Rest can also be productive

As a small business owner, I feel guilty when I’m not doing something productive. If I’m cooking dinner, watching a little TV, playing with the dog or messing around on the internet, there is always a little voice inside my head telling me I should be working. I know I’m not alone in this.

That voice is wrong.

Doing something outside of your day job is a vital part of productivity. I think of it as active recovery or replenishing my mana. The cyclist in me knows that I have to rest and recover after a long ride to allow my body to refill its tanks, heal and damage I caused and make me stronger. The gamer in me knows that you have to rest to replenish your mage mana between attacks to recharge. The same is true for work.

We see TV shows with people who work all hours day and night. Suits and most cop shows, I’m looking at you. We hear of workaholics and celebrities who say they work from the moment they wake up until late at night. People like Alan Sugar who says if he isn’t working, he isn’t earning. That’s great, but it isn’t for everyone.

Life/work/running a business is a marathon and not a sprint

Rest prevents burnout. It also prevents becoming bored or disillusioned with your career. I love what I do and don’t want to become disillusioned with it. I also have to use my brain a lot which is why I use rest. I have come to terms with the fact that downtime isn’t necessarily evil whatever that voice in my head says.

If you follow professional sports, you will likely know that coaches and managers value rest days just as highly as race or game days. It isn’t just for physical recovery but mental recovery too. Every activity can be mentally challenging and having respite from that is now recognised as essential. Why should work be any different?

I am in a creative industry, yet it took me more than 8 years to realise that giving my mind the freedom to wander and to switch off from deadlines, keyword terms, word counts and all that good stuff was just as good for my business as hammering the keyboard. Whenever I get stuck for inspiration, I take the dog for a walk, go for a ride on my bike, read a book or stare out of my window over Plymouth Sound.

Nine times out of ten, when I’m done, I am no longer stuck and I have an idea. If it’s a problem, I have a solution. If I’m trying to come up with a headline or call to action, I have it.

If you’re not convinced, this page over at Greater Good Magazine explains the productivity benefits of rest well.

I read something similar to this a few years ago and built it into my routine. I start my day at 6am and begin immediately after a shower and breakfast. I walk every day, the dog wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t nap so much but if I want one, I have one.

Stopping at the right time isn’t something I have been able to do. Usually my brain says ‘enough is enough’ or when I realise I have read the same line over and over again without taking it in, I know it’s time to stop.

Pace yourself

The workplace is becoming more frenetic and faster paced. Bosses are demanding more and more and expect work hours to be mere suggestions of the minimum you need to be there. It’s a false economy. Look at game development and crunch. Look at how tech companies burn out their staff quickly or how long the average career in the stock market lasts.

That’s all fine if you can make your millions within a decade and then retire to the south of France. For us mere mortals, we are in it for the long haul. It’s not a sprint. It’s not about how many hours you work. It’s about how much productive work you want to achieve in a day and building your routine around it.

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