Do you like your job? Then work less!

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The harder you work, the less efficient you become

We have this modern myth that the harder we work the more successful we become. The road to our goals is paved with 12 hour workdays, working on weekends and not taken holidays. The more we grind our teeth in being exhausted, the tougher and more successful we become. Science and human behaviour do not support this. 

One of my favourite buddhist sayings is:

Don’t just do something, sit down.

Apparently Buddhists and science believe in relaxing. Let’s see why!

How do you exhaust yourself?

Nathaniel Kleitman sleep researcher found that beyond our sleep cycles during daytime we also follow 90-minute cycles. This is called Ultradian rhythm in the fluctuation of our energy level. Every 90 minutes our attention wanes, we become less vivid, lose focus (this is very true for me) or become hungry. These are all signs of exhaustion and have the same meaning: our body and mind is ready to take a break.

One of the most famous research in this field was conducted by Anders Ericsson who discovered that the highest performing musicians, athletes, chess-players and writers exercise the same way. Mostly in the morning, in 3 practices of no more than 90 minutes each and hold breaks between them.

In our daily lives we try to cheat ourselves through these breaks that would be important for our body and mind with coffee, tea, snacking, social media and some stress hormones. When we deny ourself resting then we start using our energy reserves and activate our sympathetic nervous system. This is the same reaction that happens in our bodies in real danger. Doesn’t seem healthy or necessary in the middle of our workday does it?

The more you rest the better you perform

Resting is part of the ideal operation of the human organism. To perform well on the long term we must stop after hard work, rest and restore and work hard again. The more time you spend working hard the more time you must spend restoring your energy reserves. If you want to perform really well then don’t manage your time, manage your energy.

Resting itself is the work

What if you started thinking about resting differently? As a tool that helps you become more efficient in work. A research found 40% of our creative ideas come up when we take a break. Finally I can rest assured it’s not only me who gets inspiration while taking a shower or a walk. Another research found those too perform better after taking a break who love their jobs.

Sleep might be the biggest victim of our constantly active and performance-fetished world. Sleep isn’t inefficient. This is when your energycells reload after a hard day of work, you repair damaged cells and build new ones. It is during sleep when what you’ve learned during the day integrates into your work memory. This is how you can recall and implement what you’ve learned. If you don’t sleep enough your exhausted neurons will behove uncontrolled and you’ll have difficulty recalling what you’ve learned. Look at me encouraging you to sleep as if it were something bad. Arianna Huffington wrote a whole book about the importance of sleep (The Sleep Revolution) in which she explains that although we sacrifice sleep in return for productivity we end up losing 11 days’ worth of work in a year due to exhaustion and its effects.

Relax because you love your work

We often exhaust ourselves because we love what we do. If you want to keep loving it on the long run and avoid exhaustion and burn out then start thinking about resting as part of your job.

Sleep at least 7 hours, exercise anything – yes, walking also counts – and hold breaks. Resting is part of sustainable and efficient work. Resting itself is the work.

Resting actively increases your performance, strengthens your immune system and helps your creativity. Why would you give up on such a tool?


Do you like your job? Then work less!