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The last few months have been a whirlwind. They have kept us home and people are learning that work from home is not the same as stuck at home. We’ve started to feel the cabin fever and the charge that comes with it. The first thing anyone in WFH needs to learn is how to unplug from work when work is done for the day.

I was reading Burnout by Emily Nagoski, a book about how women burnout faster than men and why and most importantly what to do about their burnout.

It seemed an appropriate title given the situation where no one really gets a break to go places anymore. So that segmentation of this from that has become non-existent.

But there was a fact in there that I found fascinating.

Did you know that you should spend about 42% of your time in ‘rest’?

The geek in me is entertained by the 42* of that statement. But it isn’t really that much time when you think about the fact that it includes all rest-related activities.

This includes sleep, reading, cooking, eating, the whole works of stuff that doesn’t require your whole concentration. It’s 10.08 hours, or 604.8 minutes or 36,288 seconds. And since recommended sleep is about 7-9 hours a day, that takes care of most of that time for you.

That sounds like a large commitment but it’s really not.

And it’s good for you. Like vegetables and fruits. #notgettingscurvy

They don’t get into the specifics about how much you should sleep over just general issue resting. But they did say that if you find an amount that works best for you, schedule it in. Make it a priority.

You’ll thank yourself later.

It’s a part of the healing process that you get enough sleep, it’s a part of your mental power that you get enough sleep. And it pretty much does all repair work while you sleep. There are even studies that notice that a lack of sleep is more prevalent in people with type 2 diabetes than other factors.**

What exactly is ‘Rest’?

It is the stopping of doing tasks that take all your mind power and on to something that does not use the same brain muscles. Like cooking does not take the same areas of the brain as writing a blog post.

But this ‘rest’ includes other things– small mind power tasks that get other things done but allow you to walk away from the task at hand to look at something else so that you can come back and be focused at the ‘task’ that is taking up the most of your time. Be it work, or kids, or something else.

These kinds of task create a sort of brain space that doesn’t need to focus on what problem you’re solving but it will let your brain put it somewhere to tinker with when you’re not looking at it.

The other type of task that falls into this category isn’t what you expect. It’s something that requires your full attention but it’s completely different than the thing that you’re getting tired of.

  • heavy exercise
  • sewing a skirt from scratch because well, why not
  • writing a short part of fiction instead of the blog post that won’t come
  • any ‘backburner’ task pretty much.

Back Burner Tasks

These are my biggest friends, fans, and frenemies out there. This is the part of productive procrastination that I’ve been using for years. It is especially helpful with my ADHD because I can make my hyperfocus work for me.

‘Back burner’ tasks are tasks that require full use of your mind but have no correlation to the task that you are working on and making no progress. It’s like putting rice or noodles on the back burner to cook while you use the front ones to do the stuff that you really have to watch.

There is a rule about this though. If you don’t make progress on a task after a set amount of time ( I usually pick about five minutes) then you go on to the next task that needs to get done.

When you’ve gone through your list of things that need attention you circle back to the top of the not done yet tasks and try to tackle them again.

Sometimes the timing of working on it isn’t right. Sometimes I need to finish another task before I can really look at the one that was giving me trouble in a better light.

I learned this trick in high school while I participated in Academic Decathlon. It was challenging, learning all those things, but also retaining them. I learned which projects helped me the most and I learned not to highlight the whole damn page.

But the most important thing I learned was about taking tests.

We had several tests to take one after another, most being 50 questions with 30 minutes to answer. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to spend on each question. If you were later in the year, you either knew the answer or your didn’t. So you answered it to the best you could. If you could eliminate some of the answers (they were all multiple-choice) then you did and you noted it for later,*** If you had time, you’d come back to them.

I use this approach to everything because I get more done, and done better when I don’t spend a lot of time wallowing in a thing.

Now, if it’s 10pm and I haven’t written my 1000 words for the day, I will sit there till I scratch them out.

That’s just discipline at that point.

But the idea is that if I don’t sit and waste time on a task in the morning when I’m for some reason not ready to work on it, I can move onto another task, and then circle back to work on that task at a later time.

It will simmer in my mind and then, when I come back to it, sometimes out of the blue, I’m ready to work on it.

I truly couldn’t tell you how much time I spend on the blog during a given weak, because my mind is sorting through things in the background and then I sit down to write and it pours out. Because I spent the time while I was walking back from the break room mulling it over, or while I was cooking my dinner.

So if you’re running into tasks that twice as much time as you allotted, try switching it up to something else and come back to it. You’ll have rest that set of muscles while using another.

Take care to try things one at a time, or you’ll never know if it all works or just one of those things does,

J Joy

*Emily Nagoski that wrote the book, who drops numerous geeky references, did not do anything with that particular fact. I hope it was a cut that was a book length issue.
**I don’t have the book anymore to quote the exact page but I thought that was an interesting fact because the person I’m related to who has type 2 tells me that I don’t need sleep and neither does he. HMM….
***I irritated a number of teachers with the fact that I would finish tests in a matter of 10 minutes and I would score well in everything but maths. And I knew how to guess.

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