I used to brag that I didn’t have time to read. I worked long hours in a corporate job, and I didn't know how to slow down. I walked, worked, and ate at a fast space, which meant I didn’t understand the quiet, slow, re-energizing space that comes with rest like reading a book, being in nature, and drinking water. I cringe that I believed I didn’t need to read; five years later reading is an integral part of my work and a valuable form of rest.
Gimmy Chu, CEO and co-founder of Toronto startup Nanoleaf, is a proponent of managing stress and burnout, “running a company is a marathon, not a sprint,” says Chu. “We have to understand that working 16 hours a day isn’t a sustainable way to run a business; taking breaks to exercise, spend time with loved ones, and sleep are important parts of being a successful entrepreneur.”
While the no-sleep mentality of being a successful entrepreneur is losing its power, and prioritizing mental health, four-hour work weeks, and books like Rest are on the rise, there are still people who don’t know when to stop work for the day. Rest is about allowing space in our lives to build perspective and better businesses. Here are six simple ways to start:
Notice how you talk about your work
The way we think and talk about our work affects our productivity and mental wellbeing. Harvard professor and mindfulness pioneer Ellen Langer, who realized the science and benefits of mindfulness before the practice became a trend, suggests careful attention to how we name things in our lives. Rather than say, “can I do this,” she suggests, “how can I do this?” to allow your mind to let go of control and encourage problem solving. She says mindfulness is the “simple act of noticing things.”
Do something that surprises yourself and others
Last year I enrolled in a full-day improvisation course. It was frightening and enlightening, as I stepped out of my comfort zone and acted random scenarios in front of strangers. Not unlike charades, one scene involved pretending I was a chef making sushi.
I took the course because I wanted to experience a different way of expressing myself, but the concept didn’t stop there. The instructor gave us a takeaway, “do something this week that surprises people.” It sounds simple, but it’s a reminder that in our daily routines, a lot of the things we do are comfortable and predictable. When you do or say something different from your norm, like being spontaneous when you like certainty, people will notice; you’ll inspire others in the process and spark energy within yourself to try something new.
Eat away from your desk and computer
Everyone knows this act as an offender, but we do it anyways; we trick ourselves into believing we’re saving time. How we spend the first hour of our day, sets our mood and motivation as we step into our workspace. I grew up watching my mom eat her bowl of cereal while driving to work every morning. Now, the favourite part of my day is having the freedom to make a healthy breakfast to enjoy at the kitchen table.
Now that many of us are working from home, eat with your friends, roommates, or family - even if you have to do it via video chat. In her book Becoming, Michelle Obama discussed the importance of having dinner as a family. Barack and Michelle made an agreement that he would have dinner with the family before retreating to the Oval Office to finish the day’s work.
Flop on your bed and close your eyes for 20 minutes
My aunt has worked at a law firm for almost 40 years, and to balance the intensity of her work, she maintains a regular practice of yoga, running, and eating healthy. There’s one daily ritual she shared with me when I was a teenager that stuck with me, “when I get home from work, the first thing I do is lay on my bed and close my eyes for 20 minutes.” This practice is a signal to her brain that she’s not at work anymore; she’s at home where she can relax for the evening. This practice is even more relevant during COVID-19 as many of us adapt to working from home and feel the challenge of disconnecting from work without physically leaving an office.
Allow yourself 10 minutes between tasks, meetings, or phone calls
It’s not unusual for entrepreneurs to have a back-to-back schedule most days, which means we have less time to stay hydrated, eat well, and consume new information. The 10-minute rule between the next meeting, task, or phone call, gives us time to refill our water bottles, sit down and close our eyes, or read a news article - do what’s best for you, though make it a habit to add the 10-minute rule into scheduling. These moments allow our minds to let go of the discussion and prepare a clean slate to start a new conversation.
Choose a day to go to bed an hour earlier or rise an hour later
While experts suggest a regular sleep routine, for optimal sleep and performance the next day, there’s value in getting extra rest. If you’ve had a week of later days than usual, your body needs to recuperate. Pick a day that week where you allow yourself to go to bed an hour earlier or rise an hour later- you’ll feel more rested, and you won’t disrupt your current sleep routine.