Success in Short Sprints
How high achievers increase their productivity and generate time freedom.
Alex Pang is an expert in the emerging philosophic and scientific field of deliberate rest. Pang is passionate about transforming the way people think about recovery in their daily lives and helping individuals achieve real work-life balance by introducing them to the concept of deliberate rest. He is the best selling author of the book “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.”
I recently listened to a lecture at Google (as part of the Talks at Google series) where he explained the fundamental theories behind the concept of rest as it relates to enhanced productivity. Throughout the talk, Pang expertly illustrates practical examples of different ways to implement rest into your daily life to heighten your creativity and satisfaction.
Here are three key insights from his talk:
1. Very successful people have serious hobbies
According to Bertie Forbes, the business journalist disruptor and founder of Forbes Magazine, “how we spend our non-working hours determines very largely how capably or incapably we spend our working hours.”
Many of the most successful people in the world are infamously known for their unique and serious hobbies. Warren Buffet plays the ukelele. Steve Wozniak engages in “Segway Polo”. Richard Branson loves the art of chess.
Almost every successful person, famous or not, has a hobby that they take pretty seriously. Getting out of the office is one reason these individuals seek the refreshment of these activities but they also cite the full engagement of the mind to be a distinct benefit of indulging in their chosen hobbies.
2. Very successful people make rest a priority
High achieving professionals are proactive about scheduling rest into their day. Unfortunately, most executives don’t get this right until everything goes very wrong. Burnout drives high achievers to extreme lengths of frustration, depression, and exhaustion. If the individual is receptive enough to change their behavior (and perhaps their environment) they often restructure their daily schedules to include serious and focused rest periods.
It should be noted that these deliberate rest periods are not “two-hour naps” but are most often some form of exercise, introspection/ meditation, or other relaxing non-pressure inducing activity that requires your mental effort. Engaging in deliberate rest is a brilliant way to detach from the current stress and mess of life and simply enjoy doing something you’re good at.
Exercise Idea💡 commit to having a “self-staff meeting” every Monday. During this meeting, make it a priority to schedule rest like you would schedule any other important objective.
“Deliberate rest helps you recover from the stresses and exhaustion of the day, allows new experiences and lessons to settle in your memory, and gives your subconscious mind space to keep working.” -Alex Pang
3. Very Successful people work in short sprints.
Accomplished individuals ensure that their schedules include sessions of heavily focused flow state work in conjunction with periodic rest. This Flow State work often referred to as deep work, is where all distractions are avoided and one is able to seriously engage with the task at hand.
These Flow State periods last roughly 4 hours and many leaders find mornings to be the best time to engage in this type of work. A great side-benefit to getting everything done essentially by noon is that you have the rest of the day is free to explore other interests.
Exercise Idea💡: set two timers for every activity you engage in- and I mean real timers, don’t just look at the clock, actually, set a timer before engaging in any activity (from exercise to conference calls). The first timer is the ⚠️ Warning timer, set this to go off 5 minutes before the 🛑 Stop timer.
The Warning timer gives you a heads up that you have 5 minutes left and you need to wrap whatever you’re doing. This prompts you to save your work or write that one last sentence because in 5 minutes you’re really going to stop working on that objective completely.
“Smart phones are just high-tech ways for people to distract you.” — Alex Pang
Alex Pang’s new book, “Shorter”, is about companies that have moved to 4-day weeks or 6-hour workdays. He describes how senior leadership teams are using design thinking to navigate and facilitate this type of change.
According to a recent study conducted by www.vouchercloud.com (the UK’s leading money-saving brand) workers in the UK report that they are only productive for roughly 2 hours and 53 minutes of their workday 😱.
If bad meetings, conference calls, and other productivity-sucking distractions can be eliminated, suddenly a 4-day work week looks a lot more doable.
In addition to his writing, Pang also has a masterclass on “The Power of Rest”.