How to Increase Productivity By adding more Outdoor Recreation into your life (Book Review)

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Book Review of Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

After 3 months of not training, the first AZ Bike Girl review is on a book about rest. Hilarious, right? But also not what you think, or even close to what I expected when I opened the first page. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang makes the case in Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less for scheduling plenty of leisure time, specifically in the form of outdoor recreation, in order to be more productive. Soojung-Kim Pang begins by re-defining leisure as a combination of moving your body and engaging your brain (either for mindfulness or mindlessness, both of which he argues are important for creative problem solving). Then, he uses anecdotal evidence, case studies, and quantitative research to show how the 40+ hour work week drains leisure activity from our schedules, rendering us far less productive then we could be.

Moving forward with training for the Arizona Trail Races also means getting unstuck from the quagmire of tasks on my to-do list. The premise of Rest motivates me to stop working when my timer goes off (yes, I am using timers to rule my life these days, however, I am also a professional at ignoring them) and to get outside for fresh air. If I don’t, the book warns, I may actually be stuck in my endless to-do list forever.

Here are a few tips on productively from the book I am applying to training for the Arizona Trail Race, re-building a career, and taking care of both myself and the people around me during a pandemic:

  • Scheduling in leisure activity time and claiming it without guilt
  • Trusting strenuous exercise as a tool for resilience
  • Focusing on one task at a time
  • Creating routines in a way that foster and support freedom

Quotes from Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less to inspire you to read it:

If you want rest, you have to take it. You have to resist the lure of busyness, make time for rest, take it seriously, and protect it from a world that is intent on stealing it.

Strenuous exercise can retain your body’s reaction to stressors. Exposing yourself to predictable, incremental physical stressors in the grim or the playing field increases your capacity to be calm and clear-headed in stressful real-world situations.

One thing at a time will always perform a better day’s work than doing two or three things at a time. By following this rule, one person will do more in a day than another does in a week.

One thing at a time will always perform a better day’s work than doing two or three things at a time. By following this rule, one person will do more in a day than another does in a week.

The Problem of Access to Outdoor Recreation and Leisure Activities

The audience for Rest is my only criticism. Being able to carve out the kind of rest Soojung-Kim Pang describes is unique to those with a certain level of privilege. Men are the ones who have the most access to rest in this country (for example, men are routinely paid more than everyone else, which means they have more money to buy leisure time). The book seems to understand this as it looks mostly to great male thinkers for inspiration, such as with this quote by JR Seeley: “The supreme quality of great men is the power of resting. Anxiety, restlessness, fretting are marks of weakness.” My hope is that as those of us with access (and the ability) to assert this kind of rest in our levels will also work toward leveling the playing field so everyone has the opportunity to claim leisure and productivity in their lives.

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