Strategic Rest: How to use rest and downtime as part of your long term growth plan

July 14, 2020

“Restoration as a strategy.”  

That didn’t even quite register with me the first time I heard it.  

It sounds like something on an infomercial for people restoring old furniture as a hobby.  Or maybe a technique applied to monuments or in museums to remove mold and dirt from Renaissance paintings?  

It certainly didn’t strike me as a secret to unlocking peak performance.  And certainly, it didn’t seem like it was something that applied to me as an entrepreneur.

But I was intrigued, so I kept reading since this was advice from one of the most notable athletes in the world.

In this 2018 Business Insider article, NBA star and 4-time MVP winner Lebron James claims that his recovery habits are his #1 strategy to achieve greatness. More than perfecting his free throw technique, doing his sprints, or increasing his full-body strength, he takes an almost religious approach to sleep, nutrition, hydration, and wind-down as a way to achieve balance and to restore.

“Lebron James claims that his recovery habits are his #1 strategy to achieve greatness.”

What? As a self-proclaimed hard charger, this blew my mind. 

Growing up with a mom who was always up and on the go by 5 am, I was conditioned early in life to be as productive as possible in a day. I attended a military academy at the age of 18 and confirmed my commitment to be early to rise, late to bed and for most of my adult life, I wholeheartedly subscribed to the philosophy that doing more is always better.  As a certified go-getter, I somehow felt like each day’s To-Do List was a productivity contest.

As a certified go-getter, I somehow felt like each day’s To-Do List was a productivity contest.

But the last few years in business and parenthood, and now the natural pauses created by COVID-19, have me more open to the idea that my Energizer Bunny ways aren’t the best long-term strategy for sustainability, happiness, and even for productivity.

James invests heavily in his wellness by spending up to $1.5 million each year (????!!!)  on body care and restoration, which includes an entire team dedicated to maximizing his restoration during downtime.  In fact, the James team philosophy is that “resting is a skill.”  

Done properly, resting is a skill. And a valuable skill at that.

Based on his performance and the lessons from 2020, I’m starting to believe him that yes indeed, resting is a skill.

I have challenged myself to run many more miles with the extra time I’ve gained back due to less travel for work, and less kid carpooling during the quarantine.  I use the Nike Run Club app, which keeps track of all my runs, mile split times, elevations, and mileage totals.  If you’ve ever run before, you know that logging miles and personal records can be addicting.  

Compound that to the Energizer Bunny productivity myth that I’ve consumed for all my life, and that quickly resulted in a religious running schedule of 5-6 runs per week.  If I didn’t, I’d feel pangs of guilt.  

Yet, sometimes as a mom and entrepreneur, there were weeks where I couldn’t get all the runs in.  But guess what I discovered after I “missed” my runs?  Each time that I wasn’t able to run for at least 2 days, my comeback run pace was remarkably faster!  In fact, on average, I ran nearly 1 minute faster per minute when I rested than when I didn’t.

So, I’m not an elite athlete like LeBron James, and you probably aren’t either, but investing in self-care and rest has merits for the rest of us.

The downtime of COVID-19 has forced me to rest more in lots of work-related ways as well.  I’ve been getting more regular sleep in the past few months than I have my whole adult life, and my schedule isn’t as harried . . . more sleep + a lower-key schedule has allowed for more creativity and sound long-term strategizing.  

I’ve also noticed that when I don’t force myself to work constantly, I can plan for productivity surges during my peak performance times of day, and similar to my running times, the extra rest can help me accomplish more in less time!

I think Lebron James is on to something powerful.  

It takes a special set of skills to be able to slow down, recognize where strategic pauses and rests are needed, and being willing to abandon the ways it’s always been done.  Rest is a powerful strategy and it’s one we should all explore to find better balance and a new path to peak performance.

Remember, self-care doesn’t just mean going to a yoga class now and then or treating yourself to a mani-pedi. It can include sleeping MORE, eating higher quality food, hydrating, and winding-down daily.

Because energy management, the entrepreneurial journey, and life itself are long games that require us to rest and soak it all in.

So how can you strategically use rest in your own life and business?

I’ve got a few suggestions for you.

  • Sit down and look critically at your calendar. Do you block out time for peace and quiet just for yourself? Do you periodically block out time for retreats, getaways, or staycations with nothing else planned?
  • Do you eat and drink healthily most of the time? There are so many options these days, from meal prep services, grocery delivery, and more to choose from!
  • Do you exercise regularly? This can be anything from a walk every day at lunch to decompress between meetings, a yoga class that you love, running, strength training, or jogging with the family dog. Exercise has long term compound effects that support your stress, happiness, and overall health. (Even if you just walk your kids to the bus stop 15 minutes each way, twice a day, that adds up to 150 minutes each week that you may not have otherwise moved! Small habits add up big time.)


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