Deliberate Rest

A blog about getting more done by working less

Rest, medical education, and Clifford Geertz’s lawn

The Center for Medical Simulation at Harvard discusses Rest in the latest episode of their podcast. It’s a great conversation: in addition to providing a good overview of the book, they talk about deep play, the challenges of making time for rest when you’re a doctor, and other practical things.

Listening to it, I was struck by how much of a role social norms play in making rest more or less available to busy people, by defining whether it’s okay to rest during the day, or rest when other people are still working (which these days means all the time). Robert Simon, the Center’s senior director for educational leadership and international programs (and hence no slacker) says,

I have really tried not to get into my email on the weekends. What I experienced was, “Oh, that’s good” from my colleagues— and then a sense of disappointment from time to time that I hadn’t read something that was important to them… the social pressure that comes from, “You’re resting? Really? You’re not measuring up to my expectations.” I would say something similar about going to take a nap during the day: “I’m working and you’re just sleeping?”

So I think it has to do with some kind of social contract that plays into that….

I try to work at home one day a week. Invariably, I rest for half an hour. Every time, I do that, and I feel so much better for it. That’s so easily accomplished at home, and not when I’m in the office.

I think that we can’t underestimate the value of synchronizing rest time in the workplace, whether it’s by having regular rituals, or shortening the workday. It eliminates the social stigma attached to rest, but also eliminates a lot of the pressure that flexible schedules place on individuals.

Host Jenny Rudolph also shares this great anecdote about Clifford Geertz:

For many years… [Geertz] rented the house next to us in Vermont every summer. And [by the end of his visit] the grass down by the lake right in front of his house… was completely worn down because hw walked back and forth, back and forth, for several hours every day, thinking about his books.

This is not a story I’ve ever run across, and doubt I ever would, so thanks, Jenny!

1 Comment

  1. Alex, my wife has been dealing with this very challenge at Sibley Hospital, here in DC. Together, they have created a Tranquility Room… a space to care for those who care for others. More here, if you are curious: http://www.sensound.space/tranquility-room/

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