Rest as an Essential Part of Productivity
Productivity is at the essence of work culture in the United States. In order to produce more and be more efficient, companies find ways to measure “productivity”. This makes total sense from a business perspective. In a sense, it is simple math. However, there is a human element that is often overlooked when assessing productivity. As human beings, our lives and minds are complex and rich, and we often carry an invisible load into the work environment.
Clock in, clock out. Repeat. But what happens in between those work shifts? All types of situations may contribute to stressors that can accumulate and erupt if not addressed. Parents may get burnt out, not only by the 24/7 demands on their attention, but also by the guilt of being spread thin and not always feeling present for their children. People who are caregivers to ill family members may find themselves in a predicament when balancing medical needs with work expectations. Individuals who do not have any dependents, but who have a history of perfectionism and negative self-talk may find that they are wearing themselves out with work and missing out on life.
For many of our clients who are struggling with work-life balance, rest is viewed as “lazy” or “unproductive”. The thought of rest may cloud their minds with guilt and shame because they may view the need for rest as a failure, or as a character flaw. Rest, which should be a positive restorative action, is often viewed as a negative, or empty action.
What happens when we take some time to rest? We allow our bodies to recharge. We allow our nervous system to regulate. We reduce sensory stimulation and allow our thoughts to flow. We often return to our tasks with renewed vigor and even creativity after a period of rest. Although it may be difficult to quantify, regular periods of rest can certainly enhance productivity.
I know what you are thinking. How can I make time for rest when I already feel busy and burnt out? The key is to make rest intentional. For example, scrolling through your phone mindlessly is certainly a form of rest, however it may not necessarily “recharge” your own mental batteries in the way you need at that moment in time. However, if you know that funny videos help you laugh and de-stress, then maybe you can intentionally take some time to just watch funny videos, and then return to your tasks.
If you have 10 minutes before your next meeting, and you are still thinking about a stressor from earlier in the work day, then do some stretches, or engage in some meditative techniques to clear your mind. If you have an hour to yourself, it may be wise to go for a walk or take a nap, rather than search Netflix for a movie. Some rest activities can help you process thoughts and feelings, while others can be very entertaining distractions but can leave you stagnant afterwards.
Rest can take many forms, but only you will know your own thought process, and only you will know if the forms of rest you take feel authentic and restorative for you, rather than guilt-inducing. If you re-frame intentional rest as adding value to your productivity level, you may open up the door to a more fulfilling life.