A person who competes at a high level in any area, be that sport, music or in business, to attain success and sustain it, rest must be a key part of their routine. In an elite athlete’s routine, rest is an essential part of their training regimen for restoration of physical and mental energy. They exert themselves, push their body and minds to the limits, and then rest.
This can be referred to as the work-rest-work-rest cycle.
Consider the story of Susan Butcher, a disciplined and courageous adventurer. Susan was an American dog musher and a pioneer in her sport. She competed in the Iditarod dog sled race, involving 1,1152 miles across the wilderness of Alaskan ice.
Susan was the first person to win the race three consecutive times, and one of the first women to break into the sport at such a high level.
When Susan began competing in sled-dog racing, the common approach was to run for 12 hours and rest for 12 hours, but Susan changed this.
She was attentive to the limits of the dogs she trained and so implemented the process of training 4 – 6 hours at a time before resting for the same amount of time, this led to her winning the race a total of 4 times. She understood their need for rest at a biological level
in order to sustain such a high level of performance.
What can we take from this?
High performance is demanding, from a physical and mental perspective. Of course the extent of the demands will depend on the task but regardless, high performance can not be sustained without adequate rest and recovery.
This can also be applied to our work. Our jobs often require concentration and focus to do well and get to where we want to be – a promotion, a new contract, a big sale, whatever it may be.
But this requires energy, and like our muscles during exercise, when the brain is depleted from exhausted fuel stores or inadequate rest, our performance will inevitably deteriorate – that’s science.
We may find ourselves forgetting things, irritable, distracted, checking social media or walking to the fridge when you aren’t really hungry. These are perfectly natural and healthy responses to sustained performance, but perhaps not the most helpful.
We often try to push through it, but is this the optimum response? Will your performance continue to deteriorate or will you acquire a sudden boost of energy and productivity if you keep pushing?
Consider what has led you to this state…
How has your sleep been?
Are you managing your stress effectively?
Did you consume a mixed meal prior to this?
Are you hydrated?
How long have you been working? Do you need a break?
Are you working through your tasks in order of priority?
Are you clear on what the task is?
Are you doing your best to limit distractions in your workspace?
When you can understand what has led to this state, you can make a more informed decision of how to respond and do so with more compassion towards yourself.
For example you recognise that you had a terrible night’s sleep last night and so you might get out for some fresh air and limit your caffeine intake so you sleep better that night.
Or maybe you recognize, actually I am not clear on what is expected of me in this project, and decide to schedule a meeting with your manager to clarify your role and responsibilities.
I encourage you to check in with your situation and be honest with yourself about what is going on for you and what you really need to support yourself in a more optimal way.
Consider how you are doing in these areas and where there might be space for improvement and more nourishment – in both a physical and psychosocial sense.
- Social connection
- Community & contribution
I recognise that this makes it sound quite simple and I am aware that it can be more complex and it is certainly not always easy, but making rest a part of your life, a part of the productive process is key to sustaining not just success, but health.
If you would like to seek support in this area, why not reach out to someone like Sinead Brady, a good friend of Daniel’s who is a career psychologist and an expert in her field.
This article was written and published by Heather Masterson.