We can give ourselves permission to rest, relax and recharge without feeling guilty about it. It’s possible to make time for rest, enjoy it, and still be productive.
Enjoying rest means we can be more productive in our everyday life
Not long ago I asked the TPW community to share with me productivity questions and struggles they’d like me to address. One topic that was suggested had to do with getting back on track when we’ve let things get out of control, which we talked about in episode 354.
Another comment in that discussion came from Marla, who said,
“Because I do aim to be productive I have trouble with being in the moment. I can not really enjoy doing nothing. I’d be interested in an episode about how to enjoy rest.”
Several members of the community echoed Marla’s struggle with this, so I thought it would be worth looking at.
Why do we have trouble being in the moment and enjoying downtime?
Many of us who care about productivity and about making lives that matter feel the same way Marla does. We feel that if we’re not doing something “productive,” we’re wasting time. As one writer put it:
“We can be very hard on ourselves, can’t we? We can feel battered by the demands we put on ourselves to achieve and to do. That feeling that everything we do with our spare time must have a purpose. It feels like it’s not enough just to be. But the things that seem to have little or no purpose are actually the most important things of all. Pointless things have a point.”
We struggle with being in the moment, often because our minds are going 100 miles per hour, thinking about the next things we need to do next or what we could have done better. And if our mindset is focused on productivity as measured by doing, that can make enjoying our rest even more difficult.
Things we can do to enjoy time off to rest and restore.
Let’s first start with understanding the meaning and significance of “rest”.
Definition: verb: “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength”; noun: “an instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity”.
Rest matters because taking time away from work is necessary for the restoration of energy, focus, and perspective. Researcher and Silicon Valley consultant Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has written a book called Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, in which he has said
“Rest is not this optional leftover activity. Work and rest are actually partners. They are like different parts of a wave. You can’t have the high without the low. The better you are at resting, the better you will be at working.” [quoted in Why Restorative Rest Makes You More Productive And How To Achieve It]
Rethink what it means to be productive.
It’s important to recognize that rest is not unproductive but is an essential component of productivity. All this is just as true when we’re busy–too busy to take time off to rest. Give yourself permission to rest and relax.
“The times when we least feel like doing something for ourselves are the times when we most need to do exactly that. We need time out. We need to give our brains a rest.” [from Give Yourself Permission to Do the Things You Enjoy]
Use your productivity tools to free up time for rest.
Refine your productivity systems to allow you to maximize your effectiveness and efficiency. This can buy yourself time that you will you for restorative activities, rather than filling it up with more doing. I find it easier to give myself permission to relax and rest when I feel like I’ve been getting things done and crossed off my list.
When it’s time to “do,” really focus on the doing.
- Don’t multitask! We’ve talked many times on this podcast about how multi-tasking is not productive or efficient and we actually waste time when we do it. (See, for example, episode 347 and episode 286.)
- Set up your space and surroundings to minimize distractions and really focus your attention on the one thing you’re doing. This goes back to using our productivity tools to buy time.
We are far more effective and efficient when we focus because we’re wasting less time. It should also be noted that it’s easier to focus when we take regular time for rest.
“Excellent work, particularly of the creative and innovative kind, needs rest and relaxation just as much as it requires time actively engaged in work. When we rest, our brain is busy consolidating memories and quietly searching for solutions to problems we encounter.” [from Why Restorative Rest Makes You More Productive and How to Achieve It]
Brainstorm a list of things you want to do for fun.
If you think now about activities you’d like to do, the next time you schedule time off, you can use it for something you enjoy and find restorative. If you’re like me, used to going full bore most of the time, when I do finally have free time I can’t think of anything to do at the moment and end up vegging in front of the TV. One solution is to have a place where you collect ideas for things about which you’ve thought “that would be fun to do” or “I wish I had more time to . . .”
Schedule time for rest.
Not just sleep (although that’s very important), but rest and recreation, whatever you find most restorative. For some of us that’s quiet time with a good book or a walk in nature, for others it’s time gathering with good friends. Whatever it is, be intentional about making time. Put it on the calendar as a priority time and schedule around it. Do it every week!
Practice being in the moment.
For a lot of us it’s hard to be in the moment. Our minds are always mulling over the past or jumping ahead to the next thing. Learning to be in the moment is a skill we can improve by practice, so do it intentionally, starting with a few minutes at a time. Whatever you’re doing, pause to notice how you’re feeling–emotionally, physical sensations, etc. Notice the sounds, smells, temperature, whatever may be going on around you. Do this a few times a day and try setting up triggers. For instance, while you’re waiting for the pasta water to boil, or while you’re sitting at a stoplight, etc. Try some guided meditations like what is offered by our sponsor Calm. And yes, even though they are a sponsor, I really have benefited from using an app like Calm to help me practice being in the moment.
What do you think? Questions? Comments?
Do you struggle with being in the moment and resting, or have you figured out ways to do it that might help the rest of us. Share them in the comments section below or in The Productive Woman Community Facebook group, or send me an email.
Resources and Links
- Keys to enjoy your free time – The Corner of Excellence
- Reclaim Your Time: 20 Great Ways to Find More Free Time – zen habits zen habits
- 12 Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Free Time
- 5 tips to enjoy your free time to the fullest | health enews
- Give Yourself Permission to do the Things you Enjoy
- What Does It Really Mean to Rest? – More to Be
- Why Restorative Rest Makes You More Productive And How To Achieve It
- Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less: Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim: 9780465074877: Amazon.com: Books
- How Resting More Can Boost Your Productivity
- A Day of Rest: 12 Scientific Reasons It Works | Inc.com
- Resting Properly, Key to Your Productivity
- Rest is Productive. How to use time off to boost your… | by Max Frenzel | Better Humans
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Announcements & Reminders
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Thank you to our sponsor, Calm
If you’d like help in addressing anxiety and improving your sleep, remember that Calm is offering a special limited-time promotion of 40% off a Calm Premium subscription at CALM.COM/TPW. That’s 40% off unlimited access to Calm’s entire library of guided meditations, sleep stories, and more, and new content is added every week.
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