The Secret to Productivity
Work hard, rest well says man who explores the cultural impact of technology on us.
Fancy working less and relaxing more? It’s possible according to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a futurist, visiting scholar at Stanford University and the Silicon Valley-based author of Rest, why you get more done when you work less. He wrote it after realising he was more productive and healthy when he was on sabbatical. He advocates a shorter working day and plenty of time for relaxation.
Rest doesn’t just magically appear when we need it, especially in today’s busy world. Taking rest seriously requires recognizing its importance, claiming our right to rest, and carving out and defending space for rest in our daily lives.
When rest goes from being something that perches in the leftover hours between work and sleep (and housecleaning and child-rearing and volunteering and commuting, and so on, ad infinitum) to being something that you can claim for yourself, it becomes more valuable and tangible. Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence of work or something that we hope to get sometime. It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.
Taking rest seriously also helps bring more of your life into clear focus. At the everyday level, it heightens your ability to concentrate and discourages multitasking.
Protecting time for rest also forces you to consider whether a new opportunity, request or favour, or demand on your time is really worth it. It helps you identify tasks that you might casually accept and regret later, and gives you permission to (diplomatically) turn them down. It helps contain our impulse to be (and publicly appear to be) super busy and lets us focus on a small number of things that really matter to us, rather than pursue too many things.
Too often busyness is not a means to accomplishment but an obstacle to it. Deliberate rest helps you recognize and avoid the trap of pointless busyness and concentrate instead on what’s important.
When we treat rest as work’s equal and partner, recognize it as a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas, and see it as an activity that we can practice and improve, we elevate rest into something that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time, and help us achieve more while working less.”
- Are you feeling frazzled or overwhelmed? What can you drop from your to-do list today?
- Consider scheduling time for rest and relaxation this week.
- How much of your identity is linked to being busy and seemingly important and/or productive?
- When did you last say ‘yes’ and later wish you’d said ‘no’? What strategies will you draw on next time?
- How do you feel when you rest?