Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Entrepreneur: ‘I Believed That Sleep Was Something I Could Get When I Was Dead’

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Entrepreneur: ‘I Believed That Sleep Was Something I Could Get When I Was Dead’

Lifestyle | Posted by - November 9, 2017 at 12:30 am

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is an entrepreneur and author based in California. He has dedicated his work to researching rest and helping people reclaim downtime in their work and personal lives. His case is outlined in his book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. 

We recently sat down to learn how he finds rest in his personal life, builds his confidence in moments of self-doubt, and overcomes any worry he might feel about work over the weekend: 

How has your research of rest changed how you parent? 

The Korean proverb “sleep four hours, pass; sleep five hours, fail” now seems bonkers to me. I encourage my kids to rest more than other parents, but I also encourage them to be athletic, and to really focus when they’re doing homework. 

What’s your biggest struggle with finding rest? How do you overcome it? 

Taking rest seriously was my biggest problem. This meant forcing myself to stay at my desk, even when my brain was fuzzy, or reaching for another coffee rather than taking a 20-minute nap after lunch. It meant believing that vacations were for losers, and sleep was something I could get when I was dead.

It was only when I realized that rest didn’t just mean vegging out on the sofa, and that I was getting more done when I worked in shorter, more intense bursts, alternated with rest like going to the gym or on hikes, that I came around to the idea that rest deserved my time. If I was going to do the work I really wanted to do, at the level I wanted, then I needed to rest.

How do you overcome any worry you might feel about work during the weekend? 

The biggest thing is recognizing that being totally down is super restorative. I’ll get more done on Monday if I’m not sneaking a look at my work email over the weekend. Of course there are times when deadlines are approaching and you have to work through the weekend. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. But that kind of sprint should be planned, like a sprint at a track meet, rather than the frantic race through the airport terminal to get to your gate before the doors close. 

How do you build yourself up in moments of self-doubt? 

I’ve gone through enough cycles of self-doubt (about a million) to know that they pass eventually, usually in a day or two. To move the cycle along though, it always helps to cross off even small things on my to-do list: return emails, finish some mindless piece of work, even clean the bathroom. Accomplishment is the best form of self-affirmation. 

What’s one quote that you keep close when you need motivation? 

Picasso supposedly said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” I always find that motivational. Bills from my daughter’s college also do the trick. 


Liked this article? You should read our article on why we get more done when we rest.

Tags: alex aoojung kim pang, brain science, mental health, overworked, productivity, sleep, sleep deprivation

Kristen Marano

Kristen Marano covers women and their work for publications around the world. She has interviewed some of the most influential business leaders in Canada and the most passionate change makers in towns and cities as isolated as Perth, Western Australia. Most recently she interviewed Canadian businesswoman Zita Cobb about reinvigorating the economy in Newfoundland through the arts. Kristen's work encourages women to share honest and open perspectives about the emotional challenges of their journeys.

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