We all need to learn to relax.

We live in such a fast paced world, and I often worry about the effects that our “go go go” lifestyle has on us. I wonder how much damage it’s doing to our bodies, and more importantly, our minds.

We push ourselves to our limit, and for what?

Most of the time, employees make too little money for the amount of work they put in, so why bother with all the stress?

Do you have any idea how much money you can spend treating stress related issues?

Here’s how stress at work affects employees.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about working hard, and finding ways to optimize productivity, but I think we all need to slow down.

Working too hard can lead to employee burnout, and your productivity will essentially flatline.

I’ve seen this happen first hand, and it’s awful.

When an employee gets burned out, of course I feel sorry for them, but the damage that it does to the morale of the rest of the team is horrible.

It really does have a ripple effect, and it needs to be fixed ASAP.

We Work Too Damn Hard

A survey found that, at the end of 2012, Americans had an average of nine unused vacation days, and in another survey, Americans admitted that they regularly check and respond to emails and feel required to do work while on vacation.

That’s nuts!

It’s really important to actually disconnect, and recharge your energy. I’ve spoken many times before about managing your energy, not your time, but maybe I’ve been too vague in the past.

In order to have a lot of energy while you’re working, you need to lower your energy while you’re resting.

Maybe instead of saying “managing” your energy, we should be saying “balancing” your energy.

The key is to work smarter, not harder, but even that is too vague.

What people often recommend, is doing something called deliberate practice, which means really challenging yourself, but being super focused.

For example, let’s say you’re learning how to write code, instead of spending 8 hours reading every article and watching every video you find, do one solid hour where you complete a simple task.

Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson of The Florida State University has spent more than 30 years studying how people achieve the highest levels of expertise. Ericsson has concluded that most people can engage in deliberate practice for only an hour without rest.

He also says that many experts like to begin training early in the morning when mental and physical energy is readily available.

It’s more than just taking a good vacation and enjoying your time properly. We need to change the way we work.

A really interesting study found that the benefits of a vacation generally fade within two to four weeks.

What this means, is that while on vacation, workers report feeling happier, less tense, more satisfied, but within a few weeks of returning to work, all those feelings disappear.

This is why I’m so passionate about a four day workweek.

Use Your Downtime Properly

This is the most important lesson I can teach you.

It’s not about how long or how often you have downtime, it’s all about how you use it.

Let me repeat that, because it’s incredibly important. It’s not about how long or how often you have downtime, what matters is how you use it.

An amazing study found that university employees who reported negative work reflection, meaning thinking negatively about your job, were even more exhausted when they came back to work.

Think about that for a second.

It’s so important to use your downtime properly, enjoy time with your family and friends, and think positively.

I’m not saying don’t think about work at all, because in fact, it’s actually beneficial to think about what’s going well, what might be coming up, and some more positive thoughts around work.

Things To Do During Downtime

Here are a few things I’d recommend doing while on your downtime to really recharge properly.

  • Naps – I’ve talked before about how taking naps can really help you recharge your brain, but to be honest, for most employees, taking naps is a bit unrealistic, simply because their company won’t allow it. I really wish this would change, but until then, maybe something a bit more realistic is going for a walk.
  • WalkingWalking makes you more creative, and can help you recharge. Ideally, you would walk in a nice park, or in a country setting. Some psychologists, in a relatively new field called ecopsychology, believe that while the hustle and bustle of a typical city drains our attention, a natural environment can restore it.
  • Meditation – Meditation has been shown to literally rewire your brain to improve your sense of self and lead to increased happiness.

What Do You About The Importance Of Downtime?

Remember that it’s important to be mindful about how you’re spending your downtime, and we all need to go a little slower. What do you do to rest and recover? Let us know in the comments!