The Importance of Rest and Recovery
“Rest and be thankful”
Firstly, we would like to send our apologies for the lack of content on our blog for the past couple of weeks and perhaps this blog can help us explain. Today we would like to talk about the yin and yang of life. Learning how to rest and recover so you can be productive with much more intensely when you have to be.
Over the past few weeks, I (Daniel) have been traveling, playing golf up and down the East coast of America. Long drives of up to 20 hours, little rest or time to myself and below average nutrition led to an almighty collapse of my immune system during the trip. After about 7 days of the 10-day trip, I began feeling ill and just over a week later and many days stuck in bed/on the couch, I’m finally beginning to feel like myself again. So apart from losing a week in my life, what could I possibly learn from this latest crash of mine?
Well, let’s begin to explore where this might have come from. In my opinion, a lot of my problems would’ve stemmed from weeks/months of going 60-80% all of the time. What do I mean by this? Well during Conor McGregor’s preparation for the Nate Diaz rematch, he realized that his preparation for the first fight couldn’t have been worse. He rocked into the gym at whatever time, stayed there all day doing bits and pieces of everything and there was no specific structure to his days or his life. Was he working hard? Yes, of course. But he was working hard in the wrong ways. As he explained himself, there were no definitive start or end times to his training sessions nor was there any specific training set for him to do. Therefore he got to the gym and kind of went at 60% for a long period of time which took a massive toll on his body and his ability to endure a 5 round fight. During his preparation for his rematch, however, he did everything he needed to do to prepare him for a 25-minute war inside the octagon. He began each session and ended each session at a particular time and he had a full rest day every 3-5 days and this was the key. He would go 100% during his training sessions in anticipation for his rest day, which he felt he had earned. And when you feel like you’ve earned a day off, you no longer feel guilty when you take a day off which we all fall victim to. Once a week, he would do a simulation of the actual fight day, in which he would do everything identical to what he would do on the day of the fight. He would get up at the same time, eat the same meals, go to the gym at the time he would go to the arena and then spar a 5 round war with a training partner. Everything was specific and down to a tee.
So what relevance does this have to my life? As I said, I went at 60-80% all day for many weeks in a row and although there were days off in between, there weren’t real days off because the guilt would wear me down just as much as a hard training/practice session if not more. This then leads to a lack of motivation and the feeling of being worn out, but all the while, you know you’ve just had a day off and practice must begin again tomorrow. In turn, between the mental warfare, the long and not so productive days on top of probably a lack of sleep and quality rest, your immune system takes a hit like no other and you become constrained to your bed for a week.
If you were to look at your life as a heart and your days as the heartbeat, you might notice something. What I noticed is that the heart doesn’t work at 10,20,30 or 80% all the time. What the heart does is works at 100% for a pulse, and then it rests, and then repeats until one day it stops for good. That can equate to your creative life in the same way. If you can find a way to do work, in short, productive pulses, you’ll not only get more done but you’ll feel fresher for longer. Keep reading for tips on how to do so.
In order to enhance your creative life and those creative bursts in your life, you need to cultivate intense focus. Josh Waitzkin talks on the Tim Ferriss Podcast about being able to turn focus on and off so intensely that Marcello Garcia, one of the greatest grapplers of all time was asleep in the minutes before his biggest ever fight. He says he could wake up and just turn it on and that using intense interval training can help you accomplish that.
Interval training can help you cultivate the idea of turning it on and off very intensely. Your only focus in the 45 seconds between sets is to get your breath back and get your heart rate back down as low as you can before going again. Apart from the obvious benefits on the mind that exercise has, interval training, if done correctly can help you immensely in turning your focus on and off. Kind of like the way Conor McGregor changed his training approach but on a micro level. Beginning with interval training or intense focus periods followed by release periods can help you on the road to mastering your creative life.
Another big concern of mine that I noticed about myself this weekend was the inability to switch off. Obviously being sick, I wasn’t in much of a state to go anywhere or do anything and it came at the perfect time, to be honest, because the Ryder Cup was on. I sat all day Friday to Sunday watching it but during that time I noticed something. Although I was lying on the couch ‘relaxing’, I was never really relaxed. Every advert that came on, I grabbed my phone to check social media. The repetition of absolute nothingness that social media is, makes us somewhat brain dead and it controls our thinking without us realizing. The next time you decide to rest and recover and perhaps you do want to watch some TV, I urge you to actually just watch TV and leave your phone somewhere else because when your phone is by your side, you’re always on edge and always in between the TV and your phone – the exact opposite of what you need for your creative life.
Caging the monkey mind and giving yourself the freedom to focus on one thing at a time can help the longevity of your focus and energy immensely. The reason is, that when you spread yourself too thin, you wind up in a hole because (a) you don’t get as much done and (b) you find yourself in between two minds and neither of which serve you as best as they can.
If you are going to switch off or take time off during the week, that’s absolutely fine and necessary in fact, but if you’re going to do it, I urge you to do it fully because, ½ switching off means ½ switching on and this isn’t what you want in your creative life. Always keep in mind that how you do something is how you do everything.
Creating Your Ideal Day
The power of creating routines and good habits is at the core of this productivity dilemma. The reason being is that if you can create routines that allow you to do ‘productive’ things virtually on auto-pilot then they will simply be how you live and not another thing on your to-do list. I encourage you to sit down for an hour and create 2 things – the perfect work day and the perfect day off (rest day). What would these look like? How would your day go? What would you do? What time would you wake up/go to bed? What would you eat? Would you workout or watch TV all day? Would you read? Spend time with friends and family? By creating the perfect day, you will soon see that this isn’t only possible, but very plausible provided you don’t fill it with activities from the sun up to sun down. Once you understand and know the habits you’d like to create, it is as simple as putting them in place and constantly reminding yourself why you’re doing it in the first place because motivation is like bathing, it doesn’t last.
- Create short bulleted lists of the things you want to do on both work days and rest days.
- Put your day up for a brutally honest review.
- Allow yourself time off each day or a full day off every 3-5 days.
- Reading is my #1 recommendation for switching off (especially fiction).
- Short bursts of creative work are best.
- Work hard in anticipation for a day off. You’ll appreciate it more and you’ll work harder when you work.
Remember, you don’t appreciate something until it’s gone. Likewise, you don’t fully appreciate a day off unless you’ve worked hard and smart in the days leading up to it so be sure to work hard and smart and don’t feel guilty for having a day off. You deserve it.