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Mastering the Art of True Rest for Ultimate Productivity

Mastering the Art of True Rest for Ultimate Productivity

Posted by: Rabeb Othmani on

A few years ago, I made a deliberate shift away from the conventional practice of setting New Year’s resolutions, as they tended to be more of vague and unattainable wishes rather than actionable goals. Instead, I adopted a practice reminiscent of Agile methodologies used in software development—a retrospective. In Agile, a retrospective is an opportunity for a team to reflect on the events of an iteration and determine actionable steps for the future. In my case, the team comprises only one person: myself, and the iteration spans an entire year. Armed with a cup of coffee, a slice of cake, and a notebook, I engage in a thoughtful reflection, pondering questions such as: What aspects of my life went well? What habits and practices am I keen on carrying forward into the next year? What am I leaving behind, and what valuable lessons did I learn from those experiences? What areas require improvement, and how can I transform these insights into manageable goals?

Looking at my journal, I ended my retrospective on the 31st of December 2023 with the following sentence: “For next year, I want to truly rest.” Was I physically tired when I wrote these words? Did I not get enough sleep the night before? No. But I was aware that true rest is different from what most of us are considering as rest.

As I reviewed my journal entries, my retrospective for the conclusion of 2023 culminated in a profound realization: “For the upcoming year, I aspire to truly rest.” Not prompted by physical exhaustion or a lack of sleep on that particular night, this statement emerged from a profound understanding that real rest transcends the conventional notions we often associate with relaxation. It entails a deliberate approach to rejuvenation that I am eager to explore in the coming year.

What is Real Effective Rest?

Picture this familiar scenario: a long day of work or completing tasks at home concludes, and as a self-prescribed reward, a break is in order. A routine is established – perhaps a cup of coffee or tea, a snack, and settling into a numbing session of Netflix or YouTube while simultaneously navigating Instagram reels or engaging in chats with family and friends. At first glance, it seems idyllic – we are relaxing.This is known as passive rest where the goal is relaxation not recovery and restoration. While it’s acceptable to use our digital devices for unwinding and a temporary escape from mentally demanding activities, the drawbacks of this routine are underscored by scientific studies and statistics.

The consequence of this habitual digital escapism manifests as digital fatigue and information overload. The seemingly innocuous scrolling on Instagram or binge-watching on Netflix leaves us not rejuvenated, but rather triggered, stressed, and, at times, even depressed. Despite being aware of this cycle, breaking free from it proves challenging. The allure of quick dopamine hits keeps us glued to our screens, and the perpetual fatigue, lack of focus, and the inability to savor the present moment persist.

So, what then constitutes true effective rest? If the conventional image of relaxation – lounging on the couch with a bag of crisps (chips for those outside the Kingdom), Netflix playing in the background, and indulging in laughter at countless reels and TikToks – falls short of genuine rest, what does? True effective rest goes beyond resting our bodies; it extends to a mental and emotional rest, a deliberate detachment from the digital world, our devices, and distractions. True rest is characterized by a profound sense of energization, heightened focus, and an ability to immerse oneself fully in the present moment.

True rest, often referred to as deep or genuine rest, goes beyond mere relaxation or the absence of activity. It involves a state of renewal and rejuvenation for both the body and the mind. True rest encompasses activities and practices that promote holistic well-being, allowing us to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The sad part is most of us already know all of this and yet it’s hard to break the cycle of mindless scrolling. So Why did I decide to break the cycle Now? Why not keep looking at all the cute pets on TikTok?

The paradox lies in the fact that most of us are cognizant of these truths, yet breaking free from the cycle of mindless scrolling remains a challenge. So, why did I decide to break this cycle now? Why choose to disengage from the allure of cute pets on TikTok?

The Crucial Role of True Rest in Enhancing Productivity

Recently, I embarked on the journey of leaving full-time employment to embrace the challenges and opportunities of self-employment. While I won’t dive too deeply into the specifics of my decision, the essence lies in my desire for greater agency over my life and time, fueled by a passion to pursue my hobbies. Reflecting on past habits, which I am actively working to discard, I recognize the contradictions within me – the aspiration to control my time versus the habitual waste of it through mindless scrolling, the desire to cultivate hobbies versus constant distraction, and the dream of being my own boss clashing with an inherent struggle to maintain focus.

Recognizing that productivity in all aspects of life requires a strategic approach, I’ve identified True Rest as the path forward. As a solopreneur, there’s a prevalent temptation to equate constant busyness with productivity, a dangerous mindset that can lead to undesirable consequences such as burnout, fatigue, and a lack of strategic focus.

True Rest, on the other hand, unlocks a multitude of benefits:

  • Physical restoration: If I could pass any wisdom to my younger self, it would be : drink enough water and get enough sleep. Quality sleep, allows the body to repair tissues, regulate hormones, and strengthen the immune system. A healthy, well-rested body lays the foundation for mental restoration, sustained energy and productivity.
  • Reducing mental fatigue and stimulating creativity and problem solving: True rest reduces distraction, interruptions, and overall mental fatigue. It creates space for clearing the mind and fostering creativity. Since adopting a commitment to genuine rest, I’ve observed a surge in my writing productivity, navigating the creative process with greater ease.
  • Increasing efficiency: In her book Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind); which I highly recommend; Seal argues that that prolonged hours correlate with lower productivity and an increased risk of errors. A well-rested body and mind are more likely to complete tasks accurately and efficiently.
  • Reducing stress: Thinking clearly, a byproduct of proper rest, helps us handle challenges and navigate stressful situations with resilience and composure.
  • Preventing burnouts: Burnouts are the killer of productivity. Only through adequate rest can we fortify ourselves against the perils of burnout.
  • Long-term sustainability: Sustainable productivity extends beyond short-term gains, it is about maintaining a healthy balance over the long term. The fallacy of relentless non-stop work, fueled by ego-driven pursuits, often leads to physical and mental breakdowns. This is detrimental not only to the individual but also to the quality of their work.

True rest is fundamental for sustaining high levels of productivity. It promotes physical health, mental clarity, emotional well-being, and various cognitive functions that are essential for success in both personal and professional endeavors. Prioritizing and integrating True Rest into one’s routine is an investment in long-term productivity and overall quality of life.

Implementing the Path to True Effective Rest

As mentioned at the start of this post, my overarching goal for 2024 is centered on achieving genuine and effective rest while cultivating sustainable rest habits. Here’s a breakdown of the key elements incorporated into the routine I’m diligently constructing:

  • Awareness : Initiating any change in habits begins with self-awareness. Observing and acknowledging our behaviors is crucial, and fostering a non-judgmental and self-compassionate mindset is equally vital.
  • Quality sleep : I can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting the sleep we need and deserve. Yet, most of us stay up late scrolling on our phones. I always aim for a solid 8 hours of sleep each night, striving to go to bed by 10 PM (Notice the use of the word striving as this is still an aspiration ;) ). Recognizing that quality is as pivotal as duration, A good practice to get a good sleep is to disconnect from devices at least 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Digital detox : Disengaging from screens and diverting my attention from social media is still a challenge for me that led me to implement a digital detox. Leveraging features like Google Pixel’s Digital Wellbeing, I set time limits for specific apps, notably Instagram. Regular assessments of on-screen time guide my efforts to decrease usage progressively each week, with engaging activities helping to divert my focus from screens.
  • Joyful and Satisfying Activities: : Nurturing mental well-being involves immersing myself in activities that bring joy and satisfaction without overstimulating my mind or involving electronic devices. Whether it’s reading, writing, or cooking, these pursuits contribute positively to my mental state.
  • Exercise : I acknowledge that exercise may seem contrary to rest, but it bears significant benefits for both physical and mental well-being. Personally, running serves as my preferred form of exercise for its impact on my mental well-being and resilience.
  • Mindful relaxation : While mindless Netflix sessions have their place, intentional and mindful relaxation activities such as meditation and breathing exercises are crucial as they enhance focus and contribute to better work-life management. I’m yet to meditate regularly but small steps!
  • Balanced diet : Consuming a balanced and nutritious diet contributes to the body’s overall well-being and supports the energy needed for daily activities. Occasionally indulging in a treat, like a cake or pastry, adds joy to balance.
  • Establishing Boundaries : Dispelling guilt associated with taking time for rest is crucial. Recognizing that genuine rest is the ultimate productivity booster, make sure to claim your rest time and have clear boundaries between rest and work. As a self-employed person, I set myself clear working hours and make sure to respect my own schedule.

Breaking old habits and building new ones is undeniably challenging, requiring intentional effort. The key lies in recognizing the important role of rest in fostering productivity and conscientiously incorporating practices that enhance physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

While it is still early in the year, by trying to follow my rest routine, I am already noticing shifts in my attitude and behavior. I’m able to focus better with less (not zero) need to reach out to my phone. I’m handling stressful situations better and I’m definitely more productive! I wrote this post, didn’t I 🤣 I can already see the positive impact of these intentional changes.

If you’ve journeyed with me through this exploration, thank you for your readership and thank you for being my accountability partner! I’m keen to learn about your challenges and the tactics and habits you employ to achieve rest and enhance productivity. Let’s continue this conversation! 😊