A few years ago, I was training to run a marathon when I came across an interesting technique for getting through the race. Most experienced coaches were advising that you have a “rest plan” or strategy for pacing and recovering during the race. Among planning on trying to drink water and gatorade early on and eat some fruit along the way, they advised that you plan on times where you intentionally back off your pace. It was a way of building rest into the race.
It’s tempting to live life like a sprint, where you dash as fast as you can from one task to the next, trying to get everything finished. And there are definitely times when you just have to push through and get stuff done. But it’s also been shown that having something to look forward too, a “rest day” of sorts, is also critical. It turns out that life is much more like a marathon than a sprint, and we may need to dangle some carrots along the way to help us get through.
So here are three ways to dangle a carrot (and hopefully get some rest along the way)
Makes “it” smaller – Running 26 miles is overwhelming the first time you do it. In fact, it can be so overwhelming that many people will “bonk”, or screw up their race because they can’t stop thinking about how much running they’re doing. But if you have a strong “rest” plan, you can break the race up into a series of 5 mile runs, or half mile run/walks, or whatever increments you need.
The same can be true in our works lives. We can become overwhelmed by the tasks and projects at work. Building in a “rest” plan, an activity to recharge us, can take some of the sting out of ‘the grind’. For example, give yourself a break to read a blog after an hour and a half of work. You can break the day down into smaller chunks by adding something small that you enjoy along the way. Instead of an 8-10 hour grind, its just a few 2 hour stretches with some fun YouTube videos thrown in.
Creating a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ – My wife and I discovered why there is a honeymoon after the season of wedding planning. The amount of stress and energy that goes into coordinating such a major project is enormous. By the time the morning after the wedding rolled around, we were exhausted. We needed the time off, the light at the end of the tunnel.
The same principle could be really good at work. Now, I’m not saying you take a week off after each project, but giving yourself a break or reward after each project creates a light at the end of the tunnel. So maybe you plan a nice dinner for the night you get that major renovation finished around the house. Or maybe you give yourself a half day or day off at the end of the week. Or maybe you bribe yourself to keep running by promising yourself donuts. The point is that it is helpful to have a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, something to look forward too that isn’t just more work/exercise/chores/etc.
Starting off right – Monday morning is one of the most dreaded times of the week. It signifies the restart of work; ‘back to the grind’. It can be hard to start the week off well when you’re dreading that Monday morning alarm.
So imagine how great it would feel if you planned something you really enjoy for Sunday evening or Monday morning? What if, instead of dreading work on Monday morning, you were excited about a pancake breakfast that morning? Or, if the idea of waking up earlier is heresy, a fun game night with friends the night before? You can change the way you look at your day by building in something you look forward too into that same window of time.
Those are three ways to help build a rest plan. Remember, life is a marathon, and not a sprint. You have to plan on some rest and refueling along the way, or else you’ll never make it out alive. So pick one: a half day/day off, special way to start the week off, or break the day up with a book you’re reading.
And remember, I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.