The Imperative of Rest for Impact-Driven Leaders: Insights from Professional Athletes

January 31, 2024 | 
3 minute read

Professional athletes’ training regimens require the balance between performance and recovery, otherwise injury becomes much more prevalent. Recovery periods are vital for the body to rest, rejuvenate, and repair. As Lebron James’ trainer says, “We keep recovery as our number one focus.”

While it seems to make sense for these professionals, why has this concept not permeated our workplace cultures? Especially the ones where relentless work often leads to burnout and decreased productivity. Are we injuring ourselves by not incorporating rest and recovery time into our daily habits?

For impact-driven leaders and professionals, adequate recovery time is essential for maintaining emotional wellbeing, mental sharpness, physical health, and our ability to create positive change in our world.

Strategic Rest: Key to Enhanced Performance

In his book 10X is easier than 2X, Dr Benjamin Hardy shares about an area of occupational psychology focused around the importance of work-recovery called “psychological detachment from work.” He says, “Research has found that people who psychologically detach from work experience:

  • Less work-related fatigue and procrastination1
  • Increased physical health and increased engagement (vigor, dedication, and flow) at work, especially during highly demanding times2
  • greater marital satisfaction even with a heavy workload3
  • Increased overall quality of life4
  • Greater mental health5”

Neuroscience also reveals that rest is not idleness; it’s crucial for cognitive processes. The brain, during rest, consolidates experiences and information, essential for learning and memory. Continuous work without adequate pauses impairs creativity, decision-making, and cognitive function, and can lead to chronic stress and mental health issues.

We, as impact-driven professionals, must view rest as a strategic tool, not a luxury.

When you pause, you’re being productive.

One of my favorite times on my calendar is the Friday “Think Space” blocked from 8-12 EVERY FRIDAY. It is sacred. No one can schedule over it. It took me a month or so to stop feeling guilty about this time, but now I crave it and experience it as one of the most productive times I have.

But “productive” doesn’t mean I’m actively working on something at my computer. In fact, mostly it doesn’t mean that. The beauty of this time is the full autonomy to use the time how my energy wants to. Sometimes that is going out to breakfast with my wife. Sometimes that is gardening. Sometimes that is plowing through a big project. Regardless, every week I can’t wait for that time because it is truly rejuvenating.

At THRIVE IMPACT, we’ve also started incorporating scheduled “recovery time” into our calendars. After conducting workshops, especially intense ones, we allocate 30 minutes for a break to go for a walk, take a power nap, or engage in any restful activity. This practice serves as a mental and physical reminder of the importance of taking a break.

Recovery time is a fundamental aspect of sustained high performance in any field. By prioritizing recovery, professionals protect their health and enhance their ability to lead and innovate. This balanced approach is crucial for long-term success and well-being.

What rhythms of rest do you have? Or what do you want to implement? It needs to be something. Your mission depends on it.

  1. DeArmond, S., Matthews, R. A., & Bunk, J. (2014). Workload and procrastination: The roles of psychological detachment and fatigue. International Journal of Stress Management, 21(2), 137.
  2. Sonnentag, S., Binnewies, C., & Mojza, E. J. (2010). Staying well and engaged when demands are high: the role of psychological detachment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95(5), 965.
  3. Germeys, L., & De Gieter, S. (2017). Psychological detachment mediating the daily relationship between workload and marital satisfaction. Frontiers in Psychology, 2036.
  4. Greenhaus, J. H., Collins, K. M., & Shaw, J. D. (2003). The relation between work–family balance and quality of life. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 63(3), 510–531.
  5. Shimazu, A., Matsudaira, K., De Jonge, J., Tosaka, N., Watanabe, K., & Takahashi, M. (2016). Psychological detachment from work during nonwork time: Linear or curvilinear relations with mental health and work engagement?. Industrial Health, 2015–0097.

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