Rest is a Secret Strategy to Success. Rest is a subject I have learned a lot about over the years. My wife runs an organization focused on leading women to rest, empowering rest for business and ministry leaders and strategic thinkers. Did you know that even if both partners work a full-time job, typically, women spend nearly 9 hrs a week on the household and childcare? (1)
That’s three months of a full-time job over a year–and the kids aren’t paying! They’re working harder and harder, but there’s a better way, and DeLonda Adams with the Resting Place gives them strategic rest plans designed to help them rest their way to a goal instead of only hustling their way there.
Rest isn’t only critical for stressed-out mothers and leading ladies; it’s a strategic initiative to getting the best results out of yourself.
Some of us think we do our best work under the gun. I get it, and I think I’m pretty good under pressure. But I’ve had learned to tap into that pressurized performance at will without facing down a proverbial gun/deadline/client meeting. Strategically using rest to prioritize your work and your mental and physical health will help you accomplish more in the same amount of time. You can get ahead of your work to a comfortable degree and be less stressed overall. Using the tips below will help you approach work and play differently for better results.
“Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to relax.”
The Mini Breaks
We were a meeting heavy business culture before COVID-19, and that has increased exponentially now, as we can see from Zoom’s meteoric revenue spike of 169% during the pandemic (2). Everything from churches to family gatherings to concerts to work took place virtually and essentially still is.
We power through meetings. We take them one after the other, no potty breaks! But as Microsoft found, that strategy is terrible for you and, in turn, bad for business.
You see, we get more and more stressed (the red color indicates stress) as we progress through meeting after meeting (3). We might think we’re all good because we’re on a “getter-done high,” but that high is deceitful, like most highs.
Take-Away: Take a 5 to 15 min break between meetings. Get away from the screen. Do this especially before important meetings when you need to be your best. When you are stressed, tired, and agitated, you can’t be the best version of yourself. So rest to be your best.
Prep for Prepping Sake
Another critical strategy for rest before an important meeting is preparation. I tell my team the more prepared you are, the less stressed you’ll be in any meeting. I rarely encounter a question I haven’t thought through in a meeting. Getting ahead of questions you know your presentation/information will incite is an excellent strategy to create an interactive conversation tailored to a path you’ve predicted. When asked a question you don’t know the answer to, say you don’t know and note that down to be more prepared next time.
I have a couple of monthly meetings. I know they are going to happen, and I know what I need to present in them. I know what problems I need help with and what I want leadership to know. I try not to wait until the last minute to do the slides, but even if I do. I’ve already prepped my talking points, and then I gather my data and then, from that skeleton, build a conversation. I think about who I’m talking to and what they will likely want to/need to know. I make sure that even if the information is not in the slide, it’s in my talking points or quickly accessible to me.
- Don’t allow stress to mount.
- Take time to prepare for known engagements, small and large.
- If you’re stressed by small talk, have some ready stories or go-to questions to make memorable and fun interactions.
- Give yourself time to get better by practicing and listening to your leaders. If you’re doubly prepared, you can rest knowing you’ve done everything you can to succeed, and confidence will shine through.
We might think we’re all good because we’re on a “getter-done high,” but that high is deceitful, like most highs.
The Meeting That Never Was
We can all agree on the meeting we dislike most–the meeting that could be an email. Think about meetings you lead, especially repetitive ones. Ask yourself these questions:
- What do you want everyone to know?
- What do you want everyone to do with said information?
If all you need and all you’re doing is getting information, you can do that without a meeting. That’s an email. Make it as concise as possible, start with the essential information at the top. Make your ask crystal clear, give a deadline for when you need the answer. Hunt down stragglers with a Slack/IM or phone call. No meeting is needed.
When do you need a meeting? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you need their agreement?
- Do you need their help to solve a problem?
If the answer is yes, you might need a meeting. But think specifically about what you need and from who and then you’re meeting doesn’t grow and become something it shouldn’t. The nature of anything is to move toward complexity, and complexity is a barrier to your needed rest.
Take-Away: Uncomplicate things by simplifying problems, solutions, and approaches. So meetings that shouldn’t be should be canceled. Take that time back and go for a walk with your puppy or cat-if you’re that one person walking their cat.
Stress By Any Other Name
One of my favorite conversations to have in an interview is: “Tell me how you handle stress.” (4). We all encounter stress, and every Product Leader will get called onto the carpet. It doesn’t matter how good you are, how much data there was, how successful everything else you’ve done is: you’ll encounter a challenge to something your name is on. I often say the Product Manager is the “single throat to choke.”
But if you don’t understand what your go-to stress symptoms are, then you’re flying blind. You could be encountering stress and never know it, but your body and psyche do. Your body and mind crumble under too much stress. You may have migraines (the evil kind that makes you nauseous and hate light), insomnia, and you could be anxious or depressed. (5) If you’re experiencing any issues, you need to appraise your workloads and recalibrate for stress levels. Contact your physician as well, and consider seeing a therapist.
By the way, stress tolerance levels change as you progress in your career, and triggers may change as you progress through life. Mental health is essential, so care about managing it, and one of the best ways to manage stress is rest.
Take-Away: If you know what your triggers, signs, and symptoms are regarding stress, you can get ahead of it. Iron out your calming/coping mechanisms and rest up. Taking advantage of time away from the grind to rejuvenate, recharge, and refresh.
…if you don’t understand what your go-to stress symptoms are, you’re flying blind. You might be stressing and not know it, but your body and psyche do.
Prolonged and pre-planned periods of rest are good. You can relax when you’re off the clock. You think I should have written that as a question, but no. It’s a statement, a truth. You are allowed to relax and “be off.” I understand that being off in the tech industry is different from being off in other professions and roles. But you’re still human, and you sleep, you eat, you need to be able to close the laptop and walk away.
Now most employers encourage employees to use vacation/paid time off. I want my team members to use their PTO because I want them at their best selves. I only ask that if it’s a planned PTO, they notify the team and their stakeholders, send a calendar invite, if possible, have a second-in-command who knows where their items of priority are and can step in for them while they are gone. Sometimes that person is me, and I’m okay with that. I also lead by example; I disperse my higher priority or in-flight items to different team members, notify all pertinent stakeholders, and give my manager his point-of-contact in the team for all things he may need.
With that done, I can relax and pause notifications on my cell. Enjoy my family or book, or nap, or whatever I’m doing.
Take-Away: Pager Duty happens. We’re in technology. I get it. Pass the pager. Train up someone to handle the pager while you’re sleeping. You have to trust your team to be there for you like you’ll be there for them. Lead by example (6).
To put a bow on it:
- Take advantage of mini-breaks between meetings
- Preparation is your friend
- If a meeting is unnecessary, don’t do it
- Know thyself when it comes to stress
- Enjoy the time away from work as much as possible
All of this can boil down to using your time wisely and empowering and trusting those around you. Thus you are not unnecessarily exasperated and enjoy living life in and outside of work. Care about it and plan for it. Take advantage of opportunities to rest. Doing so can change your life.