Resting Will Make You Better At Your Job

What if I told you that for the next five minutes, you weren’t allowed to do anything?

If you’re a Millennial, just thinking about it probably made your heart stop. We’ve been wired to maximize every second of the day, always achieving. We skip lunches, stay late and work holidays.

But what if failing to rest is actually causing our work to suffer?

Stefan Sagmeister, one of the best living designers, noticed his work growing stale, so – he stopped working. Every seven years, Sagmeister closes his agency for a year. And when everyday demands were pushed aside, excellent ideas began to flow.

“The work that comes out of these years,” Sagmeister said, “flows back into the company.”

It’s a workplace standard to prove importance with exhaustion. Rest has become counter-cultural. Long hours, bags under the eyes, and a sigh-and-“What do you need now?” attitude are the marks of a dedicated employee.

In reality, however, the best employees are efficient, healthy and able to balance work with life, and science has confirmed it. Rest — whether sleep or just a coffee break — improves memory.

So we know for a fact and feel intuitively that our bodies and minds need regular time off, but how do we ensure they get it?

First, always take lunch, no matter how busy you are. Where I work, even the creative director breaks for lunch. Lunch is an opportunity to transfer attention from the brain to the body, if only for half an hour. Some have suggested that a rested body, tied closely to emotion, helps us think more clearly and make better decisions. Not to mention, certain foods, especially fruit, whole grains and fish, are good for our brains.

Second, get up early. A recent study concluded that early risers are more likely to spend time identifying long-term goals and to feel empowered to make things happen. The most significant artists, writers and thinkers rise between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. to begin their morning routines.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a morning person, give it a try. Put tacks on your snooze button. Eat breakfast. Read. Pray or meditate. Go for a run. Accomplishing something you enjoy and consider important will give you a reason to get up early again the next morning and give you a sense of peace when your boss slaps a TPS report on your desk.

As Jocelyn Glei says, “It’s a lot better to sail into your business day feeling like you’ve already crossed a finish line, than to put off your vital creative work until after you’ve devoted your best energy to other people’s demands.” The more you accomplish early in the day, the more you’ll feel you deserve the rest you need later on.

Third, put away distractions. Our brains need downtime to absorb information, make connections and generate ideas. So meditate. Read a (real) book. Turn off your iPod for one goddamned second and listen to what your brain’s been trying to tell you.

Someone once told me, “If you go on a walk with a question, you’ll come back with an answer.” Times of solitude — whether driving in silence to work or sitting at your desk with a pen in hand — help us parse the details of our days into meaningful chunks. Don’t you always do your best thinking in the shower?

Rest isn’t slacking off; it’s discipline. So schedule downtime into your routine. Not only will you become more productive at delivering day-to-day action items, you’ll uncover goals, solutions and ideas that may surprise you.

And don’t you dare say you’re too busy because, for Christ’s sake, even God rested.

Photo by TED

Acree Graham Since graduating from Emory in 2008, I’ve paid the bills with everything from lattes and babysitting to marketing and social media. I now work in Atlanta as a freelance copywriter. I like cities, literature, radio and design. I still make a damn fine cup of coffee and I’m a pretty good dancer. Twitter: @acreegraham

View all posts by Acree Graham

7 Responses to “Resting Will Make You Better At Your Job”

  1. Jen Kalaidis

    AWESOME!!! I completely agree with everything you said. So many Millenials seem to just pop and Adderall to cruise through the day. I find taking a break every hour or so (unless I’m REALLY in a creative zone) is the best way to stay focused

  2. nita

    very true. and great timing. since most of my friends are zombies with bio books (finals week)

  3. Lindsay

    Great advice for those who want a balanced life, along with productive work! I always feel better about my day when I start with a workout or a little free time. Also, I could not be a bigger proponent of the 20 minute powernap. Works wonders.

  4. Camille

    Agree! I don’t stay up, wake up early morning (5 AM) and have some of those early morning rituals myself. And I can say I go to work feeling great, and it does help creativity and improved productivity.

  5. Meghann Dawson

    Fabulous post and suggestions for squeezing in downtime. Our team has been trying to work this in to our routine lately. We have a discussion group that’s focusing on concepts from Jim Collins and one of the big ones that all leaders do is take moments of “quietude” to think up their next big idea. I blogged about that recently here:

    I so agree about the waking up early. Most days I try to get up by 5:15 to get a morning workout in and just have time for myself before the business of family and work take over. I am so much more charged up and more productive on the days that I get up early than those days I choose to hit snooze and get some extra sleep in.

  6. Manny Glover

    Nice article! Thumbtacks on the snooze, ha, I’ll have to try that. If anyone ever catches me sleeping in the bathroom, I’ll cite this article.


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