Often when we are looking to learn how to maximize our personal productivity, the search usually centers on what can we do, what can we improve, or what can we learn.
So it might be surprising to consider that doing less – a lot less – can give you a significant boost.
The Bottom Line on Top (or the BLOT) of this episode is that Rest is a powerful productivity tool that helps you go slow to go fast.
If productivity was a supercomputer, we could examine its hardware and software. The hardware, in this case, is our personal machine – our bodies. It is comprised of our factory settings like genetics, physical conditioning, long held habits, and innate responses and reflexes of ours. Our software is our cognitive settings, which includes learning, memory, social conditioning, and beliefs.
By exploring the nuances of your hardware and software, you can better increase and adapt your productivity by harnessing the intrinsic skills you already have and apply system updates to gain more efficiency.
Now Rest is a close relative of sleep, but it also operates independently when and as needed.
There is a lot of science, research, and plenty of opinions about the sweet spot of sleep. And it is very important for brain function. Today’s focus, however, is on the often-overlooked benefit of Rest.
Now rest looks and works differently for each of us. For the purpose of this conversation, we’ll look at Rest in three ways: Reboot, Recalibrate, and Recharge.
Let’s start with Reboot. Just as a machine can operate for long periods of time, so can our brains and bodies. However, there is a systemic battery drain of always having programs running in the background. We often want all of our information at the ready but that also means providing an ongoing energy source just to power that machine.
Sleep is our bodies key reboot function. It’s when we can physically go to power down mode. But Rest takes this reboot a step further. It allows space for additional charging during the waking hours. It serves as the cognitive charger for our minds. Rest can include sleep, such as a midday nap. It also comes from a focused effort to unfocus, such as with meditation, repetitive movement, or intentional breathing.
This reboot effort is untethered to technology, so set aside the social media and walk into the wide open space – like a walk without earphones, a book without homework, time with no agenda.
In neuroscience, the term Default Mode Network (or DMN) refers to the brain’s “unfocus network.” This is the functioning your brain goes into when the On button gets switched to Off. It’s when you allow yourself to rest and shut off the intense focus that your brain has space to search the memory bank and play with new ideas. When your brain leaves the office, Rest takes it to visit the creativity playground – and a lot of good things can come.
Recalibrate is when you make space for the system updates for both the hardware and software. It usually follows closely to Reboot. Rest plays an important part in your health and recalibration makes space for you to evaluate what is missing and what is needed. It can also be those times where recovery is needed, from exhaustion, sickness, or from being overwhelmed.
Rest also benefits the endocrine system. That’s the messenger system for our immune and nervous systems. When we make time for rest, our brains and bodies have space to recover, to strengthen, and to finish processing all that stuff that was running in the background.
If Reboot and Recalibrate help us go Slow, Recharge helps install internal software updates that enable us to go Faster. It takes what is already loaded and adds in new and improved elements that make our productivity machine hum.
There’s a great parable about two woodcutters working side-by-side to chop down trees in the forest. They worked together from sun-up to sun-down.
From morning till noon, both men steadily chop and chop. By noon, they had the same amount completed and then one man took a break and left for a while. The other man saw this and thought: “Ah, good. I’ll be able to get ahead of him and leave early!”
A while later, the man returned and got back to work. At the end of the day, they each had the same pile even though the first man spent an hour more chopping. The next day, the one man took an even longer break midday. Again, the other man thought this was his chance to have a larger amount completed. Yet sundown came, the man who had taken the break at noon had chopped almost twice as much as the other man, who was drenched in sweat, hungry, and exhausted.
“How did you beat me?” he asked. “You did less work each day because you took a break and still had a larger pile.”
“Ah,” said the other man, “It was because I took a break that I did more. During my break, I rested, I ate, and sharpened my axe.”
Somehow we have been told that we must always go go go. Any type of respite was seen as weakness, when, in fact, Rest is a strength and it allows us to recharge and sharpen our axe on many, many levels.
Exhaustion is not a status symbol. We do not win by doing it all all at once.
Going slow, sharpening the axe, installing software updates, and allowing mental intermission – these are keys to unlock your brain and unlock your time.
Rest is a companion you must invite into your life.
Make room for it in your days, and it will give you so much in return.
And once you embrace the art of slow, you can spend time enjoying the life you have worked so hard for. And as you do, be sure to take good care.