Did you have a good summer vacation this year? Hope you got plenty of rest and relaxation, because summer’s over—now it’s time to get back to work. Q4 is nearly upon us, and the pressure to meet your 1-Year Plan is ramping up fast. For most people, this is the season to buckle down, put your nose to the grindstone and put your shoulder to the wheel.
But is it, though?
The pressure may be on to complete your Goals and reach your goals for the year, while you still can. But your need for rest and relaxation is just as strong as ever. If you’ve got to get things done, you need downtime. It may sound counterintuitive, but it’s true: resting more will boost your productivity.
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Working for eight (or 10, or 12) hours straight isn’t natural. Neither your body nor your mind are designed to function under that kind of strain. You need to establish shorter cycles that adapt to your nature.
Rest More, Do More
Rest has gotten a bad rap that’s associated with an absence of work, and even laziness. Our culture takes pride in having a strong work ethic, and somehow “rest” has become a dirty four-letter word.
The worst thing that could happen at work is being caught resting at your desk.
But study after study show that rest is an essential aspect of productivity. Think of it this way: if you’re in physical training, you need to take small breaks between each series, a longer break between training sessions, and an even longer break of at least a week every couple of months. Why? Because it’s during the breaks that your body rebuilds itself.
The same is true of rest and work. If you’re not resting, you’re running on fumes and you aren’t refilling that tank. But taking time to rest sets you up for greater productivity in the long run.
- Your brain is doing a lot during rest. It’s subconsciously working out problems, assimilating information and imagining possibilities. Rest promotes creativity so you can solve problems better and quicker.
- Physical rest renews your energy. Even if you aren’t doing physical labor, you need that energy to be productive at your desk.
- You get more done in less time, because you’re more efficient when you’re rested.
- You make better decisions. When physical or mental fatigue sets in, you just aren’t good at making decisions. It takes longer, you can’t think clearly and you may regret it in the morning.
The most productive people in business get it. They prioritize rest, and they don’t even work eight-hour days or 40-hour weeks. And hard data backs this up: research shows that working more hours actually means working less effectively.
If you aren’t getting rest and relaxation, you’re tired—physically, mentally and emotionally. You get stressed and overwhelmed. Seriously, how are you going to get more done when you’re in that kind of state?
What Healthy Rest Looks Like
So what kind of rest are we talking about, anyway? How can you build it into your workweek, and what patterns and practices do you need to pick up? Let’s look at some habits of rest that’ll help you get more done at work.
Get some good shut-eye
Everybody knows you need a good night’s sleep to be fresh the next day. It’s not just how much sleep you get, but the quality as well. Here’s a few tips for a better night’s sleep:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule.
- Avoid bright lighting 1-2 hours before bed—including devices and harsh room lighting.
- Don’t use devices or watch TV in your bedroom.
- Don’t eat or drink fluids close to bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol or nicotine close to bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom cool.
Take it easy at work
Get rest during the day, too. Your brain needs downtime throughout the day so it can process more effectively. Try some of these ideas:
- Use the Pomodoro technique to schedule short work periods and quick breaks.
- Don’t skip lunch—and DON’T eat at your desk!
- Schedule gaps in your calendar, so you have room to take care of unexpected issues.
- Get up and take a walk
- Still feeling drained? Take a 10-20 minute cat nap.
Know when to quit
Stop at the right time. When you’ve got a deadline looming or a goal to accomplish, it can be tempting to put all of yourself into your work every day—to leave everything on the field (or, in the office, in this case). But that may be a mistake. Research suggests that it’s better to quit for the day when you still have some energy. When you have a little energy left in the tank, that makes it easier to get started the next day.
A few more thoughts about the end of the day. Leave work at work. Don’t spend your entire evening doing chores or housework. Get good sleep.
Take a day off
Take a day of rest each week. No housework, no paying the bills, no mowing the lawn. There are surprising benefits to resting for a full day each week. Among other things, it reduces stress, promotes heart health, improves short-term memory, gives you more time to enjoy your family and may even increase your job satisfaction.
Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach, recommends taking Free Days to prepare yourself for periods of high productivity. You’ll come back with the mental and physical energy to tackle whatever is waiting on your desk.
Take a week off
Let’s be honest: you’re always busy, and there’s never really a good time to take a vacation. So why not do it during Q4? You’ve got a full 13 weeks every quarter—you won’t fail your business if you take one week during that time to recharge your batteries.
A week of vacation per quarter is less than eight percent of your work time. Even at the end of the year, your team can survive without you for five days.
Easier Said Than Done
Even if you’re on-board with the idea of taking time to rest, it can be hard to justify. The biggest no-no at work is to get caught not working. So how do you develop healthy habits of rest at work, where you’re supposed to be working?
If you’re a boss at work, you’re in a good position to shape your company’s culture. Work with your leadership team to educate your people, set proper expectations and give permission to take rest breaks as needed.
If you’re not in leadership, you have a bit more of a challenge. But you can start by sharing this article with your boss! You can also create rhythms of rest for yourself outside of the office, which don’t depend on your boss’ approval.
Maybe the biggest objector isn’t your boss or colleagues—maybe it’s you. You’ve got too much to do with a tight deadline coming up fast. Or your calendar is just too full to build in downtime. There will never be a good time to make the change, and it will always be easy to find excuses not to rest. I challenge you to start small, and gradually add a new practice every week. You’ll be surprised how much room you really have in your schedule, and how much more productive you can be when you take good care of yourself.
Work Hard, Do More
When you have the rest and relaxation you need, you can pour all of yourself into your work. You’ve got a full fuel tank to work hard and to get more done. Quit putting your nose to the grindstone. Not only will you get more accomplished, you’ll enjoy doing it more, too!