As I cleaned my office for the first time in months, I came across notes from a book titled “Rest: Why you get more done when you work less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. One of the first quotes I wrote down is this: “Rest is not something that the world gives us. . .if you want rest, you have to take it.”
As I write this, dutifully obeying a Stay at Home Order from both my local and state governments due to COVID-19, it seems that maybe the world is giving us this rest period, should we choose to take it. This is not to diminish those that are suffering and those that are working to exhaustion. Many healthcare workers are putting themselves at risk on the front lines of caring for the sick and working to pure exhaustion. Other essential workers are working overtime while dealing with their own stresses and families. Even some of us less essential workers are working overtime to pivot our business models to continue serving our communities under new parameters. Many parents now have two full-time jobs between child care and working from home. Others are dealing with their own sickness, or that of a loved one.
Still, for the vast majority of us, things are slowing down. Many aspects of the lives we led a month ago are now on pause. Sure, there are a number of things you could be stressed about, but how could you also take a rest to let yourself recover from the stress and exhaustion that possibly ruled your life a month ago?
This might be in your own life. I have been cleaning and organizing papers that sat in stacks for a long time (hence the notes from Rest). There may be books on your night stand that you haven’t made the time to touch – maybe now is the time? Or that art project you haven’t gotten to? Maybe you have a business idea that you can pursue from home? Or an online class that peaked your interest but now it is easier to commit to?
Consider allowing for unscheduled time and see what happens. You could just sit there for a bit, or go for a long walk, and then do whatever you feel moved to do in the moment. You might feel bored. That might feel really uncomfortable. And it just might be really, really good for you.
You might also explore your work life. If you are working from home and have the flexibility to not work set hours each day, how can you mix up your day? When do you do your most productive work? How can breaks be used to your advantage? This will not work for everyone, but could for some, and you may have flexibility to multitask in a way that your office environment doesn’t allow.
I have found that I work in spurts of different types of work. Sometimes, I work for an hour at 4:45am before beginning my exercise routine (which just might be a bit of procrastination). When working on a deep-concentration project, I can only focus for a couple hours at a time, and then I break for a dog walk or shift to a different type of work. Last week I made brownies in the middle of a workday while listening to a webinar.
We all work differently and have different demands on our time. What feels best to you? You’ll probably need to experiment to find out.
Consider this, again from Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in Rest: “When you examine the lives of history’s most creative figures, you are immediately confronted with a paradox: they organize their lives around their work, but not their days.” What would your day look like if it wasn’t organized around your work? If you now have kids at home that are getting in your way constantly, how might you work them in more than out? Or move your work around their schedule – and that of a partner?
If your life is a little slower paced right now, I hope you will also find joy in some creative energy, and in some rest. If worried about rest, I can almost guarantee that if you allow some rest now, you will come back stronger when you can get back to the office.