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Why It’s Important To Relax And How It Can Make You More Productive

2013 September 3
by Zach

It is 8:27 am, and I am sitting in my hotel room in Clearwater, Florida, staring out at the ocean.  I am on vacation as I write this, and while I promised myself not to “work” on my vacation, I felt the urge to write and clear my mind.

In this post I want to share why I tell myself I will not “work” on vacation and why I force myself to take a vacation every year.

Me and Emme

Last year was the first official vacation Emme and I had taken in a few years.  This is largely because we are creatures of habit and getting out of our routine is not always comfortable for us.  Therefore, packing up and traveling somewhere to get away is not necessarily “relaxing”.  However, after our vacation to California last year I realized that this is something I need to do every year.

These vacations force me to get out of my routine, and while that is negative in some regards, it also has a lot of positives.

Vacations allow me to slow my mind.  I am able to read, write, and concentrate a lot more effectively.  For some reason, when I am at home in Indianapolis, my mind is not able to slow down and concentrate very easily.  I always have a million things running through my mind and cannot seem to slow them down.  I have only noticed this within the last few months, but it has gotten pretty bad.

By slowing my mind I am able to be more productive.  Before we set out on our vacations I always tell myself that I do not have to work and I put no pressure on myself to do so, but I often get several ideas that I just have to implement or write down (such as this one).  Once I start writing or working on these ideas they just seem to flow – I will often spend an hour or two each morning while Emme is still in bed.   This is largely because my mind is free and is better able to think.

The thing about it though is that I have fun with it and I enjoy it.  It does not feel like work.  If I am not enjoying what I am working on, I put it down and do something else.

I have also taken advantage of this extreme concentration and focus to read several books.  I am able to read so much faster and more effectively with a calm mind.  In the past few months, I have noticed my mind wandering and will have to backtrack to absorb what I read.  I know this is something I greatly need to improve upon if I wish to be more productive and stress-free.

I have read several articles and books on the topic of productivity and most will say that concentrated periods of work and effort are far more effective than long drawn out periods.  This is because your brain is not able to focus for large periods of time, especially with a lot of distractions.

By forcing yourself to work in shorter periods of time your brain will have more energy, and therefore be sharper; and you can eliminate a lot of distraction because you can tell yourself that you will have plenty of time for those later.

My good friend, Lance Goyke, just sent me a newsletter course from Scott Young on improving your ability to learn.  This dude took the entire 4-year curriculum of MIT’s computer science program in one year!  This is one of his secrets – high intensity periods of learning.  He would study for many hours everyday, but he forced himself to be done by 7pm everyday and took Saturday completely off.

This is where I go wrong in my efforts to get a lot of “work” done.  I always feel like I need to be doing something productive, but by thinking this way I never give my mind and brain a break. 

Look at this quote from the book, The Power of Full Engagement,

“At the most practical level, our capacity to be fully engaged depends on our ability to periodically disengage.  For most of us, this required an entirely new way of thinking about how to manage our energy.  Many of us treat life as a marathon that doesn’t end until it finally ends for good.  Along the way, we learn strategies for conserving our limited resources.  This may mean expending energy at a certain steady level at work but rarely fully engaging, or pushing very intensely on the job and then having little energy left to invest at home.  Or it may mean slowly disengaging in every sphere of life…” (38)

So why am I writing this?

Well, it is largely to explain why I think it is important to relax and be present/mindful.  If you are working, work, but if you are hanging with friends and family be in the moment and enjoy it.  I feel like so many people, myself included, are working themselves to death, and feel guilty for slowing down.  Like I said above, I often feel guilty if I am not working or doing something productive.  But it is okay to sit down and watch your favorite reality show if it helps you get your mind off of outside distractions.  As the authors of The Power of Full Engagement explain, we need periods of disengagement.

Emme and I started and just recently finished the t.v. series, Game Of Thrones.  We reserved it from the library and we would watch one or two episodes most Sundays.  It was a great way for me to give my mind and brain a chance to relax.  By the way, I highly recommend it.

Any recommendations for what we should watch next?  We are leaning towards Breaking Bad?

Relaxing with a glass of wine and a crossword puzzle

Relaxing with a glass of wine and a crossword puzzle

A few more random thoughts:

I am going to begin practicing meditation.  Meditation has been shown to improve your ability to focus and concentrate, largely by teaching people to calm their minds at will.

I tried meditation a few months ago for about three weeks, but then decided I did not have enough time for 10 minutes a day!  That is ridiculous.  I am going to get back on it and start at 5 minutes a day, working my way up as I see fit.

I am also not going to force myself to write unless I have the urge.  I feel like this has been putting unwanted stress on me, and I feel like my writing and content has suffered because of it.  When I have the urge to write, or when I have something to say, I will say it.  But in the meantime, I am going to keep hammering on my eBook (be on the lookout – I just need to finish up the filming) and learning as much as possible to help boost my creativity, and ultimately, help me help you.

The last book I just read encouraged the reader to wake up everyday and ask yourself, “Who can I help today?” or “How can I enhance the lives of others today?”  I want my work to help others, and my blog is a big outlet for my work, so I will continue to improve at my craft and provide good information for you.

Hope you had a great holiday!!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. September 4, 2013

    I had a raunchy therapeutic blog for a few years. I walked away after I realized writing felt more like a chore than an outlet. Kudos for following your gut and continually pursuing balance. It’s an elusive trickster, indeed! I’m glad you got away to Florida. And I can’t wait to sport one of the new tanks! :)

    • September 5, 2013

      Yes, balance is definitely not an easy thing. You will definitely get a tank top when they come in!

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