Productivity and GTD

Resting Properly, Key to Your Productivity

AUTHOR: Francisco Sáez
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” ~ Alan Cohen
Resting

In order to be productive throughout the day it’s not enough to have a personal organization system functioning perfectly. You need to have the capacity to paying attention so you can properly focus on every task and, on top of that, the energy to face them. If you’re not capable of managing these parameters it could take you two hours to do something that normally would take you one hour. Your efficiency may be dramatically reduced.

To make the correct decisions at each moment and carry them out efficiently you cannot neglect an extremely important factor: Resting properly.

Unfortunately, in this society we are all under too much pressure (sometimes, from ourselves) to get things done as soon as possible. This implies that we often end up neglecting the option of taking a break, even when we are not able of thinking clearly anymore and we can’t progress with what we’re doing. Let me tell you that when you’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed, continuing is not very smart.

Resting is an obligation if you want to be more productive, more professional, and happier in your life. And it’s not only about sleeping well at night.

It has been proven that taking short breaks very often throughout the day is very beneficial to our performance 1. After each break we renew our body’s energy, reactivate our brain and face any new task with more motivation.

The Pomodoro Technique helps you implement a routine full of breaks throughout the day. It’s based on work cycles of 25 minutes with breaks of 5 minutes, and longer breaks (15 to 30 minutes) every four iterations.

Surely you take a break every so often, you go on the Internet and you read blogs like this one. Or you just start doing things with your smartphone. There are studies that demonstrate that this type of activities activate practically the same mental processes that you use when working. 2. In other words, this way of resting does not mean “resting”. For a break to be effective you have to completely disconnect.

Going for a coffee, having an informal chat with your colleagues or simply relaxing by thinking about other things for a while, are ways of resting more or less effective. However, nothing beats going out of the building for a walk, specially if you have nearby some park or natural area. It seems that nature helps you recharge your mind.

Even though some companies haven’t still realized, the employee’s value doesn’t depend on the number of hours that he works, but of what he contributes during those hours. Relaxing every so often and doing things that you like and have nothing to do with your job, helps you doing your work better.

Someone who has done some kind of physical training knows that, to make it effective, it’s necessary to take small breaks in between series, a good break in between two training sessions and a macro-break of at least a week every two or three months. During the breaks is when the progress happens.

Resting is as well one of the good practices of the agile methodologies of software development. It is said that you have to be fresh and willing to work every morning, and tired and satisfied every night. Spending two days per week doing different things not related to work allows you to come back full of energy and new ideas. The excess of working hours is considered a symptom of the existence of a serious problem in the project.

In short, working continuously during many hours is not natural. Nor the body or the mind function in that way. You must establish shorter cycles that adapt to your nature. Ideally, it’s you who has to decide the length of each cycle and each break, since each person functions differently. There are people who feel perfectly after sleeping six hours and there are people who need eight. There are people that recharge batteries with a 15-minute break every 2 hours and there are people that need 30 minutes every hour and half to disconnect. You must understand your life pace and adjust your activity to it and not the other way around.

1 Research: Give me a better break: Choosing workday break activities to maximize resource recovery

2 Research: Effects of breaks on regaining vitality at work: An empirical comparison of ‘conventional’ and ‘smart phone’ breaks

6 comments

Cbb121ec56dbd676983a527c7480f4c4
Commented over 2 years ago TIAGO M.

Why aren't we wiser on that matter? If our muscles are tired, we simply sit and rest, but if it's our mind, it won't apply. I'm not referring to extreme fatigue, but we feel physical soreness faster and better than mental energy depletion. We won't exercise a little more to rest our body, but we'll work a little more (reading "blogs like this one") and call it resting.

Cbb121ec56dbd676983a527c7480f4c4 TIAGO M.

Why aren't we wiser on that matter? If our muscles are tired, we simply sit and rest, but if it's our mind, it won't apply. I'm not referring to extreme fatigue, but we feel physical soreness faster and better than mental energy depletion. We won't exercise a little more to rest our body, but we'll work a little more (reading "blogs like this one") and call it resting.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 2 years ago Francisco Sáez

Amen, Tiago! I couldn't agree more.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Amen, Tiago! I couldn't agree more.

B106331265724a910e735e2ebf3895a3
Commented over 2 years ago Steve P

Incredibly difficult to get staff and colleagues to recognise this! I wonder what stops them from taking this onboard and practicing it? Any thoughts?

B106331265724a910e735e2ebf3895a3 Steve P

Incredibly difficult to get staff and colleagues to recognise this! I wonder what stops them from taking this onboard and practicing it? Any thoughts?

Cbb121ec56dbd676983a527c7480f4c4
Commented over 2 years ago Tiago

Steve P., I'd say it's a misconception of what being productive is. To many people, being awake, always on the go and doing stuff is what counts. However, excellence should be taken into consideration. It's not only producing more. And it's not only producing more with less. It's producing the right amount of the right things with less. One can only know what those are if one has clarity and perspective. Fatigued people won't.

Cbb121ec56dbd676983a527c7480f4c4 Tiago

Steve P., I'd say it's a misconception of what being productive is. To many people, being awake, always on the go and doing stuff is what counts. However, excellence should be taken into consideration. It's not only producing more. And it's not only producing more with less. It's producing the right amount of the right things with less. One can only know what those are if one has clarity and perspective. Fatigued people won't.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb
Commented over 2 years ago Francisco Sáez

Hi Steve, Tiago,

I think this is a cultural problem and it will be difficult to eradicate. Directors and senior executives are the first who need to understand this situation. Then they must lead by example, so that culture permeats from top to down in the corporate hierarchy. Easier said than done.

Fcb879f1bc70aa0f661b842011f280fb Francisco Sáez

Hi Steve, Tiago,

I think this is a cultural problem and it will be difficult to eradicate. Directors and senior executives are the first who need to understand this situation. Then they must lead by example, so that culture permeats from top to down in the corporate hierarchy. Easier said than done.

Cbb121ec56dbd676983a527c7480f4c4
Commented over 2 years ago Tiago M.

That's unfortunately true, Fernando. Since those people could get to the top at all cost, it's not easy to change the "no-rest" mentality.

Cbb121ec56dbd676983a527c7480f4c4 Tiago M.

That's unfortunately true, Fernando. Since those people could get to the top at all cost, it's not easy to change the "no-rest" mentality.

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