How to Be Productive and Rest at the Same Time

You’re terrible at scheduling down time. In fact, if you’re not doing 483 things at the same time, you feel guilty.  You’re tired and need a break, but you’re afraid that if you ever stop you’ll never get moving again.

Sound familiar? You might be struggling with Superwoman Syndrome. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. I myself tend to walk a delicate balance between the extremes of being an over-accomplished multitasker and a total slack-off. Neither extreme feels great and neither is infinitely sustainable.

Fortunately, there are many points along that spectrum of productivity that can allow us to get things done without working ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Here are 3 ways to get the rest you need while still being productive.

Switch gears.

Overworking yourself in any area of life—be it at the workplace or in your personal life—can take its toll on your health, energy and state of mind.  If you never give yourself a chance to recuperate, you’ll find yourself in a constant state of stress, overwork and ultimately overwhelm.

If you never give yourself a chance to recuperate, you'll find yourself in a constant state of stress, overwork and ultimately overwhelm. Share on X

When you feel drained and stretched too thin, your first reaction might be to hide from your entire to-do list (because the opposite of doing the most is doing nothing). The problem with this strategy is that our to-do list only grows while we ignore it. When we finally gather the nerve to face it again, our molehill challenge has grown into a mountain of a problem, and we’re immediately overwhelmed again.

Instead of hiding under the covers or drowning your feelings in a bottle glass of wine, try shifting your focus to a completely different type of activity—one that uses a different part of your brain or a different type of energy. Switching gears creates time and space for you to restore whatever energy reserves you’ve depleted while still doing something meaningful.

For example, if a work project as been stressing you out, try throwing yourself into some intense physical activity or a mindless repetitive task, instead. Or if you’ve been spending a lot of time taking care of your family, changing your focus to a personal passion project for a few hours might invigorate you so that you can approach your caregiver responsibilities with renewed energy.

Lower the intensity.

Productivity hacks like don’t break the chain teach us that taking breaks can seriously disrupt the positive habits and routines that we work so hard to build. Sometimes, what starts off as a well-meaning, short-term break turns into a permanent hiatus—just ask anybody that’s ever had a gym membership go to waste.

If you find yourself craving a break, but your habits are still a bit fragile, then lowering the intensity of your efforts might be a good alternative to taking a full-on break.

The best way to lower the intensity will depend on what you need a break from. It might mean reducing an hour commitment down to a half hour, or a daily commitment down to 3 times a week. If it’s a difficult task, then lowering the intensity might mean sticking to the basics instead of more advanced work.

Lowering the intensity isn’t about pushing yourself to keep making progress.  Instead, it’s about marking time to avoid backsliding.  Downshift and coast for a short while, as you build up the energy and willpower to kick it back into high gear.

Lowering the intensity isn't about pushing yourself to keep making progress. It's about marking time to avoid backsliding. Share on X

Recover and Reset.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t restore mind, body and spirit without rest. Rest is critical to a healthy, well-balanced life, but not all rest is restorative.

Rest is critical to a healthy, well-balanced life, but not all rest is restorative. Share on X

Sometimes, rest is just code for procrastinating. Sometimes, it’s fear or confusion holding us hostage, locking us into a place of inaction. But when you are truly in need of rest, taking the time to rest is actually the most productive thing you can do. Sometimes we need to disconnect, power down, and reboot if we’re going to function properly and show up in our lives as our best selves.

This also means learning to rest proactively as part of a regular self-care routine. We limit ourselves when we only give ourselves permission to rest in response to overwhelm or exhaustion. It can be the difference between passing out and lying down for a good night’s sleep.

So tell me, how do you balance staying productive with getting the rest you need? Let us know in the comments!

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