Rest Is Not Idleness

You probably sense that it’s important to have a reasonable amount of downtime in your life.  But it can be hard to make it a priority, especially at this busy year-end time.  That said, if you are anything like me, you may have noticed that when you are doing simple “routine” activities, like taking a shower or a bathroom stop, you sometimes have amazing insights!

I was talking about this phenomena earlier this week with my album producer, Ben Leinbach (Yes, the rumors are true.  I am putting together a new album. Yeah!)

Ben does a lot of recording with Jai Uttal, whose fabulous chants you may know (and maybe even love, like I do). Ben told me that every time he or Jai take a 5-minute pee break, they both come back with all sorts of new musical ideas that really enhance the creative process.  He said it works like a charm, every time.

I started exploring this topic of rest & downtime more deeply in preparation for my recent session called “Fallow Time and Letting Go” (BTW, I got such great feedback from the session that I am going to do it again LIVE on Saturday. See details on the left-hand sidebar).

In thinking about it more deeply, I sensed that many people want to take more time to unplug and rest, but many people feel a bit guilty about it.  With long TO DO Lists and busy lives, many folks feel like it’s a luxury they cannot afford—at least not very often.

So I wanted to see what the scientific community has to say about this topic.  I came upon a recent October article from Scientific American that was a true goldmine.

The article explains that there’s so many benefits from routinely taking downtime, that it’s silly NOT to make it a priority.  These benefits include being highly creative (just like Ben told me), increased productivity, greater energy and focus, and enhanced memory.

Two other fun factoids:

  1. I learned that this phenomena has a lot to do with a part of brain called the Default Node Network, which is ONLY activated when you are NOT focused.
  2. Regular downtime spurts are one of the secrets of folks who are top-performing athletes and artists.

So now that we’re clear that downtime is essential, what are the best ways to a quick dose? Some of my easy favorites are going to a yin yoga class, taking a walk, or listening to a great guided meditation (perhaps you want to join me for my “Fallow Time” session on Saturday?).

Research also shows that a 10-minute nap can actually do wonders.  However, longer than 10 minute is not recommended (unless you are really tired), because you get groggy and it can take up to a half hour to recover.

There’s a company called the Energy Project that is taking all this research and has started applying it to entrepreneurial companies. Their approach was apparently a tough sell at first—because it contradicts the prevailing corporate culture that busier is better. But now company’s including Google, Apple, Facebook, Coca-Cola, Green Mountain Coffee, Ford, Genentech and a wide range of Fortune 500 companies have jumped on the bandwagon. They’re finding that implementing more downtime has resulted in employees increased enjoyment of their jobs and an increased willingness to go above and beyond their basic duties.

If the science is good enough for all these corporate those folks, it’s certainly good enough for me.  And it lays to rest my guilty feelings about needing more downtime.

So I’m off to take a nap (honestly, I am going down in the next few minutes, with glee…)  I’ll see you once I’m well rested, on the other side.

If you have any feedback to this post, I’d love to hear it. Post your response below.