Do More: “Mastering the Art of Rest and Increasing Productivity”

Updated: Apr 2, 2021

Written by Jonathan Mayo, Edited by Kirk Van Everen


REDEFINING REST

Alright let's talk about getting stuff done. I used to think that the way to rest was to watch a show and have a drink. But I never felt satisfied after doing this and it only created dread for me to return to whatever activities I was temporarily escaping from. Then I stumbled across a quote by Winston Churchill who argued the idea that change can be a form of rest:


“The tired parts of the mind can be rested and strengthened not merely by rest, but by using other parts.” -Winston Churchill


The idea, though simple, is intoxicating. We are simple creatures of movement and creation. As such we require extraordinarily little down time. But our minds will get burned out doing repetitive tasks. So, rest through change is just that, switching the type of tasks we engage in allowing our minds to rejuvenate.


For example, if you find yourself engaged in a mentally strenuous task you may find yourself reaching burnout in a matter of hours. Your mind was actively engaged in this task in a very singular fashion, and as such reached a point of diminishing returns.

What most people do is break away from their task and pick up their phone to scroll through social media. This however is only a placebo that renders no positive restorative effect. Our minds are still actively engaged, so we are not in fact getting the rest we think we are.

However, by diversifying our tasks across multiple lines of effort, we can alleviate the burn out we would experience from our singular task. If we were highly engaged in writing a paper and started to hit writer’s block, we can take a break from that task and work on chores around the house, or something tactile, anything that does not require strenuous mental effort connected to screens or writing. This would allow you to remain productive while allowing your brain to rejuvenate.

Change is restorative. By injecting this change into our routine, we are in fact resting while on the go. When we become good at this, we can accomplish the same effect while task stacking, which I will go into in the next section.


By switching back and forth I feel fresh longer and have a significantly higher capability to produce the results that I desire in a continuous effort. Hopefully, you will to.




TASK STACKING


Do not multitask in the traditional sense. Multitasking only means switching between tasks, lessening the focus and capability we bring to the projects that we are working on. For most people, effective multitasking is watching tv while working on a report or working through email while engaging in conversation. This produces less optimal results.


What I consider a much more effective solution is “task stacking”. For example: listening to an audiobook while driving to work or going on a run. Or building furniture while thinking about a problem that needs to be solved. When conducting mentally low output physical tasks your mind is freed to think, problem solve, and absorb information (For example I wrote this article while running a 5k). This is different from multitasking in that task stacking does not require you to switch between tasks. Instead, one task is placed in “autopilot” (i.e., driving or running) and the next task is engaged. This is an incredible way to add value to time that is oftentimes wasted. Imagine commuting an hour a day while listening to music. By switching to enriching podcasts or audiobooks, that commute now provides one hour of “reading” per day. With this one simple change it becomes easy to read through a couple of books per month. Note however that this is only effective for a small variety of activities and pursuits. Check out the links at the end for articles on the effects of multitasking.


Raise the Baseline


The third point to help us accomplish more is to change our “baseline self-expectation”. By this I largely mean increasing the load that we are comfortable operating under. How much strain do you think is normal to experience in a given day? If you are used to putting in 8 hours and feel good about that. Put in 9 hours for 2 weeks straight and it will become the “new normal” that you will feel great about it instead (which is an extra 10 hours per week of productivity by the way).


That is why I love daily physical challenges ( see podcast on “Intentional Living”).


A 21-day challenge, 30-day challenge or 100-day challenge are all helpful tools when working to accomplish more and redefine our personal norms. Why does this matter? Because we are capable of so much more than 40 hours a week of productivity and a lot of leisure time. Personally, I am putting these skills into work and because of physical challenges such as this I am writing articles while running 5ks. I am conducting strength training, working on Soar Solutions, and investing in my family. I am accomplishing the requirements of my job and picking up new skill sets (such as 3D Printing, Laser Engraving and CNC Milling). I am also finding new frontiers of personal capability to tap into. You can too. If you raise your baseline you raise your capability.




Communicate Your Goals to Increase Your Productivity


“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb


Most of us have important relationships in our lives. Relationships that we invest in and share our time with. When we pick up challenging goals, those goals will require a portion of our time to pursue. When looking at this from the perspective of our closest friends and family we are left with a choice.


We can either choose to pursue our goals, reallocate our time, and inform those closest to us. Or we can work with them to build a balance that maintains the health of the relationship while also enabling us to pursue the goals that are now important to us.


We advocate the latter option. Given the choice, if we can communicate with our loved ones to create a plan that manages the needs of our commitments, our closest relationships can become catalysts for us as we pursue these goals.


When you want to write a book, start a business, or pick up a new skill, be considerate of those closest to you. Talk through it and create a plan that cares for your relational commitments. Doing this will help us avoid the bulk of the friction that can arise here and instead enables us in the pursuit of the goal.


This is especially helpful for goals and ventures that will take a long time to achieve.


Work Hard, Play Hard.

Dieters have “cheat days”.

Athletes have “rest days”.


Life is short. We need to embrace it to the best of our ability. If we make a goal to start waking up early except on Saturdays. When Saturday morning comes, keep your word to yourself, sleep in, and reward yourself for the 6 days of discipline! Discipline works both ways. If we don’t honor our promises to ourselves, we will quickly become discouraged.


Whatever the context, we have learned that we are able to demand more of ourselves when we are working towards a goal, and we reward ourselves along the way. Afterall the goal is not the end state, it is simply another step in this crazy journey we call life.



SUMMARY


A path to a more productive and fulfilling life starts and stops with the choice to take ownership of our existence and live intentionally. To effect change we must believe we can change, and that the change is ours to control. From this point:

  • We can redefine rest by switching between the types of tasks that we pursue to help keep us sharp.

  • We can learn how to effectively “stack tasks” without risking the ineffectiveness of multitasking.

  • We can work to establish a new normal, and raise our baseline expectations for our personal output.

  • We can communicate healthy expectations in our relationships and work together to achieve our goals.

  • We can reward ourselves for our discipline and hard work.

All of these are tools we use to help fuel the journey ahead. Now you can use them as well. Keep climbing, keep improving, push into the fray and become indomitable.

Meet you in the arena.

Links:


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