The schedule said “Rest Period”


It was right after lunch.  About an hour.  

Rest.  

I wasn’t supposed to do anything else. Just…rest.

When I first saw that on a schedule I was ten years old.  A camper at Camp Dudley in Westport, NY.  The oldest YMCA in North America.  400+ boys tearing it up.  Sports and crafts and being outside and being active.  What did we do after lunch?  

Rest.

I saw it again when I was on my way to becoming an Olympian.

Rest.

On the schedule.

As important as Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.  Workouts and training sessions too.  They were all on the schedule.

When I got on in life and eventually owned my own business, “rest” went out the window.  There was ALWAYS something to do.  Who has time for rest?  

When we hit adulthood and responsibility creeps in, the first thing to go out the window is the one thing we really need.  People start to brag about how they only sleep four hours a night and work all day.  What the heck happened?

When it comes to having a more productive day, one of the first things I have people implement is a rest period.  Usually after lunch.

After lunch is a great time for a rest period because normally, people are a little low after lunch.  Food hits the belly and for a little bit the body is more focused on digesting food than on being overly productive.  So with all that in mind, after lunch is a great time for a little rest.

What Should You Do During Rest Period?

If you are asking this question you are definitely an achievement oriented individual.  Just the question alone, at second glance, looks stupid.  But if you asked it, I know that you’re looking to be more productive and not less.

This is where the rest period really comes into play and takes hold.  The main purpose of rest period is to do…nothing.

“But Jonathan, I can’t do..do…nothing!”

Yes you can.  That’s the point.  Here are three suggestions of what to do during your rest period.

  1. Sleep:  If you’re not getting enough sleep at night I suggest taking a little cat nap.  While 90 minutes would be ideal I understand that most people can’t take that much.  Personally, a fifteen minute cat nap can do wonders for someone who isn’t getting enough sleep.  Set your alarm.  Turn your phone to airplane mode.  Stick in some ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones and shut yourself down.
  2. Pick a hobby:  Next to my desk I have another desk where I work on a model.  A few years ago I took the plunge and gave myself permission to have a hobby.  I don’t drink.  I don’t smoke or go out with the boys.  And I don’t play sports recreationally anymore so my mind is typically always “on”.  But when I look at model railroads or models in general my mind goes quiet. It’s like my brain is made up of a big bowl of pretzel sticks.  And when I look at a really sweet model railroad all of these pretzel sticks in my head suddenly go parallel.  What was once a jumbled mess is now nice and linear.  You may want to color. Or knit.  Or play ping pong.  Do something.  
  3. Read or watch something entertaining:  Giving yourself permission to do nothing and take a bit of a mental break can break up an overstressed work day.  While sleep is always my first choice of non-activities, I love watching ComediansInCarsGettingCoffee by Jerry Seinfeld.  The episodes are around fifteen minutes which is perfect. Watch one.  Or watch a couple.  Take a break and give yourself permission to do nothing. This entertainment time should have nothing to do with work.

When Should You Book Your Rest Period?

I suggest putting it in your daily calendar.  I’ll go through phases where I’m sleeping ok and life feels pretty good and productive.  But come Wednesday…

By wednesday I’m usually a bit of a grumpy mess if I haven’t had a nap yet.  So no matter what I do, typically, Wednesday has a rest period booked no matter what.  After lunch is usually a great time, but if that doesn’t work for you, find a time that’s about six to eight hours after you woke up.  This usually leaves enough time left in the day so you’re still able to get to sleep at night.

Where Should You Take Your Rest-Period?

Remember back in the Silicon Valley Boom?  Companies (that had made NO money BTW) had desks with sleep pods attached.  Nap rooms.  And other rest areas.  Google has these awesome pods by MetroNap that they still use because their employees are so driven some of them rarely go home I’ve heard.  (When you’ve got everything at work I guess you don’t have to go home.  Ever.)

If you work from home like I do you can easily go upstairs and take a nap on your ViSpring.  Or get some shut eye on your couch.  Whether it’s twenty minutes or a full-on ninety minute doze you can get some serious shut eye.

If you’re in a work environment I’ve seen people put cots under their desk.  Or head out to your car in the parkade and get some shut eye.  You can even play your own music in your car but I’m a huge fan of Bose noise cancelling headphones so you can shut out the world no matter where you are.  A park bench can work too but don’t get in trouble with the homeless guy who calls that bench home.

Wherever you can get the smallest bit of privacy can make do.  You may have to adjust your personal space requirements if you’re not at home but with some practice you’ll be able to nap just about anywhere.

What About Meditation?

There are some people out there who will argue that meditation, if done correctly, can feel better than any twenty-minute nap you could ever take.

I disagree.

Sure, if you’re the Buddha, go right ahead.  But I would argue that if you’re reading this, and you’re not already a meditator (or are fairly new to the practice) you’re going to get more mileage out of a kick-ass nap than stressing over why you can’t manage your thoughts for twenty minutes.

If you need sleep.  You need to sleep.  So sleep first.  Then work on a hobby.  Then entertainment.  I’ve seen people so frustrated after another year has gone by and they have done absolutely nothing on a hobby they would really like to begin.  If you took fifteen minutes every work day for a year on your hobby that would work out to be sixty-two and a half hours worth of work on something you’d really enjoy and feel good about making progress on by the end of the year.

Doing Nothing Takes Discipline

If you work for yourself there is ALWAYS something that can be done.

If you are a motivated employee who wants to do your best there will ALWAYS be something that needs to be done.

If you are a stay-at-home mom or dad there will always be a floor to clean, laundry to run, groceries to get, walls to paint.  You name it.  There is always something that can be done.

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