Rest Better, Lead Better

Sep 9, 2020

A Remote Leader’s Secret Weapon

As spring became summer and now summer becomes fall, we have proven our ability many times over to adapt and overcome . Spring launched us into working from home. Summer has kept us working from home. And with fall upon us, many of us are still adjusting to broken rhythms and life and work occurring under the same roof.

Just as nature has a natural rhythm, so does the human body. Our bodies and minds have an essential flow for optimal performance. When we work from home and have no commute it’s easy to get out of the body’s natural rhythm and find ourselves always working. As a result, we flounder and jeopardize our physical and mental wellbeing.

With the annual return of fall, now is a good time to take on new rhythms in your life that support true optimal performance, in spite of our culture of busyness that often confuses activity with productivity.

The truth is, we treat being stressed and overworked as a badge of honor. Worse yet, sometimes the desire to overwork is an attempt to justify our own existence. None of us are at our best when we are worn out. The short-term benefits from overwork do not negate the long-term costs of errors, lost productivity, and high turnover.

Instead of trying harder, we need to trust more. When we do we receive more, not at the expense of our lives, but because we have chosen greater insight and deeper meaning over futile activity. We are not the creator of power, but the recipients of it. It’s not about having the personal determination to do more. It’s about learning to surrender in service to the betterment for all involved. This requires a change in mindset brought into effect by holding work and rest in the same esteem.

Work and rest are not contrary to one another, but rather interconnected and mutually supportive. Together they deepen our ability to focus and do our best work. Just like when we sleep, the brain does not stop working when we rest or relax. It’s during these times that we process what we have learned from our work and apply meaning to what we’ve overlooked while moving at a hectic pace.

Some of history’s greatest leaders and thinkers, Dwight Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, to name a few, recognized the reciprocal nature of work and rest and used it as a necessary advantage. Followers depend upon their leaders to make wise decisions. Therefore, rest is not a luxury, but needed for daily replenishing and gaining valuable insight.

Work is subjective. The best time to rest is when you think you can’t. Rest is active, restorative, and relational, and should not be confused with idleness. The best way to not always be working when work and life happen within the same quarters is to understand what work is and is not. Is it work because it’s hard? Since it makes you money? Because it’s something you don’t want to do?

For every depleting activity in your day, there is a counter restorative activity. What restores you? Meditation, taking a walk, watching the sunset? Whatever it is, work it into your day. Rest attests to our humanness and need for daily replenishing. Notably, giving ourselves permission to take a break removes any guilt associated with rest.

Breaks that are relaxing offer the most value. So it’s not about the time away from one’s work that matters most, but rather the amount of mental detachment that occurs during moments of rest. Leaders who make space for rest in their day are more productive, have better attitudes, get along better with others, and are better able to deal with work and life challenges.

As we move into the season of fall, ask yourself what’s stealing your rest. Give yourself permission to slow down and ask for help. Commit to making rest a rhythm in your busy life. Know that rhythms look different for all of us. Experiment and find what works for you. If you’re not sure where to start, consider that science tells us the brain is most at rest in natural environments. Taking a micro-break outdoors may be just what you need to recharge and show up as your best self.