A Rested Worker Is A Productive Worker
One of the most important things about the Right Brain is its ability to synthesize VAST amounts of information. It can put the pieces together for you in ways that are truly original, and therefore valuable, to you and your team.
But here's the thing: the Right Brain cannot do this synthesizing work without proper rest!
Get the facts
If you doubt the scientific research around the fact that rest makes us more creative and productive, take a look:
How this applies to your business
In The Future of Management, Harvard Business Professor Gary Hamel says:
"In the pursuit of efficiency, companies have wrung a lot of slack out of their operations. That's a good thing. No one can argue with the goal of cutting inventory levels, reducing working capital, and slashing overhead. The problem, though, is that if you wring all the slack out of a company, you'll wring out all of the innovation as well. Innovation takes time--time to dream, time to reflect, time to learn, time to invent, and time to experiment. And it takes uninterrupted time--time when you can put your feet up and stare off into space. "
I frankly cannot think of a more opposed vision to the way corporate capitalists operate. The paradigm is not empowerment, but efficiency. They don't care if there is no time to invent or experiment, because that's not the model of cost and labor and productivity they have always operated with.
But big corporations are not the only culprit for wringing out all the slack. Our cultural sense of competitiveness and the desire to win is just as much to blame. Consider James Surowiecki's argument in his New Yorker article, "The Cult of Overwork": a culture of hyper-work is keeping people at the office even when companies mandate otherwise.
It is industrial-age thinking in an age of knowledge. Left-brained assembly line vs. Right-brain collaborative creativity. It does not promote healthy work-life balance. And that comes back to bite us when we are trying to do anything truly new or creative, when we are trying to solve a problem that all the usual off-the-shelf solutions don't address, or when we need to get off the assembly line and put more than one brain to work.
Getting off the assembly line
Small business owners can think differently. We can empower everyone at every level of our organizations to be creative. But that means we must give them slack time. And THAT also means being willing to model that behavior ourselves. We must take the downtime necessary to let our Right Brains do the work of synthesis.
And consider the following argument: energy -- not time -- management is the key to being productive:
Research has found that 90-minute increments maximize productivity. I can personally attest to the truth of this: it is the way I run two businesses, maintain an editorial schedule with two websites all without any VA or support staff. But in order to set up this 90-minute interval work system, I had to leave the traditional work world, because so few people in upper management seem to understand that principle. (NOTE: If you want to leave your traditional job so you can be more productive and contribute more in your area of strength through a self-employed business, I can help. Contact me here.)
As a runner, I know that intervals are the key to training. I once took 20 minutes off of my marathon time simply by following an interval training program, with enough rest in between to recover and build properly. I love the feeling of getting faster for a 5K by running intervals on the track. It works at every distance of running.
But the trick is to be patient and LET YOURSELF REST in between intervals, for example, stopping for 30 seconds in between each 200 meters and for an additional 3 minutes after a set of those. And then resisting the urge not to take a rest day the next morning.
Think of slack time as interval training for work. You can do more, longer, and faster, IF YOU PLAN THE CORRECT AMOUNT OF REST in between the work sessions. And resist the urge to work when you are supposed to be resting.
Rest has to include not just falling into bed exhausted, but play time, true mental downtime where there is no pressure to produce, perform, or prove. We simply do not get enough of that as a culture. We do not promote it for our employees, we do not encourage it in each other, and we castigate ourselves whenever we feel we have not used time productively.
- Are you suffering from lack of slack?
- How much is lack of down time impairing you and your team's ability to perform at peak?
- What could be possible if you were stricter about 90-minute work intervals AND scheduling more truly recreative activity?
- Make time to click through the articles and books referenced in this article. Does this change your mind about what it is you are doing with your time?
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