It’s hard to believe, but this weekend the New York Times confirmed the news: More work time does not equal more productivity. In fact, taking regular naps, breaking up work time into shorter intervals and recharging your body and brain with real getaways is the long studied answer to increased productivity. This conclusion flies in the face of all of our beliefs about the hard work we have long been instructed as the requirement to get ahead.
It is only recently that I have given in to the need to rest. For me, there is no choice. My mind seems to shrink in proportion with my fatigue and I have given up the idea that there is anything to push through. So now I rest, I meditate, I doze and when I come back twenty minutes or even 40 minutes later, my ideas have collected themselves. I am fresh, my mind is clear, my thoughts are directed and I can complete the task in half the time that I had been struggling through the marsh of my tired mind.
It took me more than 50 years to finally accept the wisdom of rest and rejuvenation. Like most of us, I have been deeply inculcated in the driving force of doing, of pressing more tasks into less time, into believing that I could multi-task my way to success. I was driven, even if I didn’t know what to do, or how to get it done to keep on working. Taking a break, letting things settle, were never the first options I turned to. That was the way of the weak in my convoluted driven mind, not the way of wisdom. So here is the silver lining that age brings, now available to everyone.
Still, even these research studies won’t be enough to convince the more youthful driven or better still our educational and training institutions to share the power of relaxation. The refusal is lodged, not only in the archaic values of the industrial revolution that equated more work hours with more productivity, but even more deeply in our collective mistrust of time itself. Our worldview of time is that it is another resource to master, instead of a wise teacher to learn to respect.
Trusting time is no easy thing when it is always the outcome where we keep our focus. We miss so much of reality with our insistence to hurry up the process. We are fixed on controlling outcomes, and run ourselves ragged to prove the point. Surrendering to time is one way to access the profound refueling that our mind and spirit need to keep going. Learning how to listen for how the process will direct us and releasing our firm hold on determining the outcome is a shift of allegiance. Instead of just trusting in our will to effort, we lean towards a willingness to let life live through us.
More than 50 years ago, researchers discovered that not only do our sleep cycles occur in 90-minute intervals, but so do our waking cycles. Taking cues from these natural cycles and encouraging respite in between actually produces more work and better results. This was a challenging truth for me to swallow as a business owner paying hourly wages, but the more that I infused this willingness to rest in my own work habits, the more that my employees were able to follow suit. The result is a more relaxed, happier and more productive work group. The idea that rest produces results feels like an oxymoron. But in the emerging reality of positivity, it is another beautiful truth by which to measure a life that works.