How to Bring Your Superpowers to Work – Tip #5: Get Some Rest

Here’s the fifth tip in our series on How to Bring Your Superpowers to Work. If you’ve missed any so far, you can catch up below!

Tip #5: Get Some Rest

“Rest?” you might exclaim. “How can I rest when there’s so much to do??” In fact, many people assume that the advice to “bring your superpowers to work” means behaving all fired-up,  leaping tall buildings and such.  But in my experience,  if you want to wear your Red Cape and soar through your work and life, no matter what your superpowers are, I say you need to get some rest.

Rest is not luxury anymore. There’s definitive neurological research (that means brain, people) that proves how working with less than five hours of sleep a night is actually as diminished as if you were driving under the influence of cocktails. Other research is starting to show how lack of rest will not only cause distraction, which can be dangerous, but can also start to cause brain damage.

I was reminded again about the importance of rest when reading an article on the 2010 Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people. While several issues appeared to come into play to create this tragedy, the one that keeps popping up is the issue of pilot fatigue, or not enough rest.

The Wall Street Journal quoted a memo from Colgan management to pilots stating “frivolous [fatigue] calls are now the majority.” The article said the memo “concluded that ‘blatant abuse’ of time-off requests ‘at the expense of our customers and our operational reliability is not an acceptable practice,’ and will prompt speedy disciplinary action.” So, it’s like mom saying “don’t tell me you’re tired–clean your room or else!”

So what’s a gal (or pilot?) to do? Are our employers able to determine whether we’re really tired–or we’re being lazy? Every workplace wants its people to show up bright-eyed and sharp–but can we assess exhaustion versus incompetence? What’s more, do we have the sensitivity to ask, or the patience to find out?

Thankfully, no one will get injured when I’m tired in my workplace. But it makes me less creative, less prolific, and contributing less value to my clients, audiences, and community. That in itself says it’s time for a rest.

Contrary to how we’re living these days, human beings are not computers. We can’t run 24/7.  (I’m not even sure my computer can do that—it gets all hot and cranky, too.) It’s easy to think we can push a little more, get up a little earlier, work a little later. We tell ourselves we’ll catch up on the weekends, on vacation, when we retire. Yea, right–in the meantime, we suffer.

Author and researcher Tony Schwartz offers great insights about these attitudes based on his work with high-end sports performers as well as corporate execs. Tony teaches that we tend to live our life as a marathon, when our bodies and minds are actually built for sprints. We perform best when we go all out and focused for a short period of time, have a break or rest, and then go all out and focused again. And, instead of wasting time, this strategy makes us more focused and productive. Tony says that he wrote his book [amazon_link id=”1451610262″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]“Be Excellent at Anything,”[/amazon_link] in less than half the time than his previous book because he used sprints and rest instead of treating the book as a marathon.

Ways to Get More Rest

So, are you getting enough rest? If you’re like most in my audiences when I ask this question, you quietly smile and shake your head. “I’ve got four kids,” one woman in Nashville said. “Rest isn’t an option for me.”

I’m going to disagree—in fact, for that Music City mom, I think getting more rest is even more important than ever. Notice that I didn’t say “getting more sleep,” which we often hear (and write off as a platitude just like “eat healthy” and “exercise more”–all true but easier said than done).  Sleep is important, and there’s tons of great content written about how to get a better night’s sleep (my tools: opting for a dark room even though I thought I liked the moonlight and an IPod playlist of free sleep meditations and lyric-free music to settle an overworked brain.)

In my experience, sleep can be elusive and hard to do in the middle of the day (not impossible, entrepreneur Ali Brown swears by her naps).  But rest can be planned.

If you want to bring your superpowers to work, I challenge you to find those little spaces in your day where you can get some rest, in a way that’s restful to you, such as:

  • My friend John, who sits in his car after lunch and spends ten minutes listening to loud rock & roll.
  • My client Amy, who plans an extra 15 minutes for any meeting on the other side of her work campus so she can walk outside on her back.
  • My friend Nick, who takes a seat in the lunchroom nearest the window to watch the birds visit the feeder;
  • My former colleague (who shall remain nameless) who uses the bathroom in the lobby instead of using the facilities on her floor so that she has a reason to walk the stairs a few times a day, breathe a little deeper and collect her thoughts along the way.

What’s the way that you can get some rest? What actions hit your restart button when your energy is low? Work those little moments, those brief segments, into your day. It can be as easy as setting a timer for one minute and closing your eyes. Try it yourself—a minute can actually be a mighty long time.

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