In Praise of Down Time: Don’t Feel Guilty for Resting

In recent years, I’ve been learning more than I ever thought possible about exercise: the proper way to do it, the value of it, and so forth. I’ve been amazed at how some of what I’ve learned specifically about exercise also applies generally in all of life.

Take for example the concept of rest and down time.

This is important for me to learn because I have a classic Type A personality. I’m the kind of person who doesn’t really have an “off” switch. If I’m sitting down, I’m thinking about ten thousand other things I need to do. I keep to-do lists, planners, and journals to help my brain empty itself onto paper so that I can rest a little better.

As any exercise enthusiast can tell you, when you’re working out it’s as important to rest as it is to work. In fact, with weight training, some studies suggest that you can undo any benefits of your workout if you don’t rest adequately between workouts.

Let that sink in for a moment.

Spinning Your Wheels

Do you ever feel like you’re spinning your wheels, working hard but getting nothing done? I hate that feeling.

Part of it, I’m coming to realize, is that work/rest balance.

Productivity starts to lag a bit if you’re not getting sufficient rest. I think this becomes more of an issue the older we get.

Productivity starts to lag a bit if you’re not getting sufficient rest. Click To Tweet

Diligence is more than just working hard. It’s working hard at the right things at the right time. Diligence is working smart.

Maintenance and Saw Sharpening

I was recently re-reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. In it, Stephen Covey mentions this idea. He refers to it as “sharpening the saw”, using an illustration of a man working hard to saw wood, but refusing to take the necessary time to have the blade sharpened, because he doesn’t want to stop working. Obviously, if you stop to sharpen the saw, you’re productivity will be higher.

If you don’t get oil changes on your car, you’ll eventually be going nowhere fast. If you don’t get a good night’s sleep you’ll be a zombie most of the day. You get the picture.

In the same way, if you do not have adequate down time, you’re not going to be able to do as much as you need to be doing, or with the same level of efficiency.

It’s Okay to Rest

I’m the sort of person who lays in bed and thinks of the 20,000 other things I could be doing right now. I’ve had to “sell” myself on this idea that rest is okay.

When the kids were babies, I would be told to rest when the baby is sleeping. Of course, I don’t think anyone ever heeds that advice because it seems to be the only time to get things done.

We need to start viewing rest as one of those things we check off of our to-do lists too because rest is important for getting other things done.

On the Flipside

On the flipside, as I’ve posted before, there are also those temptations to spend too much of our days looking for ways to rest, have down time, and “get refreshed”. There does need to be a healthy balance between too much hanging out at “moms’ days out” and working yourself until you collapse.

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