Rest is key to being productive

By Francisco Sáez • July 23, 2012

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

To lead our lives effectively, we need to be able to make things happen. To succeed it is essential to make the right choices at any time, and execute them efficiently. In our urge for achieving our goals, we often neglect a factor which is extremely important for all this to happen: getting enough rest.

All the pressure we have to get things done — imposed or self-imposed — makes us dismiss the option of taking a break, even when we are unable to think clearly and cannot advance properly. It seems that many people have decided that feeling tired, stressed and overwhelmed is a natural way of living, and you cannot do much about it.

Resting is a must if you want to be more productive, a better professional in your work and happier in your life. And it is not just about sleeping well at night. It has been shown that taking several breaks during the day is very beneficial to our performance. If after every break our body’s energy is renewed, our brain is reactivated and we face every new task with more enthusiasm, why are we so reluctant to rest every now and when? Is it frowned upon?

Though some companies have not realized yet, the value of an employee is not on the number of hours he works, but on the value he brings within those hours. Unlike what many believe, relaxing and doing things that you enjoy and have nothing to do with your work, helps you do your job better.

Anyone doing any kind of physical training knows that for it to be effective, you need to take short breaks between sets, a good rest between workouts and a macro-break of at least one week every two or three months. It is in the rest when the progress is made.

Resting is one of the best practices of agile programming methodologies. You have to be fresh and eager to work every morning and tired and satisfied every night. Spending a couple of days a week to do different things let you return to work full of energy and new ideas. Overworking is considered a sign that there is a serious problem in the project.

The Pomodoro technique is based on short work cycles with breaks of 5 minutes every 30 and longer breaks every four iterations, in order to increase productivity and avoid the anxiety produced by tasks that have to be completed within a deadline.

Working continuously for long hours is not natural. Neither the body nor the mind work that way. Define shorter work cycles that fit with your nature. Ideally, you are the one who should decide the length of each cycle and each break. Everyone works differently. There are people who wakes up fresh after sleeping 6 hours and other people need 8. Some people can recharge their batteries with a 15-min break every 2 hours, and some people need 30 minutes every hour and a half to disconnect. You should look for your rhythm of life and adjust your business to it, not vice versa.

Related post: Productivity and Relax

About the author

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Francisco Sáez (@franciscojsaez) is the founder and CEO of FacileThings. He is also a web developer specializing in Ruby on Rails who is passionate about personal productivity and GTD as a means to a better life.

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