Rest

Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang | 320 pages

Alex Pang is the founder of the Restful Company. In this book, he brilliantly walks us through the science of why rest is an unequivocally essential part of doing truly great work. He integrates the latest findings in neuroscience with compelling and inspiring stories of historical exemplars who leveraged rest to achieve greatness. It’s awesome. Big Ideas we explore include an introduction to your default mode network (aka what your brain does when it's "resting"), your new four-hour workday (that's what the great do), the importance of early starts (and rhythms), why walking and (aerobic) exercise are so powerful for creativity (hint: blood to brain!!), and the importance of deep play (aka making your work AND play one big game).


“I argue that we misunderstand the relationship between work and rest. Work and rest are not polar opposites. You cannot talk about rest without also talking about work. Writing about only one is like writing a romance and naming only one of the lovers. Rest is not work’s adversary. Rest is work’s partner. They complement and complete each other.

Further, you cannot work well without resting well. Some of history’s most creative people, people whose achievements in art and science and literature are legendary, took rest very seriously. They found that in order to realize their ambitions, to do the kind of work they wanted to, they needed rest. The right kinds of rest would restore their energy while allowing their muse, that mysterious part of their minds that helps drive the creative process, to keep going.

So work and rest aren’t opposites like black and white or good and evil; they’re more like different points on life’s wave. You can’t have a crest without a trough. You can’t have the highs without the lows. Neither can exist without the other.”

~ Alex Soojung-Kim Pang from Rest

Alex Pang is the author of another book we featured called The Distraction Addiction.

He’s also the founder of the Restful Company. This book is his case for, as per the sub-title: “Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.”

Alex brilliantly walks us through the science of why rest is an unequivocally essential part of doing truly great work. He integrates the latest findings in neuroscience with compelling and inspiring stories of historical exemplars who leveraged rest to achieve greatness. It’s awesome.

And… Having said that, as I read the book, I had the thought that “Rest” might not be the best title for this book. I mean, I get it. Rest is essential, it’s a compelling one-word title, etc.

But… What Alex is REALLY selling us on isn’t just “Rest” or “Working Less” per se, it’s creating RHYTHMS in our lives such that we integrate both intense work and equally powerful recovery—deliberately TRAINING our recovery like world-class athletes.

As such, I might have actually crossed out “Rest” on the cover and wrote “Rhythms.”

Then I might’ve modified the sub-title as well. I changed that one to: “Why You Get Your Best Work Done When You Train Your Recovery.” :)

Work + Rest = Rhythms = Creative Genius <- THAT’s where it’s at.

We need to Optimize it all into one greater whole. And this book is a *fantastic* look at how to go about doing it that I highly recommend. (Get a copy here.)

Of course, it’s packed with Big Ideas and I’m excited to explore a handful of my favorites so let’s jump straight in!

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