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Good Read: Rest


 

Recently between feedings, naps, and reading before bed, when I can, I recently finished reading, Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.  It was a good read and also enlightening and insightful, especially entering this year, 2019, where I hope to make more time for rest, despite having a baby, where things always seem quite busy.  The premise of the book is how rest and work are integrally connected and that you actually can be more creative and efficient when one gets proper rest.  I highly recommend it, for all, especially creative persons!  It certainly changed my perspective on rest, work, and creativity.  I think dogs have a great perspective on rest that we can learn from as well!  Some favorite quotes from this book are shown below!

“…it is not constant effort that delivers results but a kind of constant, patient, unhurried focus that organizes the investigator’s attention when at work and is present but watchful during periods of ease.  Devoting yourself only to the first and neglecting the second might make you more productive in the short run but will make your work less profound in the long run.”

“Figures as different as Charles Dickens, Henri Poincaré, and Ingmar Bergman, working in disparate fields in different times, all shared a passion for their work, a terrific ambition to succeed, and an almost super human capacity to focus.  Yet when you look closely at their daily lives, they only spent a few hours a day doing what we would recognize as their most important work.  The rest of the time, they were hiking mountains, taking naps, going on walks with friends, or just sitting and thinking.  Their creativity and productivity, in other words, were not the result of endless hours of toil.  Their touring creative achievements result from modest ‘working’ hours.”

“We think of routine as the opposite of creativity: things done by routine require little thought and leave no room for creative interpretation of flexibility.  In reality, German sociologists Sandra Ohly, Sabine Sonnentag, and Franziska Pluntke argue, routines can enhance creativity.”

“A combination of routine and freedom, a world laid out to support creative work while reducing unnecessary distractions and peripheral decisions, nicely describes the world that focused moorings and routines make.  And if creativity is supported by routine, rest is absolutely dependent on it.”

“In order to keep rest from being invaded by work or crowded our of your day by a long to-do list, you need to use your routine like a fortification to protect your time.  That same routine also lets you get more done and makes you more creative.  It’s another example of how work and rest are subtly connected and mutually reinforcing.”

“Naps can provide an opportunity to have new ideas.  The studies show that you can learn to time your nap to increase the creative boost that it provides, make it more physically restorative, or probe the traffic between the conscious mind and unconscious mind.  Napping, in other words, turns out to be a skill.”

“Frank Lloyd Wright likewise advised architecture students that in the afternoon ‘a short nap was a must,’ as it ‘divided one day into two and helped to refuel the creative spirit.'”

“Dalí argues that the real work of painting happens while the artist sleeps, particularly in the nights before starting a new painting.  He urges readers not to regard this sleep as a period of ‘inactivity and indifference.’  To the contrary: ‘It’s precisely during this sleep,’ he says, ‘that you will secretly in the very depths of your spirit, solve most of its subtle and complicated technical problems, which in your state of waking consciousness you would never be humanly capable of solving.’  It is in the dream that ‘the principal part — that is to say the sleep — of the work is already done.'”

“Naps are powerful tools for recovering our energy and focus.  We can even learn to tailor them to give us more of a creative boost, or provide more physical benefit, or explore the ideas that emerge at the boundary between consciousness and sleep.”

“The deliberate stop also makes you more productive over the long run.  Many writers start their careers believing that the best work is done in bursts of inspiration only to discover that they do higher-quality work and get more done if they pace themselves.”

“Creative work is a marathon, not a sprint, as writer (and marathoner) Haruki Murakami put it.  In both running and writing, ‘once you set the pace, the rest will follow,’ Murakami says.  ‘The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed — and get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.”‘

“Whether they’ve looked at memories of creative people or measured the effectiveness of breaks on performance on divergence tests, they’ve found that breaks provide a fairly consistent boost to creative thinking.”

“But you don’t do great work by sprinting to the finish; you’re more likely to accomplish great things by stopping at a strategic point and continuing the next day.”

“Sleep turns out to be important for the maintenance of the brain’s physical health and the growth of new brain cells.  It’s essential for the consolidation of memories and processing of new skills, and for the interpretation of experiences.”

“Sabbaticals give creative people a chance to reanimate their creative lives, explore new interests, and make life-changing breakthroughs.  Together, they help intelligent, ambitious people stay curious, engaged, and productive, and help them lead long creative lives.”

“At first, researchers mainly investigated the benefits of exercise for healthy aging, but studies now show that for people of any age, gender, or athletic ability, exercise can increase brain power, boost intelligence, and provide the stamina and psychological resilience necessary to do creative work.”

“Exercise generally has indirect but positive effects on creativity.”

“Workaholics are more likely than other people to feel anxiety about work when they’re out of the office, and exercise provides an outlet for nervous energy and a different focus for mental energy.”

“We shouldn’t be surprised that people manage to be physically active and do world-class work.  We should recognize that they do world-class work because they are physically active.”

“Because play is voluntary, intrinsically rewarding, mentally and physically engaging, and imaginative, it’s often absorbing and effortless; even when it’s physically challenging or uncomfortable, it’s not difficult in the same way a hard day at work is.”

“Deep play is a critical form of deliberate rest and an essential part of the lives of creative people.  It provides a way to unify what might otherwise be disparate and scattered activities into a unified whole, a life that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

“For creative and prolific people, seeing outside activities as expressions of the same interests that guide their professional lives builds a bridge between the worlds of work and rest and help turn these activities into deep play.”

“Deep play is also striking because even if it speaks to the same profound interests and uses common skills, it also establishes clear boundaries between work and play.”

“Sabbaticals can also play a critical but easily overlooked role in one’s intellectual development.  These don’t have to be the scheduled well-organized sabbaticals that are a prized feature of academic life.  Some of the most powerful life-changing sabbaticals are relatively short.”

“The most fruitful sabbaticals, like other forms of deliberate rest, are active.”

“Yet a weeklong sabbatical can be restorative when done skillfully, and even a monthlong sabbatical can be life-changing.”

“A life that takes rest seriously is not only a more creative life.  When we take the right to rest, when we make rest fulfilling, and when we practice rest through our days and years, we also make our lives richer and more fulfilling.”

“Taking rest seriously requires recognizing its importance, claiming our right to rest, and carving out and defending space for rest in our daily lives.”

“Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence work or something that we hope to get sometime.  It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.”

“Deliberate rest help organize your life.  It also helps calm your life.”

“Deliberate rest helps cultivate calm.  It deepens your capacity to focus, which helps you complete urgent tasks while driving off anxiety.  It encourages you to work steadily rather than wait for a burst of inspiration.”

“Deliberate rest also gives you more time.  At an everyday level, deliberate rest helps you work more effectively.  It frees time in your calendar by helping you maintain stricter boundaries between work and rest time, and use your leisure time in more fulfilling ways.  By helping you find forms of rest that don’t compete with work, deep play and deliberate rest reduces your sense of time pressure.”

“Finally, deliberate rest helps you live a good life.”

“Rest is not idleness.  When we treat rest as work’s equal and partner, recognize it as a playground for the creative mind and springboard for new ideas, and we see it as an activity that we can practice and improve, we elevate rest into something that can help calm our days, organize our lives, give us more time, and help us achieve more while working less.”

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