One Pager: Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

The paperback copy of Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

I have taken an entire book and distilled it down to one page for two reasons. First, to share the knowledge and second, to help my own absorption of it. Note that if I think the book is worth summarizing, I think it’s worth reading. I encourage you to do so if this piqued your interest.

Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in one sentence: To maximize the quality of your creative output, aim to work 4 hours in the early part of the day with time for sleep, streneous exercise, and deep play in the remaining hours.

“World-class performance comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest and 30,000 hours of sleep.”

Biggest takeaways from Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

1. Aim for 4 hours of work per day, in 90-minute blocks, preferably beginning in the early hours of the day. Discipline with your time, focus, routine clear goals, and more deliberate practice will provide efficient use of fewer hours, giving you more time to “rest” during the remainder of the day.

2. Rest according to Pang, includes strenuous physical activity and actually encourages action. Really, at the heart of it, rest seems to be a synonym for anything non-work related including exercise, play, and sleep.

3. Creatives produce their best work in the early hours, even night owls. You have a clearer head, more intelligent and are more confident first thing in the morning. Save the exercise for the end of the day.

4. Walking is a wonderful stimulator for creative thinking. Try and include walks in your schedule every day. (Not the best for focused, analytical thinking)

5. You will do better work if you pace your self instead of working in high energy bursts. Always stop working in the middle of a thought. You want to see your next move, have a little energy left and leave a little unfinished.

6. Detachment from work regularly is essential to avoid burnout. Instead of one big vacation a year, aim for multiple small ones. Day 8 is when peak happiness occurs on vacation anyway, it’s all downhill from there. Happiness post vacation lasts 3-4 months.

7. Breaks during the day are as important as vacations. Exercise, hobbies that are challenging mentally, physically and meaningful are essential.

8. Exercise has indirect but positive effects on creativity. Aerobic exercise improves memory. Strenuous exercise both reduces stress and retrains your body’s reaction to stressors, improving your capacity to handle stress.

9. Busy people need to cultivate forms of rest but are temperamentally unable to do nothing. Painting, puzzles, and exercise such as mountain climbing are an effective form of resting for them.

10. Taking time for deep, engrossed work, free of distraction and on a particular subject (aka a sabbatical) is a form of rest. Everyone whose job description includes ‘thinking’ or coming up with ideas in their job description will benefit from a sabbatical. The most fruitful sabbaticals are away from home, active and free of schedules.

Final thoughts: the premise of the book is aimed at those who work is to think and create. This allows a schedule that as long as the work is getting done, can be modified. The examples were of those who were/are writers, scientists, engineers, and CEOs. The idea that one can work from 6-10 am while the remainder of the day is filled with exercise, long walks, and sleep is not something that is possible in all fields. Pang does offer a solution for this though and that is taking sabbaticals.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The research behind it impressive and I found myself relating much of it with how my work life of almost 20 years in creative work has looked. There were parts that answered my questions about why certain habits so increased flow and productivity.

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