We all want to be successful. Whether it is having an impact within your company or industry, getting that promotion or landing your dream job, it is part of human nature to strive for success.
But it isn’t all about schmoozing with the right people, or working hours upon hours each week.
A well written resume, having a vast network or being amazing at selling yourself can only help you so much.
We have to look deeper. In fact, we have to look at ourselves. If you don’t take care of yourself then it is impossible to find success.
Let me back up here and tell this story from the beginning. This summer I listened to a Dan Harris podcast with the ultra runner Rich Roll on how mindfulness and a plant based lifestyle saved him from himself. It was amazing and I love hearing about people’s journeys to finding their way to their own success story.
Intrigued and wanting to hear more, I listened to Rich Roll’s podcast, one with Dr. Rangan Chatterjee from the UK on his Four Pillar Plan (he wrote a book about it, called The Four Pillar Plan in the UK and How to Make Disease Disappear in North America).
The whole time I listened to it, I couldn’t stop thinking about how his plan and the information supporting could be used as an effective tool in my own career, and in others.
That is why I wanted to write this series of articles. Each article will cover off one of his pillars (Relax, Move, Eat and Sleep) – why they are important, how they can help us realize our dreams, achieve our goals and reach success and simple tips and tricks on how to implement them into our everyday lives.
Dr. Chatterjee’s first pillar is Relax. Which I think is quite fitting for the first article in this series.
15 years ago when I began my career a 10 hour work day was considered long. About 10 years ago, a 12 hour work day was long. And now, a 15 hour work day is long. A 10 hour work day has become the norm, not the outlier. Now that is just anecdoctal evidence really, just gathered from working with individuals and companies.
The actual data though isn’t too promising, this Gallup poll from 2014 shows that the average salaried worker, works 49 hours/week. The scary thing though is the fact that more than half the population work more than 50 hours a week! And this is only accounting for official work. It doesn’t take into account the constantly checking your work emails which never really allows your brain to rest and recharge. In 2002 only 10% of workers checked their work emails outside of office hours. Now that stat is more that 50%. The saddest thing? Work email is usually the last thing checked before going to bed and then the first thing checked upon waking (I am so guilty of this!).
This also doesn’t take into account commuting time. Anyone who lives in the Greater Toronto Area gets this, we have the 2nd worst commute in the world and the worst in North America. People commute on average 96 minutes to their jobs! When you are working those long hours, travelling those long hours and then coming home only to continue to work and stay tuned in when do you have time relax and recharge?
And vacation time? More than 50% of employees don’t use up all their vacation! You may be saying, that doesn’t apply to me, I use all of my vacation days. But do you really? Are you completely unplugging during vacation? Or are you checking your emails or even taking phone calls? And I am guilty of this myself, especially running my own business!
I don’t think I need to convince anyone that relaxation is important for your health. But I may need to convince you (and myself) that relaxation is important for your career.
Relaxing = More Productive
I knew that during my research I would discover a lot of things that I knew or that made sense. I was surprised though to learn that relaxation actually makes you more productive!
That seems counter-intuitive right? But there are many different studies that show the correlation.
First of all, let’s talk about Scandinavia and Europe. They have the shortest work weeks – Holland just over 30 hours/week, Denmark, about 32 hours/week and Norway at 33 hours/week. Yet they, and other counties likes them, are some of the most productive.
In fact, a large city in Sweden recently did an experiment testing 6 hours work days over 23 months with no impact on their pay. The results were astounding – not only did their happiness increase, but their productivity increased as well. Even better was the fact that the number of sick days decreased!
There has also been a lot of work done on blocking work and taking mini breaks throughout the day. A lot of organizations are starting to put these in place, like yoga or nap pods, but not all. And even if a company has it, doesn’t mean you are using it. Including these mini breaks – like actually taking your lunch (gasp!), having a power nap or getting out for a walk has shown to increase performance, better memory and better problem solving skills.
On vacation, Ernst and Young did a study and found that the more vacation an employee took the better their performance reviews were, each 10 hours of additional vacation resulted in an 8% increase in their performance rating.
I think you probably already know what productivity can do for your future and your career, so finding ways to work smarter not harder should be one of your top priorities.
Relaxation = Creativity
Creativity is key to getting ahead in this new age of the work world we live in today. With more and more work environments turning away from traditional, black and white thinking comes the need for people who can come at problems, issues, and processes differently.
The problem is when you are always plugged in, your ability to think outside of the box is diminished, and this is based on research and findings in the field of neuroscience, so there is something to this.
Think about the last time you were trying to come up with something great – a great idea, a great story, a great solution. Our inclination is to sit at a desk and work our way through the process assuming that the work will lead to greatness. But did it? Or did you find it came to you during or just after a period of rest and relaxation? Maybe while you were walking your dog? Or cooking dinner? What about during your morning shower after a good night sleep? That’s because our brain likes to solve problems when we aren’t interfering with it, at an unconscious level.
When we are in a state of relaxation our brain activity increases, our main transportation hub of ideas (our Default Mode Network) goes into overdrive and all these roads to obscure memories and random thoughts that you may have long forgotten are suddenly available to you. Giving you that unique approach that a workaholic can never come across.
That unique approach – that could be your ticket, your ticket to a great bonus, an amazing project or that coveted promotion.
Everyday Tips for Everyday Relaxation
It is so easy to know something. But it is so much harder to know it in a sense where you actually make changes.
So how can you incorporate relaxation to your everyday life in way that sticks? Well here are 5 surefire ways to make just that easier.
I’ll talk more about sleep during the sleep part of this series, but sleep is so important that I don’t want to wait. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is the number one thing you can do – and it is free and easy!
2.Put that phone down!
This is something I need to focus on myself. The phone is the last thing I check. I generally don’t reply to emails at night, I bookmark it for the next morning but what that means is those unreplied emails are on my mind! This disrupts my ability to relax at night and also my sleep.
I don’t want to get on a soapbox (especially since I have no right to be) but we all know the effects of blue light on sleep, the mindlessness of scrolling social media, the stress of checking work emails and on and on the list can go.
Dr Chatterjee recommends a Phone Sabbath, meaning you turn off your phone for 1 day a week. And while this isn’t realistic for everyone. I think it is reasonable to pick a time at night where the phone is put away. Another trick can be to keep the phone out of the bedroom. Buy a cheap alarm clock to wake you up.
For me? I think it is reasonable for me to put my phone down every night at 8pm and to leave it downstairs.
I’m not going to say too much more on the subject, I think this article covers my thoughts and offers tips!
4.Relax at Work
One of the best ways to increase our time relaxing, is to take breaks throughout the day while at work. Do you eat lunch at your desk, taking bites while you work? Find a place to eat – with colleagues, with a book, enjoying your own company. Do something that makes you happy – maybe go for a walk, call a friend, do a yoga class.
Speaking of walking, try to add more walk breaks into your day. This is another area where I need to improve! My husband and I were just talking the other night about different ways I can increase my walking. Such as walking around the house for 5 minutes every hour (in an office that could be walking for water or coffee, do a walk around the office), walking while I’m on the phone instead of sitting.
For you, are there any meetings that you need to attend? Can they be walking meetings? Or if you can attend them virtually, can you walk while you attend them? Another idea, find a walking buddy – it will help keep you accountable!
Breathe. Honestly, taking 3 deep breaths has been shown to reduce stress. So if you find yourself with a minute (or set a reminder) and take 3 deep breaths a few times a day.
5.Incorporate Joy Daily
What can you do each day to bring some more joy into your life. For everyone it is different, and honestly for every day it is different.
It could be little things, like finding a Netflix show to lose yourself to. It could be finding a new hobby like knitting or rediscovering a hobby long forgotten like baking. It could be moving your body by taking up running or cross fit, maybe it is joining a dodgeball team or basketball team. How about reconnecting with friends by talking to them on the phone, going out for dinner or a movie?
The list is truly endless. One thing. Every day. That’s it!
For me, I’m great at some areas of relaxation. I really focus on trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night, I meditate, and I incorporate joy.
What I’m not good at is relaxing at work (there are days where I pretty much don’t move from my desk) and putting my phone down. So I’m setting some goals for myself:
1.Put my phone away at 8pm every night
2.Move. Take 3 5 minute walk breaks during the work day.
And I’ll update you next week and on social media as to how I’m doing. Let me know, what are some of your goals to including more relaxation into your work life?
Sara Curto helps people find a career they love by teaching them a new way to job search.
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