The Working With... Podcast | Episode 24 | Finding Time For Rest And Relaxation

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In this week’s episode of The Working With… Podcast I answer a question about rest and relaxation.

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Hello and welcome to episode 24 of my Working With Podcast. A podcast created to answer all your questions about productivity, GTD, self-development and goal planning. My name is Carl Pullein and I am your host for this show.

This week, it’s time to take a rest, well okay maybe not for me, but this week’s question is all about the importance of being well rested so you can get the important work done. 

Before we get into the question, if you have a question about productivity, time management, goal planning and getting the important things done, then please get in touch either by email or by DMing on Twitter or Facebook. I will be more than happy to answer your questions. 

And one more thing, for those of you enrolled in my Your Digital Life 2.0 Online course, I have now released the second supplemental class which you can watch right now. In this class, I take you through how I do my Golden 10 every evening. 

Okay, let's get it to the question, so it is now time for me to hand you over the mystery podcast voice for this week’s question…

This week’s question comes from Sander. Sander asks:

Hi Carl, I have a real problem with taking rest at the right times. I am a graduate student and when I am under pressure writing my assignments and other university work, I find I always sit down to write when I am tired. Do you have any tips on getting the right amount of rest and doing work when I am not tired?

Thank you, Sander for your wonderful question. 

One of the most important things you can do is to analyse when you at your most effective. On this everybody is different. Some people do their best work in the mornings, others find the afternoons or evenings are best for them. There really is no standard here. What you need to do is to analyse yourself for a few days and see when you feel most alert.

The funny thing here is even if you believe you are a night person, you may find you do your best work in the morning. I found that out. I have always been a bit of a night owl and so I naturally thought I would do my best, creative work in the evenings. This was not true. I discovered that the best times of the day for me to write or create something was between 8:30am and 12:00pm. After lunch, I find it is very difficult to remain focused on a single piece of work. I find the evenings are the best time for me to study something or read a book. The afternoons are disaster zones for me. So, I schedule my exercise for the afternoons and after dinner I do my basic admin tasks and learn something.

I started a new routine this year to study something every evening between 10:30 and 11pm. This studying can be anything I am in the mood for. So for example, after reading about Elon Musk’s passion for going to Mars, I spent a whole week watching videos and reading about Mars. Likewise a few weeks ago I went through many of Robin Sharma’s Mastery series of videos. Originally I was going to do this Sunday to Thursday and give myself Friday and Saturday nights off. However, I am enjoying it so much, I now do it 7 days week and the notes I write as I learn go straight in to my journal. My journal is filling up with so much valuable learning. It’s great fun and incredibly educational. 

What you can learn from this is that once you have found when you do you best work you can then schedule the work around it. You can do this even if you work a traditional nine til five office job. If you find you do your most creative work in the mornings, then schedule creative work for mornings. Resist any meetings if you can and just focus on the work. If, like me you find afternoons are difficult to focus, then you can do basic admin tasks, return phone calls and reply to emails in the afternoons. The non-creative tasks that just need doing. 

There is something else I have learned over the years. Take a nap in the afternoon. I learnt this from Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill was famous for taking naps every afternoon. He would retire to his bedroom around 3PM and sleep until 5PM. Now, I know not many of us could get away with sleeping for ninety minutes every afternoon, but just twenty minutes can do the trick. Winston Churchill said that by taking a nap every afternoon he could get a day and half’s worth of work done every day, and Winston Churchill was a prodigious producer of work. He wrote around 33 books in 51 volumes, he was always writing articles and he was the Prime Minister of the Britain for a total of ten years. He had time to write, paint, be a politician and have two hour lunches and 3 hour dinners. And we complain about not having enough time to socialise! He socialised for 5 hours every day, had time to nap for 90 minutes and still got a huge amount of work done without the aid of a single computer. 

There is definitely something in taking a nap every day. I try to have a nap for 30 minutes every afternoon. I know I am lucky, I have complete control of my schedule, but you should try it if you can. It certainly boosts your creative energies and helps you get through the day. 

The funny thing about taking naps every day is I found out that Ian Fleming, the creator and author of the James Bond novels, also used to take naps in the afternoon. Fleming would write between 8am and 12pm every day for six to eight weeks as he wrote a book. He would then have lunch and afterwards take a nap. He would return to writing around 4pm and work until 6pm when he would stop for dinner and socialising. There seems to be a connection between taking naps and socialising every day and pushing out a huge volume of work. If you can you should try it. 

The thing is, if you are serious about getting your important work done then you need to find out when you are at your most creative. Experiment with different times of the day and once you know when you are at your most energetic and can easily move into your focus zone start using your calendar to schedule you most difficult, creative work at those times in your calendar. If necessary, talk to your boss about this. I have found if you have a good boss and they are understanding they will help you. Your boss wants you to be doing your best work every day, so they are going to want to help you. I find most people never talk to their bosses about this because they don’t think their boss will understand and end up blaming them for not being able to get their work done. If it’s an issue, talk to your boss! 

Your calendar is really the most powerful tool you have for getting you motivated to do the right work at the right time. I schedule all my writing tasks in my calendar because that’s when I need to be at my most focused. I also schedule my workouts and other important work in my calendar because I have a very important rule: If it’s on my calendar, it gets done.  That rule enables me to treat my calendar as my time manager. It only allows me to schedule work over a period of 24 hours. This prevents me from over-scheduling and helps me to make sure I am getting enough rest between heavy workload sessions. By that I mean if I have scheduled a big writing session between 8am and 12pm, I know not to schedule more writing for the afternoon. If I did, I would not get much quality writing done and it would be a waste of time. I would be much better scheduling some physical work instead, such as a workout or house work. Then early evening, I could do some more writing work. My brain would be well rested and ready to attack another session of writing. 

Over the years I have learnt that by doing a weekly review on a Sunday I can see the big picture of the work I want to get done for the following week. This allows me to schedule sessions of work throughout the week based on my appointments and where I need to be on specific days. So, if I were trying to finish the preparation for an online course, I would look at my calendar for the following week and find the time where I will be able to sit down in a morning and do the outline and preparation. I would also be looking at my calendar for times when I could do the recording of the course and all the other parts involved in developing a big project like this. It’s my calendar that helps me to know when a project like this can be completed by. My to-do list manager only tells me what needs doing next. It does not tell me how much time each piece of work will take, or how much time I have to complete a piece of work. My advice is use your calendar strategically. It can really help you to make sure you are getting the important work done. 

Hopefully, that has given you a few ideas to work with Sander. Remember, the best thing you could do right now is to figure out when you are at your most creative. Once you know that, you can utilise the power of your calendar to make sure you are doing your important work at those times every day. Even thirty minutes are better than no minutes. 

Thank you very much for listening to this show. If you liked what you heard, please share it with as many people as you can. I want to help as many people as I can to become super-productive and get their best work done. 

It just remains for me now to wish you all a very very productive week.