Book Review

“Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

why you get more done when you do less

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang is a consultant in Silicon Valley and a visiting scholar at Stanford University. He writes about technology and its cultural impact. His latest book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, argues in favour of limiting working hours and the benefits of active rest to help raise creativity and productivity. He also outlines why sound sleep is vital in our daily lives.

We live in a fast-paced world where and for many people there is no escape from work.  Working long hours has become the norm, with technology making workers accessible to their bosses, peers and clients and maybe, a little too tempting, to click on and answer emails late at night. We have become ‘slaves to the machine’ in an Orwellian re-enactment that many workers in the modern world are trapped inside.

Worthy aims and ambitions are cast to one side as tiredness takes charge but Alex Pang argues that dismissing rest suppresses our powers to think creatively and revitalise.

In Rest, Alex Pang argues that working better does not mean working more, it means working less and resting better. Treating rest as a passive activity secondary to work undermines our chances for a rewarding and meaningful life. Whether by making space for daily naps, as Winston Churchill did during World War II; going on hours-long strolls like Charles Darwin; or spending a week alone in a cabin like Bill Gates, pursuing what Pang calls “deliberate rest” is the true key to fulfilment and creative success.

When asked by the Guardian recently, “Up until you wrote the book, you thought the more you worked the more productive you were?” Alex Pang replied, “Yes… More hours equalled more productivity. This is an assumption – a mistake – that we’ve been making for a very long time…. It’s something that can be sustained for periods of a few weeks but after that you start creating more problems than you solve.”

In short, the book outlines that the most restorative type of rest is active: exercise and engaging hobbies do more for you than sitting on the couch, watching TV or playing video games.

Alex Pang talks about the importance of ‘deep play’ and suggests that the most successful people are often those who will have hobbies that appear to take up incredible amounts of their time and energy. This ‘serious leisure’, however, has a deeper value that make the investment of time and energy worthwhile.  It frees their mind, re-energises them and increases their all-round productivity.

Alex Yang is clear when it comes to the subject of sleep. This is what he told the Guardian, “…sleep is the original rest… it’s incredibly important for brain maintenance. When we sleep the brain takes time to clear out plaques and toxins that have built up during the hours we are awake. Even though we’re not aware of it, sleep also helps us push forward on questions and problems we’re working on during our waking hours.”

If you want to order Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, you can find it at both Amazon and Guardianbooks.

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