Prioritizing Clean Rest | SHW #2
One of the greatest gifts I've given to myself this year is more rest.
Not just any kind of rest. Clean rest. The kind of rest that truly refreshes and energizes you.
I learned about clean rest recently from Sam Laura Brown, co-host of the podcast The Perfectionism Project. I've learned a lot from her, but clean rest is probably one of the best tools I'll carry around with me for the rest of my life.
What is clean rest?
Put simply it's resting without guilt. It's less about the activity you're doing and more about the energy you're in while doing that activity. Because of this, clean rest looks very different for everyone.
For some, it might be energizing to clean up around the house or finish up a DIY project you've been working on.
For me, it looks more like playing video games, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
The most important part is that you're doing something that gives you energy, rather than depleting it, and you do it without the guilt of feeling like you should be doing something else.
It's most likely not going to be clean rest for you to sit on the couch, scrolling through Instagram while you think about how you should be getting some work done. Even though you're "resting" and not doing something traditionally productive, you won't really be filling your energy tank.
So why is getting clean rest so important?
There are a few different benefits I've gotten from my practice of clean rest.
Our brains need a break
Your brain is a muscle. It consumes a lot of energy every day. It needs a break and a source of fuel.
Think about this similarly to your body. Your body uses the energy you consume every day to mobilize you. Imagine if you spent all day walking and walking and never took a break to rest your legs or eat a meal. Eventually your body would give out on you.
Our minds work in a very similar way. If we're constantly working and putting our brain to use, eventually it's going to need to take a break and recharge. Sleeping is going to be the biggest way that we refuel, but even just taking our mind off of work and thinking about something less taxing is good for us.
I've found that there are diminishing returns when working. I can get about four hours of really focused work done every day. Anything past that, and the quality of my work begins to deteriorate as my brain loses energy. On top of that, I like to take at least one day each week completely off where I can fully recharge.
Figure out how much time you can really focus on something and stick to it. Any time past that, and you're likely better off stepping away and giving your mind some rest.
This is a huge one. For the longest time I had no idea that my inclinations to procrastinate had to do with not getting enough rest.
Often when we procrastinate, especially when it's the really important tasks that we actually want to do, it's our brain signaling to us it needs a break.
It wants a break, and so it forces us to have one by noodling on our phones or binging a tv show.
By giving myself more rest, I've largely eliminated procrastination from my life. The vast majority of the time, I'm able to get something done when I say I'm going to get it done. I don't beat around the bush. I just get to work.
This is because I make a plan ahead of time on how long I'm going to work on something and when the task is done, I stop. I don't fill my day with more and more things just because I technically have the time. I reward myself for following through with the plan with rest.
I've recently flipped my schedule upside down. I rest much, much more than I work and I get a lot more accomplished in those work hours.
Turns out when you're procrastinating 80% of the time, you're not getting much work done even though you sat at a desk for 8 hours.
If you're struggling with procrastination, more than likely, clean rest is the antidote.
Untangling my self-worth from my production
I know I'm not alone with this one. A lot of us create this narrative at a very young age that we are the results we produce. That our self-worth is determined by our accomplishments.
This is one of the most bullshit stories we develop as children. I've fought with it my entire life and it's created a lot of anxiety and feelings of not enough-ness.
When I take my clean rest, I like to do things completely unrelated to my job or any big goals I have for myself. I'll do things just for the fun of it with no motive in mind.
When I do this, I start to develop a deeper sense of self-worth. I see that I'm not just a software engineer or an artist. I'm also someone who enjoys a good story, likes to learn new languages, and has a deep connection with other people in my life.
I notice that my being on this earth is much more complex and multi-faceted than what I "do" for a living.
The narrative that I'm only as good as my latest accomplishment starts to collapse.
This is such a freeing and empowering feeling. It allows us to try new things, act courageously, and be okay with screwing up from time to time.
When we're not afraid that our worth as a person is going to be determined by our next success or failure, we can do and create greater things.
In this regard, clean rest is the best gift I could have given to myself as a creator and a human being in general.
Those are some of the big benefits of getting clean rest, but how can we practice this? If you're used to working yourself into the ground, implementing a habit of clean rest might not be the easiest thing in the world.
The best way I've been able to practice this is by scheduling my rest first.
Every week, I sit down and look at my calendar and decide what time I'm going to reserve for rest.
This took me a few weeks to get the hang of. Over time I started to notice what activities left me feeling the most drained and when I needed rest the most. I also saw patterns around where I can schedule my rest that aligns best with others.
The most important thing is to schedule it and commit to it. I don't allow myself to sneak in additional work during the times I'm supposed to be resting. That time is sacred and I take it seriously.
At first, you may experience some guilt during your rest. That's okay. Let it be okay.
Over time, your brain will start to get used to the practice and will take advantage of it instead of resisting it. You'll then be able to take the extra energy you gain from your rest time and use it to fuel your productivity. All while understanding that you're self-worth isn't tied to your accomplishments and you're a whole ass human being that matters outside of your work.
My wish to you this week:
Take a damn break, my friend. You need it and deserve it.
Best wishes 💜
P.S. I'm scheduling this to be published while I'm on a long vacation in California. It's nice to step away from work entirely and take some large chunks of time off as well. 🌴