No Rest, No Gain: Why Resting is Vital for Your Productivity

The fast pace of life with numerous daily assignments makes us turn to a "complete-it-or-die" lifestyle. And most modern professionals don't see resting as a crucial part of their productivity — it's more like an optional reward after long and exhausting work. So by chaining yourself to the desk you won't get desirable results and career promotions. On the contrary, the chances are that you'll push yourself to a limit where career and productivity don't matter to you.

However, you're holding all the cards when it comes to managing your work-life balance. In this post, we'll discover the best work-rest ratios and show you how getting enough rest influences your productivity level.

Reasons why resting is essential to stay productive and motivated

You may think now that breaks will only disrupt your productive workflow. Though, a study shows that regular breaks help you focus better on your tasks and change your attitude towards your job. So now let's see why in the world you should rest more during the workday.

A productive and happy woman at her workplace

Resting boosts your brain performance

First, and probably the most important reason for you as a career professional, resting improves your brain performance. The brain itself is like an endlessly working "machine" that is awake even when we sleep. And even when you take a short break from work, it processes information like a powerful computer. So you may think that you're just lazy. Still, your brain continues to work, helping you solve complicated issues, get creative ideas, and restore your motivation.

According to Cleveland Clinic, research shows that resting periods are essential for your brain. A well-rested brain maintains your good mood, helps you concentrate, and completes more tasks in less time. So instead of sitting with your work for hours until the moment when you're drained, take short breaks during the workday and stop working overtime. It will change your attitude to work and help you maintain a motivated approach.

Active breaks improve your productivity and health

Are you one of those workers who sit incessantly behind the desk (or at their sofas while working remote) until it's time to go home? Then we have bad news for your body, since sitting for many hours is dreadful for your neck, spine, and heart. What's more, those who sit more than move through the day have a shorter lifespan than more active people.

Besides, sitting all day long can lead to inadequate blood flow, which means some parts of your body will get less oxygen than needed. And by moving frequently, you support the normal blood flow to your brain and maintain your thinking speed. So set the alarm on your PC or phone that will remind you to stand up and move around your office for a bit.

People working at one desk with their laptops

Resting helps you reduce stress and accomplish more tasks

It's pretty easy to become dead-tired when you need to meet numerous deadlines. In such terms, overtime work and exhaustion may become your life companions, which can cause burnout and depression for a long time. Still, resting may help you reduce work-related stress and enjoy your job more.

Moreover, scientists have found that people's heart rate after small breaks was lower, which means that resting is a good remedy when you're overstrained. Giving your mind some time to wander will also help you create sustainable productivity, which lasts more than a few hours.

Staring at your monitor screen for hours when your ideas run dry won't help you be more productive. Instead, it will make you only anxious and stressed about wasting valuable time. And decent resting time is what can bring you back on track with tons of new ideas and solutions to issues that seemed unsolvable before.

And this benefit is backed by the facts! Basecamp has experimented — they implemented a 4-day work week instead of 5-day to see the effect of the long weekend on employees. And it turned out that all employees managed to accomplish as many tasks as they did during a 5-day workweek. Besides, the 3-day weekend helped them to come back on Monday more refreshed, happier, and productive than before.

A woman resting at her workplace

What are the best work-rest ratios to stay productive?

Despite all the benefits of resting, it doesn't mean you should relax every 5 minutes by scrolling your Facebook feed or chatting with your colleagues. That's why productivity leaders create their work-rest ratios to distinguish between work time and rest clearly. So that's how you can divide your work time:

Pomodoro technique (for beginners)

This work-rest ratio is popular among thousands of people due to its simplicity and surprising effectiveness. The basic principle of this technique is to focus on work for 25 minutes and then rest for 5 minutes. You can set a timer on your phone to track time or install a particular Pomodoro app. Just make sure that you're not distracted during work periods and enjoy your rest during 5-minute breaks.

Plus, after four sessions of work-rest ratios, you'll get a more extended break for 15 minutes so you can move around, eat your mid-day snack or drink some coffee outside of the office. Professionals who practice the Pomodoro technique say it helps them accomplish as many tasks in 20 hours as they previously completed in 40 hours. So why don't you give it a try?

The 52:17 technique (a golden ratio)

This ratio is an idea of the Draugiem Group company who tracked their employees' work time by DeskTime to learn more about their habits and productivity. Results have shown that the work ratio of most productive employees was 52 minutes of work followed by 17-minute breaks.

The main idea of this technique is to perceive these 52-minute intervals like sprints. During this time you work not only to finish your work but also to enjoy your long break. Such an approach also helps you develop 100% dedication when performing work tasks.

A man with a cup of coffee being productive at work

90-minute work intervals (for masters)

If you have more endurance and don't need such frequent breaks, you can try 90-minute work intervals. According to Nathaniel Kleitman, who is famous for his sleep research, our daytime activity also goes through an alternating cycle. High brain productivity, which lasts no more than 90 minutes, alternates with low brain activity lasting 20 minutes.

In other words, your brain needs to unplug every 90 minutes to maintain high productivity during the next work interval. And if you try to overpower yourself and strive to work more than 90-100 minutes in a row, it won't make you more efficient. On the contrary, such abuse will just knock off your natural work-rest routine.

Suppose you've only started trying different work-rest ratios. In that case, it's better to begin with the Pomodoro technique (it foresees shorter work intervals and frequent breaks). The 52:17 strategy will be perfect for those who have experience managing their work time — it's literally a golden ratio.

And 90-minute work intervals are the hardest one because by practicing them, you push yourself more and rest less frequently. However, this technique allows you to accomplish extraordinary results and focus stronger, so it's worth trying too.

Tips on how to optimize your rest time and become more productive at work

If you're still unsure how to rest and still stay on top of your performance, don't fret! We've got you back by gathering the most effective and practical tips for setting up your work-rest balance.

A happy man working outside

1. Perceive resting like a need, not a reward

Just how your legs need to rest for a few minutes after an intense running session, your brain also needs some time to unplug. That's why you should never think about the break as a reward — you require it to be productive. So add rests to your schedule and don't neglect them even if you have urgent tasks to complete.

2. Set "resting goals"

When you don't have a particular plan for your breaks, you may end up staring at the ceiling every time. It may be helpful sometimes — just doing nothing for a few minutes. But after a few repetitions, it may become tedious and not so relaxing. That's why setting "resting goals" may help you restore more energy during your breaks.

For instance, you can set a goal to have a one-hour lunch every workday or make 200 steps when you have a long break. You can also set weekly goals like having one work day without video meetings if it's stressful for you. Write down these goals in your daily planner and track your progress towards a healthy work-rest balance.

A man putting down his resting goals

3. Pay attention to your feelings

If you're afraid to have a break during the day because you may appear unproductive to colleagues or the boss, try to think what's the real reason for your fear. According to the research, 20% of professionals worry their boss will think they're lazy if taking a lunch break. So it may be helpful to talk about it and ensure that you're entirely eligible to have a resting time.

4. Use the right tools for tracking

When it comes to measuring your work-rest balance, half of your success is choosing the right tools for it. You can purchase a special timer and put it behind your PC or track time in an app. For example, you can use an app — it's simple to use and sends you a notification when it's time to rest. If you don't want to tangle things, just set a timer on your phone to not forget your next break.

5. Align your tasks to your mood

Sometimes you feel like you can knock the world flat, while it seems like you have the whole world on your shoulders on other days. That's why it would be wise to align your tasks complicity to your daily capabilities.

If you're bursting with energy — feel free to choose more complex tasks. And when your mood is low, it's okay to put off complicated tasks and choose assignments that cheer you up. In the end, everything that matters is the amount of energy that you put into work, not the hours you spend working.