Book review. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Even the title ‘Rest’ helped me relax
Talk about Hypnotic suggestion. Every time I picked up the book, I knew I was reading ‘rest’ and I felt ‘rested’ as a result!
Alex opens the book by explaining how we see rest as the absence of work and not something in its own right. I think this is the case for many people. How about you?
He goes on to say that if you put so much of yourself into you work then when you cease to work, you cease to exist. This is a strong statement! We have all heard stories of people retiring and passing away shortly afterwards and this being put down to them ‘missing work’ and being without purpose’. But without the evidence, this statement lacks truth for me.
He does say that work can be as emotionally fulfilling as being in love. Can you relate to that?
However the book is focused on the principle that many extraordinary leaders, scientists, philosophers and creatives valued the importance of rest and worked better as a result of the way they practiced rest.
The right rest restores the mysterious part of the mind and we underestimate how much good as serious rest can do us. I call this ‘mysterious’ part of the mind the subconscious 🙂
He gives us confidence to allow ourselves to rest by explaining that we need to allow ourselves to rest and remove the guilt for doing it. ‘You have to take rest and protect it from a world that is intent on taking it’.
Ok then. We will 🙂
Rest is important for creativity
If you work at 110% all the time, how much will you give when extra is required? Or will you lack the energy to give it more? By balancing your energy levels you will have the fuel in the tank that you need to put the pedal to the metal!
But it’s more than that. When you rest, you access a different part of your brain even though you are resting, your brain is almost as active as when you are working hard on a problem. When you become active again, that ‘different’ part of your brain turns off again.
So what does that ‘different’ part of your brain do? It:
- Consolidates memories
- Makes sense of the past
- Searches for solutions to problems that your occupying your thoughts in your waking hours
I would call this part of the brain the subconscious mind. Alex explains how walks, art and music can wake ideas that are ‘slumbering’ there. Because when he talks about ‘rest’. He doesn’t mean lying down doing nothing, although that’s a pretty good way to rest!
He talks about rest being things that
- Relax you
- Detach you from work
- Let you spend your time in ways you enjoy
Take a break
No this isn’t a kit-kat advert. In his book, Alex mentions many tests to prove how breaks improve performance at work. He says ‘part of your mind is writing the next sentence, and the next paragraph, considering and discarding a thousand plot twists without you ever being aware of them’. For me this totally sums up the awesomeness that is our subconscious mind. It works away doing all kind of amazing things for us which we are never even aware of!
Alex talks about the importance of learning to monitor your attention and energy as this is a life skill that will serve you well.
Cats have the right idea about naps
Churchill took naps. Kennedy and Einstein too. But why? In case you didn’t know, a 20 minute nap can restore depleted energy and a nap of more than an hour takes you into REM state sleep and will help you remember more.
What you need to know if the ‘work’ is more important to you than that the ‘rest’
Cambridge mathematician John Littlewood said even for people whose mind naturally gravitate towards work, having clear boundaries between periods of work and rest allows them to get more from each. ‘It is too easy when tired to fritter a whole day but never getting properly down to it. You get nothing done and get no rest or relaxation’. Is that ringing any bells for you?
Walk the talk
I didn’t expect walking to be in a book about rest but it totally makes sense. Danish Philosopher Soven Kierkegaard said ‘I have walked my way into my best thoughts’. Have you ever had that experience?
Some companies have walking meetings now which are said to be good for solving problems, discussing, bouncing ideas and eliminating distractions. Steve Jobs did it. There is evidence that your mind becomes calmer when walking through parks and green spaces. In tests 81% of students did better in tests when walking.
Plus walking in autumn is absolutely glorious, So let’s get out there!
Let your subconscious mind do its work, so that you can do yours
I’ve long had a view that the Corporate work place is outdated. Many organisations are proud of themselves for offering flexible working. But the whole concept of work needs to be rethought out if we want to continue to evolve as a forward thinking society. By understanding how our minds work at their best and how to exploit our energy to be our very best selves, productivity and mental health will be much healthier.
No wonder so many corporate workers are so stressed. The way that they are working is not allowing them to rest or flourish. ‘Workers with little control feel more stress because controlling your time is liberating and restorative’.
But businesses are missing a trick because employees that ‘rest’ well are:
- Better employees
- Better at dealing with challenges
- Better colleagues
- More able to focus intensively on work tasks
And let’s not forget the 2 million entrepreneurs that are beavering away and want to succeed and so don’t take rest seriously for fear of missing an opportunity. Many entrepreneurs that I know are so passionate about their business they love working!
How good at resting are you?
As someone who has suffered from fatigue in the past, I rate energy very high in my list of priorities and try to manage it wisely. I really enjoyed this book as it had the right balance of brain talk, stats and common sense for my liking.
I would love to hear your thoughts or tips on how you achieve good rest in the comments if you have time. Do you rest or are you pushing yourself too hard?
Sending you restful vibes.