Pillow Talk

Work hard, but rest harder

Words by Ruby Goss
Image credit to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Penguin Life, 2017

It’s the digital-age dilemma: We gorge on work/life balance hacks but fall prey to screens and scrolling in the hours we have to ourselves – momentary buzzes, sure, but fulfilling in the long term? Doubtful.

In the book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less former Silicon Valley consultant, author and futurist Alex Soojung-Kim Pang makes a case for rethinking rest as simply the passive opposite to work. We’ll admit, we weren’t surprised to read that binge-watching Friends, though restful (no thought process needed, it even prompts you when to laugh) was not actually rejuvenating. Instead, Pang suggests that when we take the time to engage in stimulating activities for ourselves we are more productive and creative in our professional lives. Most importantly, rest should outweigh work. His inspiration? Thinkers like Darwin or Maya Angelou who despite being prolific, worked only for few hours every day.

This is not a call to start timetabling your free hours, but it is a reminder that we are works in progress, and progress is something that needs to be worked at. “Rest”, says Pang, “turns out to be like sex or singing or running. Everyone basically knows how to do it, but with a little work and understanding, you can learn to do it a lot better.” Here are four of our favourite lessons from Rest:

Play Hard to Work Hard

According to Pang, we need to think of leisure as the Ancient Greeks did (We like to imagine that being fed grapes while wearing a toga also falls under this umbrella). Though, real talk: Leisure was the time taken to further the self, exercise, read, engage in stimulating conversation. It’s a call to cultivate your interests, which is proven to have immense psychological benefit, or do something as simple as going for a walk. Your brain will thank you.

Go to Bed

Sleep more. In an interview with The Guardian Pang quipped, “If you don’t care about your mental development or your body, then forget about sleep. Otherwise sleep is the original rest.” Sleep restores energy, making you more alert and better primed for a day out in this world. New studies also suggest that we sleep, toxins in our brains are being cleared out. Preach.

Power(naps) to the People!

Twenty minutes in the afternoon can provide a better pick-me-up than a cup of coffee and even be a lifesaver (driving drowsy can be as dangerous as driving under the influence). There is some work to go here, Pang admits, as snoozing on the job isn’t an accepted ritual in many workplaces – yet (tick of approval to you, Google). But, together, we can make zzz’s come true.

Creativity is a Routine

No one plans a lightbulb moment. Bursts of creativity and productivity only have a chance of repeating when you show up regularly and chip away at something. “Creativity doesn’t drive the work; the work drives creativity. A routine creates a landing place for the muse.” Helpful last words.

To find out more about Rest and Pang’s other works, see here.

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