenty hours a day, five days a week. They head out for a run, read a book, or hit the climbing gym with friends.
In a world where overwork is increasingly normal (and even expected), rest is more sacred than ever.
We can't expect ourselves to produce our best work – in our careers, families, relationships, and creative projects – if we're not taking our need for rest seriously.
After reading this book on a Friday, I ran a bath, soaked for half an hour, and had a relaxing evening of bedtime tea, yoga, and music before bed. I slept better than I had in weeks. That weekend I went to stay with my boyfriend's family for a Burn's Night dinner and didn't touch my work.
On Monday, I got back to my desk and raced through an article I'd been seriously struggling to write the previous week. I poured a cup of tea and worked through more of my to-do list with far less resistance than I was expecting.
I needed the weekend of rest a lot more than I thought. At two o'clock, after getting enough done for the day, I closed my work tabs, called my boyfriend, and started the resting process again.
I'm more aware than ever that I need to keep this habit up. After all, if I don't say no to overwork, my body will. (For more on this, read When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress by Dr. Gabor Maté.)
Are you getting enough rest? Are you giving your body the relaxation it needs, and your mind the variation it thrives on, to help you feel your best?
Get a copy of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less as a reminder of the power of rest throughout our lives, especially the busiest moments when we need it most.
Enjoy more from me
- Retreat into my new book, Your Life in Bloom: Finding Your Path and Your Courage, Grounded in the Wisdom of Nature.
- I'm also the author of Mountain Song: A Journey to Finding Quiet in the Swiss Alps, a book about my time living alone by the mountains.
- If you love books, are feeling a little lost right now, and would love some gentle comfort and guidance, join The Sanctuary, my seven-day course to rebalance your life.