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Rest

Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
13-minute read
Audio available
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Rest (2016) takes aim at the common misconception that the longer we work, the more we’re able to get done. Written by a Silicon Valley strategist whose punishing regimen of long office hours brought him perilously close to a burnout, this empirically grounded study turns that idea on its head. Hitting your targets and achieving success isn’t about grinding out endless hours at your desk – it’s about finding the best time to work, getting enough rest and nurturing your creativity.

  • Anyone working at a startup
  • Creatives
  • Workaholics

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is the founder of the Restful Company, a consultancy firm based in Silicon Valley that teaches organizations how to cultivate a better work-life balance through talks and workshops. A visiting fellow at Stanford University, Pang is the author of The Distraction Addiction. He has also written for Slate, Wired, Atlantic Monthly and Scientific American.

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Rest

Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

By Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Synopsis

Rest (2016) takes aim at the common misconception that the longer we work, the more we’re able to get done. Written by a Silicon Valley strategist whose punishing regimen of long office hours brought him perilously close to a burnout, this empirically grounded study turns that idea on its head. Hitting your targets and achieving success isn’t about grinding out endless hours at your desk – it’s about finding the best time to work, getting enough rest and nurturing your creativity.

Key idea 1 of 8

Boost your creativity by getting an early start, then work for around four hours.

Eight hours of work a day sometimes just doesn’t feel like enough. Surely you have to put a longer shift in if you want to become the next New York Times best seller, right?

Well, not quite. What really makes the difference isn’t how much you work, but when you work.

The best time to get to work is in the morning. If you really want to boost your creative output, you need a routine that starts in the early hours. Getting up at the crack of dawn gives you space to reflect on your work without the hustle and bustle of everyday life getting in the way.

Take it from Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip.

He’s been getting up at five in the morning every day for the past twenty years. The first thing he does is drink a cup of coffee and eat a protein bar. That’s the perfect breakfast to set him up for the next four hours of drawing, answering emails and taking care of administrative chores.

After that, his creative energy is spent so he hits the gym to lift weights.

This routine has more than paid off. Dilbert has been syndicated by two thousand newspapers in 65 countries. Adams has also written five comic books, nine nonfiction titles and produced both a TV show and a movie.

The key to his success is spending those first four hours working deliberately, then planning for some downtime afterward.

That’s because it’s much more effective to work intensely for a shorter period of time than to work half-heartedly for the whole day. That also frees up more time to pursue your hobbies, go for a walk or just take a nap.

Researchers at a music conservatory in Berlin came to the same conclusion when they looked into students’ practicing habits in the 1980s.

All the best young musicians practiced for four hours a day and slept an hour longer than their peers. Like Adams, they worked most intensely in the morning. After that, they napped and did some lighter practicing in the evening.

You can put that insight into practice even if you don’t have the luxury of clocking in and out of your job as you please. Just make sure you’re fully focused on your work in the morning and take a break at lunch to rejuvenate.

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