What does “rest” mean to you?
Is rest falling into an exhausted coma at night as a result of working all day without breaks? Do you work through lunch, barely giving yourself time to swallow your sandwich? Do you secretly think rest is for the lazy and incompetent? Is rest only for your leftover time?
I thought I understood what rest was, however, my latest read, “Rest” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, thumped me on the head and taught me a few things. This book’s a wake-up call if you’re overworked, stressed or your creativity is floundering. I got a lot out of it. Here’s my take….
BTW – I haven’t been paid for this review. I purchased the book on Amazon and all opinions are only that, and only my own. The link provided above is not an affiliate link – just there for your convenience.
Title: “Rest. Why you get more done when you work less.”
Author: Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Genre: Non-fiction, Self-help
Publisher: Basic Books
“Rest” is a research-backed look at why periods of deliberate rest, taken in different forms, actually make you more productive and creative in your work.
“[Deliberate rest] helps you craft a life in which you can discover what challenges you’re meant to take on and what hard tasks are most rewarding, and gather the energy and have the time and freedom to face them.”Alex Soojung-Kim Pang from Rest, Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.
This is not a “how to” book. This book gives you research about the benefits of rest, and copious examples of famous minds who have used, or are using, rest as a tool to achieve greatness. The “how-to” part of this book is unstated and goes something like this: “If you want to be successful and live a fulfilling life, you need to apply the principles of rest to your life right now.”
Is this book for me?
The audience for “Rest” is anyone whose work relies on intense focus or creative problem-solving. The author, Pang, uses the term “creatives” but applies the term to anyone who relies on their brain to come up with novel ideas. The people included in the author’s examples are software developers, CEOs, writers, managers, mathematicians, and scientists. Truth be told, the principles in the book can apply to everyone in some way.
This book is not a brain-dead read, rather a book you will want to study and absorb. At times the long lists of examples the author provides made my eyes glaze over and super long sentences make the reading more tedious. However, Pang makes his points understandable and ties the research to real-world examples. It’s a book that requires focus if you want to get the most out of it.
Reality Check: Does “Rest” apply to real life?
In my opinion, yes— IF you’re introspective when you read it. What you’ll get is practical information to improve your productivity and/or creativity. The author doesn’t tell you HOW to do it, though. He provides the information and you have to figure out how to apply it.
Pang also reminds us, that the studies presented were performed in a controlled environment. So, there’s still a lot to be learned about the power of rest in real world situations.
There are no miracles to be found here, but Pang’s work has altered my perspective. I’m more conscience about the way I balance work and rest, and how I operate on a daily basis. I’m feeling less guilty when I can’t focus and need to goof off for a while. Honestly, I will probably go through a lot of trial and error before I find the right combination of work and rest that works for me, but the key is that I’m aware and I’m trying.
My Top 10 Key Takeaways:
I took pages of notes for myself while reading the book, but here are my top ten to give you an idea of what to expect:
- Even when you are not actively working, your mind is at work in the background solving problems and coming up with creative ideas.
- Rest and work are equal partners.
- Deliberate rest is energizing and restorative. It allows you to step back and make decisions from a rested mind, to turn down opportunities that don’t fit well and decide what’s important and what isn’t.
- Rest takes on different forms at different times. Sometimes, rest can be afternoon naps or long walks. Other times rest can be strenuous activities like hiking, sailing or running.
- It’s important to observe yourself. Monitor your energy and attention and figure out what works for you.
- Set up routines and “distraction-free” times that enable uninterrupted periods of intense focus. Protect your routines!
- The right amount of sleep is not just important, it’s vital to your creative process and your well-being – long term and short term.
- The ability to put work completely out of your mind is necessary to do your best work. Without frequent periods of recovery, you can easily slide into burnout.
- Regular exercise improves brain structure and has a positive effect on creativity by relieving stress and increasing our ability to deal with crap.
- Deep play is an activity that doesn’t compete with regular work but is challenging and requires focus.
Should you read “Rest”?
Read it! Even though Rest is a bit of a slog at times, as non-fiction usually is, the concept is profoundly important to our work, life and play. I found “Rest” interesting enough to read cover to cover. However, it’s a book that should be read and absorbed in pieces —not gobbled up in an afternoon.
There is so much more I could say about this book, but then you wouldn’t need to read it. Obviously, I gained a lot of insight from it. Bottom line is that it’s definitely worth the read. Now, I’m going to take a nap.
P.S. Tell me how you rest, even if you haven’t read the book.