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Why Rest Days are Important for Higher Efficiency at Work

Why Rest Days are Important for Higher Efficiency at Work

For centuries, humans have understood that rest is fundamental to success, health, and happiness. As the saying goes, “Even God rested on the seventh day.” Traditionally, humans have too – thanks in no small part to the practice of the weekly Sabbath (a core component of Judeo-Christian cultures) that’s observed by millions of people around the globe.

But over the past few decades, more and more workers are foregoing their day of rest in exchange for more hours at the office (especially in the Western world). The ubiquitous quest for productivity has driven many of us to give up on having consistent rest days altogether. Nowhere is this truer than in the United States, which is the only advanced economy that doesn’t mandate vacation policy at the national level.

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But counterintuitive as it may be, the real secret to increased efficiency at work might actually lie in working less – and resting more. Here’s what your work life stands to gain from making rest days a priority.

1. You’ll keep your brain sharp

The brain operates like a muscle — meaning that, just like your biceps, it can get worn out and fatigued if you use it too much, and it needs rest in order to recover. In fact, down time is essential for boosting motivation, learning from the past, planning for the future, processing new information, making memories, problem solving, maintaining your ability to concentrate, and even sustaining a personal code of ethics. Without these core mental processes, it’s going to be pretty tough to achieve anything efficiently. In other words? Down time is perhaps one of the most essential ingredients for continued workplace success.

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2. You’ll be more creative

More and more research confirms that regularly giving your mind a break promotes creativity, while failing to take rest days can erode innovative thinking. This might explain those flashes of insight that come to you in the shower or after a nap – little glimpses of evidence proving that down time is essential for the brain to generate fresh ideas. Heck, it’s even said that Albert Einstein thought up the theory of relativity while out for a bike ride.

3. You’ll get more done (in less time)

Studies consistently find that taking time off from work actually allows you to work more efficiently whenever you get back to the grindstone. In one study, people who were asked to take off one day each work week ended up reporting higher productivity and a greater sense of accomplishment over time. In contrast, pushing yourself to work longer hours and skipping rest days actually reduces productivity in both the short and long term.

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4. You’ll make better decisions

Too much time working without a break can fatigue your brain, reduce your ability to concentrate, put you in a bad mood, and generally put a damper on your emotional capacity. The result is a general depreciation of mental faculties that makes it increasingly difficult to make good plans or decisions. In contrast, regularly taking short breaks and combining them with a weekly rest day will allow your brain to replenish its faculties so that you’re able to make thoughtful and well informed choices at work.

5. You’ll prevent illness

Nothing gets in the way of productivity faster than sniffling through the workday with a box of tissues blocking your monitor or taking the day off because you’re sick as a dog. Rest days help your body and immune system repair themselves so that you’re less likely to get sick – and more likely to keep your head in the game.

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6. You’ll catch up on sleep

Why does this matter to work efficiency, you might ask? Studies consistently show that sleep deprivation reduces your ability to concentrate, makes you more likely to snap at coworkers, and decreases overall work performance. In fact, a Harvard study has estimated that sleep deprivation costs American companies around $63 billion per year in the form of lost productivity. In contrast, combining a regular rest day with good sleep habits (such as keeping electronics out of bed, using black-out curtains, and choosing a comfortable mattress) can improve your chances of staying well rested and functioning at max capacity.

7. You’ll have time to review and reflect

Taking some time off gives you the space to assess how things are going at work and make adjustments as necessary. Without taking the time to reflect, you run the risk of maintaining work habits or structures that aren’t actually making your more efficient. A rest day is also a good time to celebrate your accomplishments and refresh your sense of purpose so that you return to work with renewed motivation to get things done.

What all of this boils down to is that the energy and awareness you bring to your work will have a much greater impact on your productivity than the number of hours you spend sitting at a desk. Managing your energy resources in a responsible way by prioritizing regular rest days will allow you to prevent mental and physical burnout so that your mind functions at its best any time you sit down to work.

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Kenny Kline

Entrepreneur

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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