Deliberate Rest

Designing rest for a busy world

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I talk about books at Blake Street

So I was just in BlakeSt., a truly extraordinary venue in Bentonville, Arkansas, talking about REST and SHORTER. I recorded a little 1-minute video about books in their library that I like.

No huge surprises— who doesn’t think highly of Thinking, Fast and Slow?— but it was fun to do.

More about BlakeSt. and Bentonville later.

“Pang’s argument… is that deep, targeted rest, and more of it, improves the quality of our thinking, our work and our lives“

O’Hare Airport neon sculpture

I flew into O’Hare International Airport this afternoon, and when I switched on my phone, I found that Jenni Russell had published a new column in the Times arguing that “Less is more when it comes to time at work.” It features a lovely bit about REST:

In the age of the smartphone and the internet, professional work scarcely has boundaries at all. It’s the new normal to be sending emails at midnight, to restart projects after a distracted supper, to interrupt family Sunday lunches with work calls. Normal, and miserable. Many of us are stressed, overwhelmed, always typing to keep up. We’ve bought the idea that we’re better for doing more, that for success we must emulate the Steve Jobses and Elon Musks of this world.

We’re mistaken. The ancients knew it, modern neuroscience confirms it, and a Silicon Valley technology forecaster and consultant who stepped back from burnout is trying to reverse our assumptions. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has marshalled the evidence that long hours are destructive and counterproductive, for employees and employers alike. He’s making the case for complementing work with deliberate, restorative, active rest.

Pang’s argument, in his 2017 book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, is not the familiar claim that we need a work-life balance. It is that deep, targeted rest, and more of it, improves the quality of our thinking, our work and our lives. It is not the wimps’ choice. It is what the most productive deep thinkers, scientists, mathematicians, musicians and writers have always done.

Ironically, it appears the same day as a BBC report about skepticism of the 4-day workweek that includes this argument against shorter working hours:

Matthew Lesh, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said: “Labour’s bizarre idea to force people to work less will mean lower wages and fewer opportunities for millions….

We should celebrate people who work hard to provide for their families, not take away this freedom. Low income Brits in particular want to work more, not less.”

I hadn’t thought that I would ever read the verbal equivalent of Jacob Rees-Mogg sprawling across the green benches of the House of Commons, but I clearly underestimate the inventiveness of some people.

REST is one of “5 Business Books That Don’t Actually Suck”

Copies of the UK paperback edition.

Michael Schein’s recent piece in Forbes lists “5 Business Books That Don’t Actually Suck,” and REST is one of them.

The emotion I’m most comfortable with is guilt (Thanks mom!). In the early days of my business, when I would wake up with a start at 3 am with a line of drool connecting my lower lip to my keyboard, I would beat myself up. How could I nap after a mere seventeen hours of work when there were kids in Cupertino forgoing sleep for five days at a stretch? It’s a good thing I came across this book before ending up in a hospital ward with total organ failure. Pang makes a compelling case that most of the stories about business builders who work 365 days straight on 3 hours of sleep each night are image-building myths. His book shows why quality rest is the ideal fuel for creative and commercial productivity and provides a recipe for how to use it to up your chances of achieving your most audacious goals.

Thanks, Michael!

长时间工作可能毫无意义

Pilita Clark’s recent Financial Times piece that talks about REST is now available in Chinese.

Always good to see the argument for rest popping up in other parts of the world!

Turns out the German word for management consultant is “Managementberater”

I learned this courtesy of a new article, “Pausen auf der Arbeit: Wie Abschalten die Produktivität erhöht” that talks about Rest and other books.

I think “management berater” is a great description of what we do!

“Bekerja Sebentar tapi Efektif, Kunci Sukses:” REST comes to Indonesia

Perhaps my favorite new example of REST going places on its own: a long article in Indonesian about rest and its importance. (It also name-checks Cal Newport, Anders Ericsson, and a couple other folks.)

It also includes this graphic:

My kids are still high school and college age, but I suspect that seeing them go off and have their own lives feels a little like this.

“I think anyone in any type of creative, scientific, or business field should pick this up:” more reviews of REST

Romance writer Roni Loren (you might know her from her nine-book Loving on the Edge series, or maybe the two-book Pleasure Principle series, or her eight other books, and I’m getting exhausted just writing this) reviews Rest on her blog. She recommends it: “I think anyone in any type of creative, scientific, or business field should pick this up,” which is great to read.

But in keeping with my feeling that utility is just as important as beauty, I really consider THIS to be high praise: “[U]sing a lot of these methods over the last week has resulted in a week of steady writing, hitting my word count every day, and having no stress about it. It’s been fantastic.”

Also, Elyse Romano explains “Why Doing Nothing and Wasting Time Are Actually Good For You.” As she writes, “When we blend deliberate rest with deliberate work, we are smarter, more creative, and happier people.” It’s one of the few articles in D’Marge that doesn’t feature Eastern European lingerie models and doesn’t have an [NSFW] warning in the title. Though it does describe itself as a magazine “for Magnificent Bastards,” a phrase I can only repeat in my mind in George C. Scott’s voice. And some people read Playboy for the interviews.

Finally, Paul Gaffney has a nod to Rest in his Irish News article about the importance of vacation— and the challenge of taking a vacation that’s actually restful, rather than stressful.

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.

“I’ve run through a lot of my life, only to discover that the most successful people get more done when they slow down and rest”

Enjoying the sunshine

Maria Shriver has an excerpt of REST on her Web site on this Memorial Day weekend. As she explains, a respect for leisure and rest

isn’t something I grew up with. In fact, I think it’s fair to say it was scorned upon in my home. If either of my parents saw anyone resting, well let’s just say…no one would have dared to try.

But, I’ve come to realize that resting is of value. It doesn’t mean you are weak or too tired to go on. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with you or that you’re un-American (even if Americans like to think of themselves as the hardest, most competitive and most driven people on the planet).

Resting is important. It’s important for your mind, your body, and your heart. When one rests, one can recharge and refocus. One can dream. One can tap into their creative spirit and into their consciousness. One can be at one with one’s self, with one’s own divinity, and with one’s own purpose and mission.

The truth is, I’ve run through a lot of my life, only to discover that the most successful people get more done when they slow down and rest.

You can read the excerpt here. It’s actually a combination of material from the introduction and chapter titled “Four Hours,” but is blended so seamlessly it looks like the piece was written exactly this way. Anyway, nice job, editors!

REST and the Greater Good Science Center

IMG_7733

The Greater Good Science Center’s Web site has an excerpt from REST about “How Resting More Can Boost Your Productivity:”

Rest has a bad rap in our culture. Most of us think about rest as merely the absence of work—not something valuable in its own right. Sometimes, it’s even equated with laziness.

But nothing could be further from the truth.

The excerpt edits out all the historical case studies, and really foregrounds the science– which is probably just what readers expect from the Center.

Views of, or from, Sather Tower

For me, it offers an interesting view of what the book might have been like if I hadn’t had the history.

It might be more compelling to some readers who are more science-focused, but I still like my version.

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