Have you heard of the term “limiting belief?”
I’d honestly never of those two words together until I went through training to become a coach. Now, I help my time management clients blast through their limiting beliefs in order to unlock more productivity and intention in their lives than ever before.
If you’re like me and had never heard of this “limiting belief” thing, a limiting belief is a thought that one believes to be truth. It’s an opinion, not a fact. And these limiting beliefs tend to have a negative impact on one’s life by keeping them from moving forward or growing. So basically – it’s something you believe, that causes you to stay stuck. A belief that limits you.
One of the limiting beliefs, that I’ve struggled with throughout my life is this:
“I’m not good at resting.”
Saying that out loud sounds ridiculous. But I’ll bet that there are some Enneagram 3’s, or self-described high achievers, go-getters or Type A folks listening right now who are nodding their heads in agreement, or maybe even cringing a little because they’ve felt the same way at some point.
“I’m not good at resting.”
So – as a result of having this limiting belief for so long, I’ve used it as an excuse to go, go, go – to never stop moving, and to always find one more thing to do, because… hey I’m not good at resting and there’s always just one more thing that can be done.
But the thing is – rest is far too important to put on the backburner, to shrug off, and we genuinely can’t afford to not be good at rest. Our health and our lives depend on it. And if that’s not enough to get you curious about how to be a better rester… your performance at work, in your business, working toward your goals, your creativity… all of those things are counting on you to make time for rest, too.
In this 24/7, hustle til you drop world that glorifies burning the candle at both ends, pulling all-nighters, instant gratification and being always on-call, rest doesn’t get the credit that it deserves as a key ingredient for peak performance.
And don’t just take that from me, I recently finished the book Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness.
I added Peak Performance to my library a few years ago when it came my way as a gift for taking an online course about business finances. To be honest, the title didn’t really speak to me. I assumed that when I opened it it would be full of sports metaphors and science about I don’t know… athletes or something. So after I unpacked the box it shipped in, it sat untouched in the unread section of my bookshelf for a few years.
So when I finally cracked it open in January, I did NOT expect rest to be at the core of the “new science of success” that the title mentions. But – it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time – because I was entering the third trimester of my second pregnancy, chasing a toddler, prepping for maternity leave, and trying to do everything I could to just keep moving – instead of giving in to my perceived weakness and just getting some rest on the sofa. My body needed it – and yours does too, even if you’re not chasing a toddler.
In this episode I’m sharing:
Four solid reasons why you need to give rest the attention it deserves
Why rest is about way more than just getting enough sleep
Three different types of rest that you need in your life
Rest does NOT get the credit it deserves when it comes to being a key ingredient in being our best selves. I mean, can you even imagine sitting in a job interview and being asked, “So tell me about some of your strengths?” And responding with, “Well, I’m really great at resting. In fact, I consider rest to be just as important as hard work.”
It’s very likely that in most interview scenarios, you’d get some weird looks.
As a culture, rest has been looked down upon and the need for rest considered a weakness by many.
There’s an Elon Musk quote about working that I’ve probably shared before because it’s so bananas.
Granted, he said this in an interview back in 2010, and I haven’t checked in with him to see if he’s changed his tune, but this is what he said:
“If other people are putting in 40 hours in a week, and you’re putting in 100, you will achieve in four months, what it takes them a year to achieve. That’s the type of work ethic an entrepreneur needs to have.”
Yeah… so – that’s not exactly how it works. Especially if you want to… you know… avoid burnout, see your family and you know… live a somewhat normal life. And don’t even get me started on the law of diminishing returns.
But – even if we aren’t working 100 hour weeks, a lot of us just aren’t getting the rest we need. CDC studies have found that 1 in 3 American adults aren’t getting enough sleep. And by the way – enough equals 7-9 hours a night.
When we don’t get enough rest – and yes, there is more to rest than just sleep – but I’ll get to that in just a bit – when we don’t get enough rest, our health suffers, our creativity suffers, our ability to focus suffers and we put ourselves on the fastlane to burnout.
While there are a multitude of reasons why we need to prioritize rest, those are four solid reasons that we’ll touch on today.
So let’s start with health.
And when we don’t get enough rest, we’re at risk for health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, stroke and more. Not to mention drowsy driving results in 21% of fatal car crashes – that’s about 6000 fatal car crashes each year in the US.
Now let’s talk about creativity. In order to be our best at work, or honestly – in general – we need our creative juices to flow – even if you’re not in what you would consider a traditionally “creative” role. Problem solving requires creative thinking. Collaboration, communication, persuasion – all of these skills require creativity in order to flourish, whether you’re an artist or an accountant.
Lin Manuel Miranda – if you’ve been living under a rock, he’s the guy that wrote Hamilton, songs from Moana – he’s basically one of the most famous songwriters alive, so he knows a thing or two about creativity. He said this,”
“A good idea doesn’t come when you’re doing a million things. The good idea comes in the moment of rest. It comes in the shower. It comes when you’re doodling or playing trains with your son. It’s when your mind is on the other side of things.”
Studies have shown that over 40% of our creative ideas manifest during rest. Whether that rest is taking a 15 minute break, taking a vacation, or just staring into space for a few minutes.
And by the way – if you’re looking to dive deeper into the subject of taking breaks – make sure you listen to Episode 42 – Productivity’s Secret Superhero – 5 Ways to Take Better Breaks.
So – if you’re in a role that calls for creativity – whether that’s through problem solving, writing social media captions, negotiating deals, marketing your business, or just planning crafts and activities for your kids – you’re going to want to make sure that getting enough rest is on your to-do list, too.
Next – let’s talk about FOCUS.
As much as we wish we could be machines, we just weren’t made to keep plugging and chugging until we knock out everything on our to-do list. Or – maybe we had the superhuman energy to drink a cooler full of Dr. Pepper and pull all nighters during finals week college and somehow survive – but that’s just not our reality anymore. At least not for me… although I do miss that little Chi Omega cooler full of Dr. Pepper that I used to lug around to study sessions.
Anyway – we just weren’t built to maintain unlimited amounts of focus. A lot of times that looks like telling yourself, “I’m not getting up from this spot until I finish this project,” or… “I’ll take a break once I finally finish…” and you end up sitting there for hours trying to push through and getting frustrated when you keep getting distracted and feel like you’re running on empty.
It’s not you… it’s that you need a break.
Studies have shown that top performers across all fields – leaders, experts, whatever a top performer means for your industry – are unable to sustain intense work and deep concentration for more than 2 hours.
So next time you’ve been working on a report, prepping a contract, or intense writing mode for going on 2 hours and you try to push through? Just don’t. Take a break. One of my former time management coaching clients, Corinn, who you’ll hear from in a few weeks, found that dropping everything and going for a walk was the solution to renewing her focus when she started hitting a wall working on an intense work project. She’d walked away feeling foggy, and sit back down feeling refreshed.
Turns out – studies have shown that great performers generally work in chunks of 60 to 90 minute, separated by short breaks. You’ve heard me talk about time blocking before – the act of scheduling your work into your calendar, just like you would a meeting – this is another great example of why and how you can use time blocking to be your most productive. Schedule your time blocks for your intense work in 60 to 90 minute blocks… and schedule in your breaks!
Ok – so let’s talk burnout.
Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands.
According to a recent study, 75% of people have experienced burnout at some point, and 40% of people have felt burnout during the pandemic in particular – in fact, reports of burnout nearly doubled from March 2020 to April 2020 when so many of us were transitioning to working from home.
Are you in that number? Have you felt burnout, or pandemic induced burnout? And if so – you’re definitely not alone. Especially if you’re a millennial. Burnout affects millennials the most, with 84% of millennials saying they’ve felt burnout.
And while there are a number of ways to combat burnout – one of the best ways to combat burnout is through… you guessed it – getting enough rest.
Okay – so quick recap of four solid reasons why we need to get enough rest.
So we can be at our best when it comes to our health, our creativity, our focus and to avoid burnout.
And to borrow a phrase from my grandmother – there’s more than one way to skin a cat – so now let’s shift gears and take a look at three different ways to get the rest you need to be your best self:
First – the obvious one. Getting enough sleep.
Second – taking breaks
And Third – scheduling seasons of rest
GETTING ENOUGH SLEEP
First up – Getting enough Sleep – your 7-9 hours a night
A few quick tips here that you can take and run with.
Create an environment for good sleep. Put up blackout curtains in your room and cut out as much light as possible. We have the Quincy Blackout curtains from Pottery Barn Kids in our bedroom and love them.
Double down on the darkness and Get yourself a sleep mask. A sleep mask has been one of the most inexpensive and simplest ways that I’ve improved my sleep in the last year. This is the one I have.
Put your devices away at least 2 hours before bedtime, 4 if you can swing it. The blue light emitted from your screens – even in nighttime mode – can mess with your melatonin levels – which messes with your sleep. Incredibly – blue light, depending on when we’re exposed to it, can shift our internal clocks by up to six time zones.
Choose a caffeine cutoff point and stick to it. After some trial and error, I’ve found that mine is 3PM, so I stick to it for a better night’s sleep.
Next up – Taking breaks – stepping away from work to refresh and recharge, whether that’s a walk around the block, a stretch break, or a social break with a friend.
Studies have shown that taking a walk for at least six minutes can increase your creativity levels and decrease the negative effects of sitting. Even better if you take your walk outside, because being in nature also enhances your creativity and decreases stress levels.
And if you take a break to chat with a friend – don’t talk about work. Your brain won’t register it as a true break and you won’t reap the benefits.
Same with using your break to scroll social media – your brain will actually still think you’re working – defeating the purpose of taking a break all together. If you want to take a social media break during lunch or another break – set a timer, get it out of your system and then actually rest your brain. Let yourself think thoughts!
SEASONS OF REST
Ok – I’m really excited about this third type of rest. What I’m going to call seasons of rest.
To dive into this concept a bit further, sure, a season of rest could look like taking a vacation – an actual vacation where you don’t do work. And it could also look like taking sabbatical – I talked about sabbaticals in episode 70 which was about preparing to take extended time off. If you haven’t listened to that one yet, and you’re not familiar with the term, sabbaticals are periods of extended time off typically used for learning or travel.
But a season of rest doesn’t have to look like not working at all – it could look like planning your work to include periods of intentional slowness, or going medium for a few months, instead of going hard.
Think about it like this – Football season is not year round. The players take breaks for rest and for training and then go hard once the season kicks off. Same thing with baseball and basketball season. Even the Olympics are only every 4 years.
The on season is a period of intense work, giving it all you’ve got. The off season is rest, training and prep for the next season.
A lot of online business owners, course creators and coaches create this cycle by designing an annual launch calendar that includes weeks with heavy content creation and marketing, followed by weeks in which they stop selling and focus on serving their clients. Creating a cycle of Sell / Serve / Sell / Serve throughout the year can keep you from getting burned out by being in sell sell sell mode all the time.
Another example in a completely different industry – let’s say you’re in nonprofit fundraising. By planning your year to include 4 big events – one per quarter, you can strategically plan your busy seasons – say, planning for a major gala to be followed by slower season, like ramping up to a virtual giving campaign that’s still important, but a lighter lift in terms of work.
For realtors, I understand that some months of the year are traditionally slow because of holidays and colder weather, and then things ramp back up in the spring. Take that slow season and let yourself rest so you can be revved up and ready to go when things heat up again.
Planning for seasons of rest is going to look different for all of us – as usual – especially if you’re not setting the schedule. But I encourage you to let this concept marinate and get creative about how you can incorporate seasons of rest into your life.
THIS IS NOT MULTIPLE CHOICE
And when it comes to all three of these types of rest: getting enough sleep, taking breaks and planning for seasons of rest – this is not multiple choice where you just pick one.
All three of these rest menu items need to be in your toolbox – and here’s why:
You can get 9 hours of sleep each night, but if you don’t take breaks while you work – your creativity and your focus will suffer.
If you take plenty of breaks throughout the day, but if your year as a whole is nonstop, barreling from one major project to the next without breathing room – you’re heading for burnout.
And you can strategically plan your year so that periods of intense work are followed by rest, if you’re only getting 5 hours of sleep each night – your health is seriously going to suffer – and your safety if you’re behind the wheel.
All three of these pieces – sleep, breaks and seasons of rest – work together to help you show up as your best self. Your best, rested self.
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