The power of deliberate rest is immense. Research findings after research findings prove this beyond doubt. The simple facts are we all need time off. We know this, yet it is shockingly difficult to achieve.
Constant social media notifications, endless email pings and a chorus of phone calls invade every millisecond of our awake time. These time destroyers are at once the reason we are busy and the reason we get nothing done.
How, then, is it possible to get deliberate rest that leads to true recovery and relaxation in this hyper-connected workplace?
This is a conundrum I faced personally. A hectic work schedule sometimes across seven days, two small children and managing a new business meant there were simply not enough hours in the day. My husband, also self-employed, felt the same. We were both working long hours (even in our down time) and constantly on our phones, haunted by the never ending trail of unanswered emails, endless to-do lists and a pile of admin work to complete. At times sleep seemed a luxury, not to mention the notion of daily deliberate rest.
On the whim of a New Year’s resolution, we had booked a holiday which arrived too quickly. We toyed with the idea of cancelling but decided to go because the guilt associated with disappointing our children was too much. Both working day and night to get ‘ready’ for our holiday we literally threw clothes into suitcases as we left for the airport.
Exhausted but on our way, we knew we badly needed a rest. In the car, I put an out of office response on my email which read
‘I am taking a rest, I have absolutely no access to emails, my phone or social media. However, I will get back to you upon my return’. I wasn’t sure if I could follow through on it but I activated the out of office and decided to do my best. We then made the decision to put our phones on flight mode and watch no TV for the next 10 days and nights.
It was wildly difficult. Without a doubt, we were bored, on more than one occasion, and deprived of distraction, we felt uncomfortable. As this awkward feeling passed we quickly began to enjoy old-fashioned boredom. Sitting down with a coffee and doing nothing, watching nothing, not deciding which filter to use was liberating.
We grew into rest in the super idyllic and blissful surroundings of The Martinhal Sagres. Myself and my girls had a manicure, we did a cycling tour, dipped in and out of the water, ate when we felt like it, sat down when we felt like it, slept when we felt like it, and the children played all day long. While The Martinhal is beyond set up for children it has a further magical power. A magical power that brings something hugely significant – permission. Permission for weary parents to rest. And through that permission, I learned a much bigger lesson– taking a rest is a choice.
Yes, we were on holidays in a magnificent place with access to Wi-Fi. 24/7 connectivity was possible but the simple fact remains – we chose not to connect. Flight mode can be activated anywhere at any time. Yet I never activated it, in fact, I was so busy it never occurred to me. Disconnected rest is a deliberate choice
Determined to effect change my phone now goes on flight mode when I pick up my girls. I no longer use my phone as an alarm and we have two TV-free evenings per week. The outcome? The research was right. I sleep better, I get more done and somehow, I have more time. I have in no way neglected my business, myself, my family or life. In fact, I would argue taking dedicated distraction free rest has positively fueled each of these aspects of my life.
Making the choice to set aside daily time to rest is not easy. It is uncomfortable and at times really boring. It is, however, possible and practical once you prioritise it. While everyone’s circumstances are different, it is possible to find dedicated disconnected time. It might be the first hour of your day, perhaps it’s dinner time, or if you are lucky it might be for a few hours every evening. You might decide to have a date night that involves no T.V., turn off social media notifications or dedicate two working hours during which you respond to no emails.
The benefits of dedicated rest over constant distraction are immense. So, here’s my challenge to you – take one week, choose a time every day to disconnect and rest. Work through that uncomfortable feeling and test the research yourself. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?
By Sinead Brady