Deliberate Rest

A blog about getting more done by working less

Category: Review (page 1 of 2)

Find the time to give it a rest

Tasmanian newspaper The Mercury has a long piece (“Find the time to give it a rest“) about REST and Robert Dessaix’s fine book The Pleasures of Leisure:

Ever since my artist friend Maria La Grue told me she did her best painting while talking on the phone to a friend I’ve been fascinated by the notion of deliberate distraction and the possibility of achieving one thing while doing something else. Of working at something while not working at it.

This is not just the realm of artists or creative people who rely on letting go so their subconscious can take over. Think of the times you’ve tried to recall the name of a movie, find a lost object or solve a thorny problem. How you struggled for ages, racked your brain, strained your memory, only to have the answer come to you when you’d finally stopped trying and given it a rest.

Seemingly, it’s a bit of the brain we know little about but which in this overworked country is occupying the minds of some of our best thinkers. That is, that we operate at our best, most notably as high achievers, when we regard non-work, or downtime, as just as relevant and important as work itself. And that, rather than being in conflict, work and play are inextricably linked.

I confess I’ve never been to Tasmania– I’ve been to Perth on business, and stopped for a day in Sydney on the way home– but the piece makes me curious about what Hobart is like.

But having Rest there is almost as good. It’s always nice to see the book traveling and being read in places you’ve never been. It’s good for books to have lives of their own. Books are very much extensions of ourselves, but they’re also more than that; they reflect their author’s interests (and limitations), but they also can go in directions and places that we don’t anticipate. They’re a bit like children in that respect: yours but not yours to control, and your responsibility consists of making sure that they’re ready for the world when they leave.

“there isn’t even a whiff of hippie wishy-washiness:” Readers review REST

REST has received some excellent reviews in places like the New York Times and… well, there’s no place quite like the New York Times, but it’s gotten positive press in the Financial Times, the Guardian, and lots of other magazines, newspapers, and business Web sites.

These are of course gratifying (and occasionally the reviewers read the book closely enough to identify ways it could have been better, which I honestly do appreciate); but I also find that Rest attracts readers who are also pretty thoughtful reviewers. In the last couple days, I’ve come across two of these in particular that stand out.

First is this review by British writer Vicky Charles:

Many books in this field can easily fall into that wishy-washy area of “just take a break, man” – with no actual logic or science behind it. We all know it’s “good” for us to rest, but we all also have a never-ending to-do list and numerous other responsibilities to keep us busy from dawn til dusk. Taking time out is hard to justify if your workload is still as heavy as ever.

What I love about this book is that while it is clearly about taking a break and all the ways you can or should go about doing that, there isn’t even a whiff of hippie wishy-washiness. The book references numerous scientific studies as well as examples of famous and not-so famous people from the modern day and from history. For example, did you know that even at the height of the Second World War, Churchill still got changed in to pyjamas and had a nap every day? Hitler, on the other hand, did not.

Second is this review by pseudonymous writer Veronica Rey:

This concept of active and deliberate rest was the biggest takeaway of the book for me. Rest is not about doing nothing, the author argues. It’s about doing the things that give our brains a break, even if it’s physically strenuous….

As a result of reading this book, I’ve been more intentional about working focused, followed by active rest. It shocked me to discover how hard this was for me! I’m so used to working, working, working that I had to force myself to practice giving my brains a break. After a week or two, I could see benefits already, though, most notably better sleep and way better concentration. I have to admit I slacked off after that, so I’ll have to pick it up again. Like any and all habits, rest, too, takes time to acquire.

By a nice coincidence, Rey is a fan of the work of Jane McGonigal, with whom I collaborated when I worked at Institute for the Future, a number of years ago.

The thing about reader reviews is that while publishing a review in the New York Times is partly about getting your own name in the paper, having a chance to shape The Public Conversation, or giving a new author a leg up (or settle scores with an old rival), reader reviews are motivated mainly by a reader’s own interest, and their sense that your books is worth their taking the time to write about. It’s less a professional work than a gift. (Which is not to say that they’re not as well-written or insightful, only that there’s not so much calculation that goes into them.)

Reader reviews are also different in that they often show how people are using your book. Veronica Rey’s blog, for example, documents her efforts at self-improvement through SuperBetter, and she read Rest as part of an effort to learn how to work and rest better. So the fact that she found it worthwhile, and was able to put it to use, is extra gratifying. It’s cool when someone thinks you’ve written a good book, in the sense of producing a good example of the craft; it’s really terrific when someone is able to use your book to (however slightly) improve their own lives.

And to be totally honest, I was really careful not to sound at all hippyish when writing Rest. Every time I started writing something that sounded vaguely like 1970s-era Jerry Brown, I shut it down. So thanks for noticing, Vicky!

REST in Der Tagesspiegel

The German edition of REST (Pause: Tue weniger, erreiche mehr) came out a couple weeks ago, and this weekend Der Tagesspiegel, a Berlin newspaper, ran a length excerpt, complete with illustration.

Article about REST in Der Tagesspiegel

I’m told that in the cartoon, the mother says, “She´s sleeping and sleeping and sleeping…!”. The father replies, “She´s going to be a genius.”

Haven’t seen it online yet, but between this, the great South African review, and a request I just got for an interview with a Dutch media outlet, I’m having an oddly sub-Saharan morning…

“I cannot recommend this book highly enough!”

“I cannot recommend this book highly enough!” South African strategy consultant Ian Mann says in his review of REST on Fin24, a South African business Web site. “It could be life-changing.”

Always nice to have good readers!

The importance of taking rest seriously

“IF LIVING excitedly and hurriedly would only enable us to do more, then there would be some compensation, some excuse, for doing so. But the exact reverse is the case.”

That was the opinion of William James, the philosopher, psychologist and physician, in 1899. I wonder what he would say of our 24/7, always-on world, where the concept of turning off is an anachronism?

Many business people today treat stress and overwork as a badge of honour, and will brag about how little they sleep and how few holidays they take. However, as Dr Soojung-Kim Pang shows, it is a mistake to think of rest as nothing more than the absence of work. Rest is work’s partner that, when correctly understood, improves output exponentially, and the quality of our lives commensurately.

It includes a pretty thorough gloss of the book. If you never actually read the book (which would be a shame), but want to know what it says (which would not be a shame), read this review.

Reader video about REST

One of the things that’s been most gratifying about REST is that it’s attracted some very thoughtful readers and reviewers– most recently Canadian coach and healer Fia-Lynn Crandall, who talks about the book in a recent video.

And extra points to Fia-Lynn for pronouncing my name correctly!

Deliberate rest is a good thing. Don’t just take my word for it.

“Je brein werkt door als je bewust rust:” I don’t know what it means, but apparently I said it


An article about REST is out in the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. It quotes me as saying “Je brein werkt door als je bewust rust.” It might also be a warning. Or a joke.

I can’t tell. I don’t speak Dutch, so I have no idea.
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Reviews of Rest while I was away

I’ve been out for the last several days with a bad cold– the kind where you have just enough energy to move from the bed to the couch, where you then go back to sleep– and so I missed noting a couple recent notices about the book.

In Australia, where the book will be published on February 2 (by Penguin, as part of its new Penguin Life series), the Sydney Morning Herald had a review of the book. The Financial Review ran an excerpt from the chapter on morning routines (that chapter is one of my favorites, but don’t tell the other chapters or they’ll get jealous).

Canadian librarian Shay Shortt, who reviews books on her blog Required Reading, says of Rest, “I see in this book the outlines of the best parts of my daily routine, largely discovered through trial and error.” This is a response I’ve heard from lots of people (including a number of people who I really admire): that they already do things I talk about in the book (which is no surprise!), but now better understand why those practices work for them (which is really gratifying).

“This book has something to offer anyone looking for new ways to structure their daily lives”

[bookstore, vienna, austria]

A review of REST on Shelf Awareness:

Rest combines current neuroscience and psychology with examples from the lives of great scientists and artists to argue that rest is not a luxury, nor is it the opposite of work. “Restorative daytime naps, insight-generating long walks, vigorous exercise, and lengthy vacations aren’t unproductive interruptions; they help creative people do their work.”
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Review of Rest in The Hindu

Out in tomorrow’s (today’s?) issue of The Hindu, a review of Rest by Sudhamahi Regunathan:

The new year brings some good news. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang says, “Rest more and work less, you will be successful.” He has just released a book by the same title.

As one reads the title, one gets those fleeting fictional images of kings who lay in bed and grapes fell into their mouths, they clapped their hands and maids came in with all kinds of services, they…the imaginative exercise has to stop for Pang intervenes to say, “There are some misconceptions we have about rest…that it is always a completely passive, inactive thing. Rest is not sitting on the sofa and doing nothing. Often, the best and most restorative kind of rest, the kind that recharge our mental batteries and give us energy are active, they can be physically strenuous, mentally challenging, what matters is they take us out of our work day world. They give our minds and opportunity to subconsciously think about and try out new ideas and they provide us with new ideas that we are not able to get in our routine, but which we need to get ahead.”

REST is one of Success Magazines 2016’s Best Books

Granted, it may seem like a list of “71 of 2016’s Best Books to Make You Successful” can simply list every business book published this year and declare victory, but that’s not quite the case: writer and editor Chauncey Mabe had to sort through a pretty big pile of books to come up with Success Magazine’s list of the year’s best business books.

Luckily, REST made the cut!

A 21st-century contradiction sits at the heart of this book: Overworking yourself or your employees is the wrong way to reach your goals. “Productivity books offer life hacks, advice about how to get more done, or stories about what CEOs or famous writers do,” Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writes. “But they say almost nothing about the role of rest in the lives or careers of creative and productive people.”

Rest is an equal partner to work, argues Pang, visiting scholar at Stanford University and senior consultant at a Silicon Valley think tank. The most creative people of history—from Charles Darwin to Stephen King—knew how to do it. They harness daydreaming to free the unconscious mind to find new ideas. They plan rest into every day. They know that the right kind of rest prolongs creative life. This is a book of deep wisdom and human insight.

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