A Eulogy for Rest
This summer I read an incredibly important book by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. The book is about rest. And how rest can help you to work better. The book is full of examples of people who have done remarkable stuff, but gave enough time to resting. Or even better, they did remarkable stuff because they gave time to the activity of resting. It’s almost a eulogy for resting which can take many forms.
Let’s look at the basic idea. We work so hard that we have no time to rest, or better we don’t take the time to rest. Rest does not have to be passive. It can be sports, reading, writing, etc. But it’s something else than work.
IBeing busy ishas become the mode of life too many people find themselves in. Being busy is the new normal. Resting is suspicious.
Let me take one example of productive rest: the sabbatical. Sabbatical are used to do something else. In Academia it means that you are “released” from some duties, mostly teaching duties. You can visit other universities, spend some time reading the stuff you should have read all along. The idea is that you come up with creative ideas for new research. Some people in academia say that they do more (important) work during a sabbatical than in the 5 years before.
Another example of the sabbatical is the thinking week. Bill Gates withdrew twice a year in a remote place to think. He came up with new insights and strategies during intense weeks. Is this resting. Yes it is. Because you can focus on other things than work. You can take a broader view. You protect yourself from interferences. You have no operational duties, no meetings. You focus only on yourself and your thoughts. In the meantime you can take walks to think about what you’ve read, heard, thought of.
I love the idea of a thinking week. It’s a great alternative for an expensive sabbatical. It’s a part of a learning strategy that can keep you employable, more productive, more creative and more savvy.
Ask yourself: are you able to rest?
There are many more examples of resting in the book. But here are some questions to make you think
- Are you able to do nothing from time to time?
- Are you able to rest? Taking holidays, lunch breaks, evening pauses, weekends?
- Can you really get work out of your system?
- Do you have enough rich activities outside of work, like meeting friends, doing exercises, getting inspiration?
If you answer no to all or some of these questions, you might want to read this book:
Actually, I think everybody should read it. And maybe we need to train (young) people in the art of rest, because many people seem to have lost it. It’s a matter of hygiene. And if we talk about sustainable employability, rest might be the key to combine health and competence development.
Read the book.