Reflecting on Rest

I’ve recently read the very thought-provoking and helpful book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang (Penguin, 2016). Pang is building on much work that’s recently shown that, beyond 40-50 hours, we become less productive during the time we work. It’s not just that we are less productive in the extra hours—we’re actually less productive in (e.g.) 60 hours than we would have been in 40 hours. This is a timely argument in the midst of a crazy-busy lifestyle for many, academics as well as people in business.

After a couple of chapters setting the scene, the body of the book is in two parts: Stimulating Creativity, and Sustaining Creativity. The first covers the key theme, that ‘less is more’ for productive work, especially for those who are creative in what they do—so four hours of such work is the most a really productive person can do. As throughout the book, Pang illustrates and supports his points by personal stories and examples of successful people from a wide variety of walks of life, such as Darwin, Dickens, Poincaré and Bergman. He then looks at the value of a morning routine (which means the pressure to have to decide is off and you can then focus on what you want to do creatively), walks, naps in the afternoon (I’m reminded of John Stott’s HHH—horizontal half-hour), stopping, and sleeping well.

The second part looks at recovery after working, the importance of physical exercise, the value of ‘deep play’ (which engages the interests and skills from work, but in a different context and an absorbing way—music, rock climbing, sport, etc.), and sabbaticals. I believe it was reading Pang which persuaded Michael Hyatt of the value of sabbaticals for people in business—and, interestingly, Pang got the key ideas for much of the book during a sabbatical in Cambridge (UK).

I need—and will—reflect more on this book. It’s reminded me of the principle built into the Judaeo-Christian worldview through the sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11)—one day rest in seven for worship, reflection, and recovery). I’m beginning to wonder if (another John Stott idea, although in his case about reading) the way to approach rest is to do something every day, something every week, something every month, something every quarter, and something every year—making space in each of those blocks of time for appropriate rest.

What do you think? What helps you rest, recover, recuperate and renew?