RescueTime editor Jory MacKay has a piece about “4 ways to disconnect from work and recover from your day” that draws on BJ Fogg, Daniel Pink, Cal Newport, and me:

It might seem counterintuitive that more effort will help you recover from your workday, but that’s exactly what researchers have discovered. By engaging in activities that you enjoy, but that also challenge you, we’re able to disconnect more fully from work.

As Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, explains:

Mastery experiences are engaging, interesting things that you do well. They’re often challenging, but this makes them mentally absorbing and all the more rewarding when they’re proficiently executed.

One great example is of the codebreakers during World War II who spent their days trying to crack the Nazi’s encryption. Rather than use their downtime to relax from their mentally and emotionally taxing work, they chose to play chess. Most of them had played at a high level (and were even recruited for their proficiency), and so playing the game allowed them to work towards their mastery and get in a state of flow—that amazing moment where their abilities matched the difficulty level.

Pursuing mastery is a perfect example of the importance of hobbies outside of work, which not only help you recover, but can lead to more overall happiness due to lower stress, more social relationships, better structure to your day, and a sense of accomplishment and meaning.

MacKay goes on to talk about the value of closing rituals, which I found illuminating. When I’m deep in a project, the last things I do at night all relate to setting up for the next morning’s writing. I’ve been doing this for years, but MacKay’s account makes me realize that this also serves as a good way of closing out the night, and helps me put things to bed (mentally and literally).

Some people really like Rest because it helps them make sense of things that they already do, and understand why they provide benefits. Even though I’ve thought a lot about working practices and rest, I can still have the same experience.