Yesterday I talked about my Mullet Method of focused work. One of the keys to that method is that I take a big break from 9 – 12.
This break fuels me up for my Manager time later in the day and then for some more Maker time.
In October and November 2017, I cut that break out. I was pushing out a video course and working on some books and … just doing lots of stuff so I tried to get just a bit more time at the office.
Did I get more hours in the office? Yup. Did I get more productive time? Barely.
With my regular 6 hour work days, I get 5.5 hours of focused work time done. Time when I’m doing exactly what I should be doing.
When I try to make days into 9 hour days, I get 6 maybe 7 hours of work done. In fact, it’s more like 6.5 hours is the max 7 is some random aberration that I have to double check because usually, it’s a mistake.
With three extra hours of “work”, I do maybe an hour of something productive. There are diminishing returns with more time in the office.
Many of us are interested in how to work better, but we don’t think very much about how to rest better. Productivity books offer life hacks, advice about what CEOs or famous writers do. But they say almost nothing about the role of rest in the lives or careers of creative productive people. When they do mention rest, they tend to treat it as nothing more than a physical necessity or inconvenience. – Rest1
If you want to highly productive, you need space. But what does space look like?
Space looks like:
- No screen
- Some effort
- Something green
1. No Screen
Yes, space starts with no screen time. If you’re just going to flip through Instagram, or Twitter or dive into Facebook, you’re fooling yourself. You’re not resting. Your brain is being highly stimulated.
Also, you’re likely to spend way more time doing these things than you expect. Their entire incentive is to keep you there longer and longer. They want your attention.
Dipping into email is the same thing. It’s a black hole that will steal any chance you have of focusing later in the day.
Get away from your screen if you want to rest.
The most creative and most productive workers are the ones who are able to unplug from the office, recover their mental and physical energy, and return to their work recharged – Rest
2. Some Effort
The second thing that you need if you’re going to rest is some effort. I’m not talking about physical rest then, I’m talking about mental rest.
I mean, go for a walk or a bike ride. I build in some effort by walking to the coffee shop most mornings. I have a 20-minute walk home on relatively quiet streets.
If you run, go for that run.
Don’t tell me you don’t have time for that or that it’s not the best thing you could be doing. Here’s a list of accomplished people that took long walks to think.
- Nikola Tesla
- Ernest Hemingway
- Charles Darwin
- Charles Dickens
Use this space in your day to rest your brain. Think about the projects you’re working on and good ideas will come. You’ll have new solutions bubble up that you would have missed sitting there staring at your computer screen.
3. Something Green
If you want to maximize the restorative benefits of that effort, then look for something green.
In a 2013 study2, researchers found that people are “substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than in urban environments.” They even took into account who you were hanging out with and what you were doing.
Hanging out with your best friend in the middle of a pack of buildings will not make you happier than being alone in a natural environment like a green space.
When she examined the data, she found that she could tell from their brain waves when people were walking through parks and green space and when they were in busy commercial areas: their minds became calmer and less aroused when they turned from the high street into a park. They didn’t zone out completely, though. Natural scenes engage some of your attention without requiring much conscious effort: they provide just enough diversion to occupy the conscious mind, leaving the subconscious free to do its own thing – Rest
If you live in New York, head to Central Park. Find some part that’s more green than buildings and enjoy the peace there to rest your brain and get ready for going back to focused work.
What Happens to Your Focus When You Have Space
The big thing that happens with rest is that you recharge your brain. Your muscles get tired from use, and so does your brain. Expecting that you can give 100% for eight continuous hours is lying to yourself. You have 100% for maybe 4 hours, and then you have 20%.
With a break, you can get back at work and give maybe 80% for the rest of the day. Will your work be better with 80% given for the final hours of your day or with 20% and an extra hour or two of work?
It’s that 20% brain work we look back on in two days and wonder what on earth we were thinking. Instead of letting yourself do it, cut it out and go for more sustained effort at your maximum effectiveness.
Look at your calendar, and on top of the focused blocks you built out yesterday, built in rest times every day. Times, when you’ll go, recharge for the next work block.
Know that if you’re not going to do that, you’re setting yourself up for shoddy work later in the day. If you want poor work, then keep right on going.
Have an awesome day!
PS: If you’re having trouble building rest in, let’s talk about your schedule and see where we can get more time.
- I took a long look at Rest a few months back. ↩
- The study is called Happiness is greater in natural environments. ↩