Rest and perform better

Do you ever find that your most creative ideas and strategies come to you at the oddest times? Like when you’re in the shower, walking home from the train station, or in bed at 3:00 am! And you either never have anything handy to take notes, or you think to yourself, “I’ll remember” only to struggle to make it sound anywhere near as good or convincing as what it did earlier mid-shampoo in the shower.

Whatever you want to call it – resting, taking a break or period of respite – is an essential component of productivity and high performance. It is something we all know how to do naturally and quite often don’t get enough of. But it is also something we can treat as a skill and habit.

What I mean by rest is engaging in restorative activity – think of rest as mainly about mental restoration, recovery of the energy you need to do a job well. It’s not necessarily completely passive, that depends on the individual and your personal restorative needs. Generally, when someone mentions “rest” often our mind automatically goes to putting your feet up and binge-watching the latest Netflix release or kicking back at the beach for a day. While this is restorative for some (and the beach sounds alright to me!), it doesn’t work for everyone. Seeing as high performance is based on personal pace, so too is rest.

Why is rest important for high performance?

We’ve mentioned many times before, while the old school way of thinking was “just work harder”, thanks to neuroscience we now know this is not the secret sauce for productivity. We also need to take this same line of thinking when approaching our rest options. Telling everyone to sit on the lounge and watch Netflix will work for some…and will frustrate the hell out of others.

The saying, “I have a thousand things on my mind” is actually more accurate than we might think. We know our brains are amazing organs, allowing us to function 24/7. When alert and focused, we can achieve many things. But what does our brain do when we are resting? When we allow our minds to wander, it opens up the opportunity for it to explore other options and problems subconsciously. It has the ability to consider different combinations of ideas and test out different solutions. And then once it’s arrived at a promising option, it will pop into your head as an “A ha!” moment. Often, this is when we will get our most creative ideas and solutions.

How do I know what type of rest I need?

Rest is not this optional activity to be done once everything else is finished. Work and rest are actually partners – you can’t have the high without the low. The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working.

Like your pace, this is very specific to the individual. While some consider the beach option desirable, others enjoy nothing more than a good session at the gym. Whether its reading, meditating or simply going for a walk, whatever gives you the space to relax, breathe and take a break from your everyday stresses is what will work best for you.

In particular, being more ruthless with your time and getting into the habit of saying “No” more often will help you create space for restorative activities. While this can seem crazy to turn things down to essentially do nothing, it is integral to your overall performance and output.

What are some of the things you do to rest? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what works for you.