One Thing You Should Be Penciling Into Your To-Do List Every Day (But Aren’t)

Music to our ears.

When you have a to-do list that will seemingly take you 25 hours out of a 24-hour day, it can be easy to get overwhelmed. But an interview on Science of Us with the authors of a new book chock full o’ tips for maximizing your output sheds some light on what your to-do list might be missing (hint: breaks are essential) and how working rest in can improve your productivity. Music to our ears.

In the interview, Steve Magness and Brad Stulberg, authors of Peak Performance, dish on how resting — rather than simply chaining yourself to your desk until your work is done — is super important when it comes to optimizing productivity. Below, three “ahhhh”-inducing pointers to remember from their interview with Science of Us to help you kill it at work (or wherever you’re trying to meet goals) without running yourself into the ground.

1. Start penciling in rest time on your lengthy to-do list.
Magness and Stulberg’s book revolves around the idea that the combination of stress and rest leads to growth. They define stress as trying to meet a just-manageable challenge — so, think: a work project that is definitely challenging, but not way beyond your experience level. In order to reach that goal, they say, yes, you do need to work hard — but you also need to prioritize rest. As Magness, a running coach, told Science of Us, “If I go into a weight room and I lift or I go and do a really hard workout on the track, during that workout my body is breaking down. I’m getting worse. The body doesn’t adapt and grow and make the muscles grow stronger and bigger until we step away and give it time to repair and adapt.” So, you have to pencil in time to recover so your brain can bounce back.

2. BUT know that not all rest is created equal.
Sleep and mindlessly watching Netflix aren’t the only types of rest. In their book, Magness and Stulberg talk about rest as “taking smart breaks.” Magness explains that this means “stepping away and shifting your focus.” Instead of simply camping out at our desk and pulling up Facebook during your lunch break, get outside and completely shut off any thoughts about work. Another type of rest Magness and Stulberg emphasize is social recovery — so relaxing with friends. So go ahead and grab those drinks with friends after work. It may just pay off at work the next day.

3. If you’re struggling to reach your goal, remember your why. 
Cranking out work and reaching your goals is  er, well, should be  about more than just getting your paycheck. Magness and Stulberg talk a lot about the interchangeability of fulfillment and happiness. For example, they say you shouldn’t only feel happy when you’re doing something for pleasure and not for work. Instead, you should rediscover your purpose and put in meaningful work. Stulberg says that the science-backed results behind remembering your why are “that meaning leads to a different kind of, and perhaps even more fulfilling, happiness.” Magness bolsters this,  saying, “If you have a purpose or a reason for doing so, you’re going to push further.” So to get more work done and maybe even go beyond your goals, find the purpose behind your work.

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