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How doing less can help you accomplish more

A psychotherapist explains why you need rest and three ways to give yourself a needed break.

How doing less can help you accomplish more
[Source Photo: rawpixel]
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Don’t sleep on the power of rest. Our society may encourage hustle and grind as the only means to be productive but if you really want to maintain your well-being and efficiency, stop and rest. Sleep deprivation declines productivity and negatively impacts our health. Employees with fatigue are costing employers $136.4 billion a year in health-related lost productive time

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Many of us have a habit of pushing through. But working through our lunches and not taking small breaks can actually be very counterproductive. Pushing past our limits causes our productivity to take a nosedive, coupled with additional stress and eventually burnout.

Have you ever thought of rest as being productive? For many, rest seems like an aspirational word. It sounds good and easy in theory but difficult to apply. However, rest is part of the process and is integral to our journey to success.

We have to be intentional with implementing rest into our daily lives, otherwise, it just won’t happen. Using a productivity hack such as the Pomodoro Technique can help you regain some level of control over how you manage your time. It helps you prioritize your breaks, minimize distractions (which use up additional mental energy), and optimize your brain so you can be more efficient and productive. 

The technique can be broken down into five easy steps:

  1. Pick a task
  2. Set a 25-minute timer
  3. Work on your task until time is up
  4. Take a 5-minute break
  5. Every 4 Pomodoros, take a 15-to-30-minute break

This technique allows you to break down complex tasks and cluster small tasks together. The key is that you have to stay focused on that one Pomodoro. Even the smallest distraction can interrupt your workflow, so turn off your phone and email notifications. If there is a disruption, try to see how you can avoid it in your next session.

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Taking a break allows you to come back to a task with a different perspective. It gives your brain a chance to tap into clarity, creativity, and insight. Here are some other ways you can detach from work so that you can better connect later.

Set and maintain boundaries

Working from home became the norm for many during COVID-19 and it has become challenging for some to create healthy boundaries around work. With the lines now blurred, the 9-to-5 parameters have changed. Especially if you have young children at home.

Technology has allowed us to become easily accessible. The problem is, more often than not, people feel entitled to our time and expect an immediate response. The key thing to remember is to maintain boundaries around your time. Just because you are accessible does not make you available. Don’t feel rushed to reply to the email or text, even if you have the read receipt option on. Minimize stress and anxiety by practicing mindfulness and enjoy whatever you were doing before that call, text, or email came through; especially if it is after work hours and the weekend. Do this often enough and others will learn to adjust accordingly.

Take a nap

Want to decrease fatigue, enhance performance, and reduce mistakes? Try adding naps into your daily or weekly routine. Naps have restorative power. Even a 20-to-30-minute nap can effectively recharge your battery. Set an alarm and minimize distractions (similar to the Pomodoro Technique).

However, be mindful of when you take your nap. Notice when your brain naturally begins to tucker out and you are most sleepy. More than likely it’s around the same time every day. Knowing this, you can actually begin scheduling your naps into your workday.

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Move away from your desk

Getting up to stretch, going outside, and giving your eyes a break can be energizing. This is essential, especially for many who are working from home full time. It helps to get the blood circulating, which is good for your physical and brain health. If you choose to go outside, it provides a nice change in scenery. Doing this activity can help to decrease eye strain and bouts of fatigue. If you really want to be more productive and be creative, take these necessary breaks. You might be surprised at the clarity and insight that comes from stepping away from work.

Operating on fumes can leave you feeling stuck, take you longer to accomplish tasks, increase your mistakes, and minimize innovation. Our brains are like a machine, but we are not robots. Implementing rest periods, whether it’s via the Pomodoro Technique or some other methods, will help reduce fatigue and stress. This goes for parents with newborns, business executives, and seasoned truck drivers. When you make rest a priority, you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more you can accomplish by doing less.


Farah Harris is a psychotherapist and workplace wellness expert. She is the founder and CEO of WorkingWell Daily, a company committed to improving work environments by addressing work-life alignment, equity, and mental wellness. Find her on Twitter @farahharrislcpc