How to Work Less, Rest Better, and Let The Little Things Go

It’s been one heck of an autumn.

As the lovely matriarch of the elevenses crew touched on in our introduction to the topic of ‘Budget’, Natalie and I have made our big move over to Brighton, UK at the beginning of September. It’s been a big adjustment but I have to say that overall I’m really enjoying my time in the land of bangers and mash.

Brighton

Besides the usual budget pains that come from moving, I’ve been finding myself running into a different kind of budget constraint: energy. 

Sure, regular ole physical energy is for sure is used up more quickly over here with the realities of not having a car but still living halfway up a big hill (and up 3 flights of stairs to our flat) and needing to walk to get groceries, meet friends, and enjoy the seaside – but I found that to be a fairly straightforward thing to get used to. Where I really ran into that energy budget constraint is in the sheer amount of work-related opportunity that is making itself available to me, and the actual amount of efficient, focussed work hours I can possibly squeeze out of my head. 

Suffice it to say that they don’t exactly match up.

What to do? Well, I immediately break out the wine, pull up pubmed, call on some friends I’ve collected in my years of scouring biohacking forums, and start sketching up a protocol for myself. 

I know what you might be thinking: Oh awesome/crap, she’s going to talk about how she works more. 

Nope. 

I’m going to talk about how I try to work less, rest better, and let go of that niggling feeling that I’m not doing enough. 

Now, my strategy is an evolving one, as anything to do with your body should be, but the principles I started with can be applicable and helpful to everyone who feels like there’s not enough coffee in the world some days.

coffee

First Principles
Before we move on to strategies and tactics, I wanted to pause for a second and touch on a few important things that I try to remind myself when I’m met with the reality that I don’t have the time or energy to do everything I wish that I could. 

  1. I am more than what I do. I am more than my productivity. No matter how successful or unsuccessful I am with business, writing, or any other types of work I do in life – my value as a human being is separate from that. 
  2. We’re not stamping crackers anymore. The ‘volume’ measure of productivity isn’t applicable to most of us anymore. Our success in the workplace should be measured as the quality of what we produce divided by the time we spend on it.
  3. Work-life separation is as important as work-life balance. We should value our ability to jump right into work for the day just as much as how easily we jump out of work at the end of the day. I struggle with this a lot!
  4. The brain is a part of the body. It’s not separate, less than, more than, or anything other than a part of your physical self that needs care just like your heart, muscles, skin, teeth, eyes, and everything else. It is impossible to be physically unhealthy and be mentally healthy, so “choosing” to focus on work or productivity at the expense of physical health is a false dichotomy.
  5. Time is our most valuable asset. This is starting to become a bit of a cliche, but whatever, I think it’s a really important one that I think we all forget occasionally. You can’t get time back, once it’s gone it’s gone.

Having this type of list of first principles helps me always snap back to my version of normal when I get caught up in the world of more is better, cartesian decapitation, and economic growth as placeholders for personal growth.

I expect everyone has different first principles, so if you’re in a similar place to me I would definitely recommend figuring out what those are. In fact, I’m curious to hear about what other people’s first principles may be so don’t be shy, leave a comment on this post to share.

Areas of Focus
Once I got my first principles sorted out and as specific as I could possibly make them, I broke them out into what they would mean in terms of everyday living. How can I really live these ideas on a daily basis? 

To help myself do this, I broke down my average days into focus areas and listed out actions and tactics I can employ that help me carry out my first principles. 

  • Income Work (ie. Work done to support myself financially)
    • Pomodoro: Utilise the Pomodoro technique (25 minute sets of work with 5 minute short breaks between, and 15 minute long breaks after 3 sets of work) to provide structure to my working day. This is to help condition myself to jump into and out of work quickly instead of my old habits of checking 3-4 news/social sites before starting my work day. 
    • Uninterrupted Working Blocks: This is pretty easy for me as I work from home primarily, but ensuring my Pomodoro time is totally void of interruptions makes a huge huge difference. Besides, studies are showing that multitasking isn’t actually a thing for humans.
    • Time Tracking: I track all my time – even though I make my own hours and usually get paid per piece of work I create instead of per-hour. It not only ensures that I keep to my scheduling, but also helps me track what activities take the most amount of time which allows me to intelligently hire for those tasks. I use and love Toggl, but there are loads of solutions out there that work well too.
  • Life Work (ie. Work that is what I was meant to do with my life, work that moves me)
    • Values Aligning with Time: Every month I take stock of the month before in terms of time spent on which activities and I compare it with the pie charts I’m constantly revising that detail my most important values. Sometimes the proportion of my time I spend on something matches the proportion of importance that activity means to me, but sometimes it looks like this : 
      screenshot
      and that means I need to jump in and change some things. Remember what John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” 
    • Consistency: I try to write and read every day, borrowing from the 20 Mile March rule. Getting through the mountain of books I want to read and writing articles like this takes time, and as much as I wish I could set aside whole days to write, I do have to do my income work. To do this I set alarms on my phone and computer to remind me (everyday and at the same time) to do my minimum amount of reading and writing (a 1/2 hour each). Some days I do more, some days I just do the minimum.
  • Rest
    • Unplugging: I try to set aside at least one day where I do nothing work related at all (credit to my Jewish ancestors for this idea), and just focus on being present and mindful of the state of my body and mind. On those days (typically Sundays) I journal, I go on walks, I call my grandparents, and I roast some sort of meat for dinner. By the time Monday rolls around I’m totally rejuvenated. 
    • 9 Hours: I try to sleep 9 hours every night. Now, I’ve always had a tendency towards insomnia so this isn’t always easy by any stretch of the imagination, but when I get much less than that for too many days I find that my work suffers, my general demeanour suffers, and I get sick. Most studies recommend that people get 7-9 hours of sleep, and I find those of us who work hard and play hard tend to fall on the high end of that range. 
  • Food, Drink, and Supplements
    • Eating well: I think pretty much everyone can agree that this is huge. What it actually means differs from person to person, but being mindful of what you put in your body to fuel you is undoubtably important. For me this means eating as much highly nutritive food as possible, with more fat and protein and less carbs than most. Also I do the gluten free thing.
    • Hydration: I keep a water bottle near me as much as I can to ensure that if I do feel thirsty I can drink up. The actual amount you’ll need to drink varies everyday in response to heat, exertion, sleep, the food you’ve eaten, if you’re sick, etc. so I’ve never seen a point in arbitrarily drinking 8 cups of water per day. My incredibly complex system to stay hydrated is that if I’m thirsty, I drink. 
    • Supplements: With my autoimmune disorder and hormonal imbalances I find that I get a lot out of supplementing the nutrition in my food with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in pill form. The usual suspects for me are vitamin C, D, B complex, Curcumin, digestive enzymes, magnesium, cod liver oil, and acetyl-glucosamine. 
    • Resistant Starch: If you’ve read my resistant starch post you know I’m a big fan. Keeping to my daily doses of whatever resistant starch sources I have lying around (usually potato starch) keeps me (and my gut bugs) really happy.
  • Other Little Tricks
    • Pre-bed Bath: I’ve never been a fan of baths, but when I heard that it can help you fall asleep, I just had to try it. I’m so happy I did. I take a hot bath (as hot as I can stand) and float around for about 15-20 minutes. About a half hour after that it feels like I’ve been hit in the head with a frying pan. For bonus points I sometimes toss epsom salt in my baths to get some transdermal magnesium going on. 
    • Compression Socks: These are my new favourite things. They’re marketed as recovery socks for athletes, but these are insanely amazing for minimizing muscle damage during workouts, staving off muscle fatigue if you’re on your feet all day, and mitigating the dreaded effects of jet lag. 
    • Blue Blockers: The principle of amber-tinted glasses are that they filter out the spectrum of light that the brain senses and interprets as daylight. If you don’t want to be giving your brain signals that the light from the TV is light from the sun and thus that it’s of course not time to go to sleep soon, then I would heavily recommend them. They look ultra nerdy, but they absolutely kick ass.
    • Salt Flush: To replenish my minerals and to give my adrenal glands a little shove in the morning, I start my days off with a glass of lukewarm water with sea salt (himalayan, if I can get my hands on it). 

A Day in the Life
Okay, so it may seem like there’s an insane amount of things I do on a daily basis to keep my budgets topped up. The truth is that I implemented many of these strategies over time and I don’t hit every single strategy, tactic, or even areas of focus when things get really crazy.

walking

 

Remember, the purpose of these things are to keep me moving forward in a healthy and authentic way – if implementing them drives me insane it kind of defeats the point right?

So, what do I actually do on a daily basis? Here’s my typical day:

8:00 – 9:00 
I wake up and drink my delicious salty water before heading down to make breakfast for myself and Nat. Breakfast is generally bacon, eggs, and a mug of fair-trade and organic coffee whipped with butter and MCT oil (Bulletproof Coffee, for those in the know). We chat, eat, watch the news, and enjoy the morning sunshine coming through the windows.
9:00 – 12:00
After a 10 minute meditation session using the awesome Headspace, I toss back my supplements before sitting down to work. First I set up my daily schedule and write down a couple of goals for the day to set the stage, then I start my Pomodoro sets. I find the morning generally goes really quickly. 
12:00 – 12:30 
My biological rhythm has me hungry early in the day, so I generally get my lunch right at noon (leftovers or some baked chicken thighs over some sort of salad mix). This is when I watch my daily YouTube dose of Gary Vaynerchuk, John Oliver, and whatever fun stuff has been making the internet-rounds. Unproductive? Totally. This is my unapologetically brainless time, and you can pry it from my cold dead hands. 
12:30 – 2:00
More Pomodoro!
2:00 – 3:30
This is when I stop work to do some weight lifting, stretching, or bit of yoga depending on how sore I am from the day before. The movement hugely helps with stress as well as with setting me up nicely for sleep. A shower, my second dose of supplements, and popping on my compression socks follows.
3:30 – 5:00
More Pomodoro! This is when I start to wrap up my day. Generally speaking I work with a lot of focus on primarily creative tasks, so my brain is typically mush by 5pm. For this reason I plan to have my simplest tasks  to do at the end of my work day.
5:00 – 9:30 
I try my best to unplug from work after 5pm. Sometimes deadlines arise and this is blown out of the water, but that’s life. When I am able to unplug I use this time to cook, catch up with Nat about her day, go for quick shopping trips, watch TV (Nat and I are currently devouring the Good Wife), and read. Around 7 my alarm goes off to remind me to put on my blue-blocking glasses.
9:30 – 11:00  
This is when I start to wind down for bed, complete with my hot bath, reading, and pre-bed journalling. I drift off to sleep to the Lord of the Rings soundscape project by Philsstuffofdoom.
So that’s the magic I use to keep myself sane! I would love to hear from you all what kind of things you do to mind your energy budget, and whether or not this was helpful for you. 

I hope everyone had an amazing Halloween and an excellent October. Really, really excited for what we have coming for you this month!

It’s been one heck of an autumn.

As the lovely matriarch of the elevenses crew touched on in our introduction to the topic of ‘Budget’, Natalie and I have made our big move over to Brighton, UK at the beginning of September. It’s been a big adjustment but I have to say that overall I’m really enjoying my time in the land of bangers and mash.

Brighton

Besides the usual budget pains that come from moving, I’ve been finding myself running into a different kind of budget constraint: energy. 

Sure, regular ole physical energy is for sure is used up more quickly over here with the realities of not having a car but still living halfway up a big hill (and up 3 flights of stairs to our flat) and needing to walk to get groceries, meet friends, and enjoy the seaside – but I found that to be a fairly straightforward thing to get used to. Where I really ran into that energy budget constraint is in the sheer amount of work-related opportunity that is making itself available to me, and the actual amount of efficient, focussed work hours I can possibly squeeze out of my head. 

Suffice it to say that they don’t exactly match up.

What to do? Well, I immediately break out the wine, pull up pubmed, call on some friends I’ve collected in my years of scouring biohacking forums, and start sketching up a protocol for myself. 

I know what you might be thinking: Oh awesome/crap, she’s going to talk about how she works more. 

Nope. 

I’m going to talk about how I try to work less, rest better, and let go of that niggling feeling that I’m not doing enough. 

Now, my strategy is an evolving one, as anything to do with your body should be, but the principles I started with can be applicable and helpful to everyone who feels like there’s not enough coffee in the world some days.

coffee

First Principles
Before we move on to strategies and tactics, I wanted to pause for a second and touch on a few important things that I try to remind myself when I’m met with the reality that I don’t have the time or energy to do everything I wish that I could. 

  1. I am more than what I do. I am more than my productivity. No matter how successful or unsuccessful I am with business, writing, or any other types of work I do in life – my value as a human being is separate from that. 
  2. We’re not stamping crackers anymore. The ‘volume’ measure of productivity isn’t applicable to most of us anymore. Our success in the workplace should be measured as the quality of what we produce divided by the time we spend on it.
  3. Work-life separation is as important as work-life balance. We should value our ability to jump right into work for the day just as much as how easily we jump out of work at the end of the day. I struggle with this a lot!
  4. The brain is a part of the body. It’s not separate, less than, more than, or anything other than a part of your physical self that needs care just like your heart, muscles, skin, teeth, eyes, and everything else. It is impossible to be physically unhealthy and be mentally healthy, so “choosing” to focus on work or productivity at the expense of physical health is a false dichotomy.
  5. Time is our most valuable asset. This is starting to become a bit of a cliche, but whatever, I think it’s a really important one that I think we all forget occasionally. You can’t get time back, once it’s gone it’s gone.

Having this type of list of first principles helps me always snap back to my version of normal when I get caught up in the world of more is better, cartesian decapitation, and economic growth as placeholders for personal growth.

I expect everyone has different first principles, so if you’re in a similar place to me I would definitely recommend figuring out what those are. In fact, I’m curious to hear about what other people’s first principles may be so don’t be shy, leave a comment on this post to share.

Areas of Focus
Once I got my first principles sorted out and as specific as I could possibly make them, I broke them out into what they would mean in terms of everyday living. How can I really live these ideas on a daily basis? 

To help myself do this, I broke down my average days into focus areas and listed out actions and tactics I can employ that help me carry out my first principles. 

  • Income Work (ie. Work done to support myself financially)
    • Pomodoro: Utilise the Pomodoro technique (25 minute sets of work with 5 minute short breaks between, and 15 minute long breaks after 3 sets of work) to provide structure to my working day. This is to help condition myself to jump into and out of work quickly instead of my old habits of checking 3-4 news/social sites before starting my work day. 
    • Uninterrupted Working Blocks: This is pretty easy for me as I work from home primarily, but ensuring my Pomodoro time is totally void of interruptions makes a huge huge difference. Besides, studies are showing that multitasking isn’t actually a thing for humans.
    • Time Tracking: I track all my time – even though I make my own hours and usually get paid per piece of work I create instead of per-hour. It not only ensures that I keep to my scheduling, but also helps me track what activities take the most amount of time which allows me to intelligently hire for those tasks. I use and love Toggl, but there are loads of solutions out there that work well too.
  • Life Work (ie. Work that is what I was meant to do with my life, work that moves me)
    • Values Aligning with Time: Every month I take stock of the month before in terms of time spent on which activities and I compare it with the pie charts I’m constantly revising that detail my most important values. Sometimes the proportion of my time I spend on something matches the proportion of importance that activity means to me, but sometimes it looks like this : 
      screenshot
      and that means I need to jump in and change some things. Remember what John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” 
    • Consistency: I try to write and read every day, borrowing from the 20 Mile March rule. Getting through the mountain of books I want to read and writing articles like this takes time, and as much as I wish I could set aside whole days to write, I do have to do my income work. To do this I set alarms on my phone and computer to remind me (everyday and at the same time) to do my minimum amount of reading and writing (a 1/2 hour each). Some days I do more, some days I just do the minimum.
  • Rest
    • Unplugging: I try to set aside at least one day where I do nothing work related at all (credit to my Jewish ancestors for this idea), and just focus on being present and mindful of the state of my body and mind. On those days (typically Sundays) I journal, I go on walks, I call my grandparents, and I roast some sort of meat for dinner. By the time Monday rolls around I’m totally rejuvenated. 
    • 9 Hours: I try to sleep 9 hours every night. Now, I’ve always had a tendency towards insomnia so this isn’t always easy by any stretch of the imagination, but when I get much less than that for too many days I find that my work suffers, my general demeanour suffers, and I get sick. Most studies recommend that people get 7-9 hours of sleep, and I find those of us who work hard and play hard tend to fall on the high end of that range. 
  • Food, Drink, and Supplements
    • Eating well: I think pretty much everyone can agree that this is huge. What it actually means differs from person to person, but being mindful of what you put in your body to fuel you is undoubtably important. For me this means eating as much highly nutritive food as possible, with more fat and protein and less carbs than most. Also I do the gluten free thing.
    • Hydration: I keep a water bottle near me as much as I can to ensure that if I do feel thirsty I can drink up. The actual amount you’ll need to drink varies everyday in response to heat, exertion, sleep, the food you’ve eaten, if you’re sick, etc. so I’ve never seen a point in arbitrarily drinking 8 cups of water per day. My incredibly complex system to stay hydrated is that if I’m thirsty, I drink. 
    • Supplements: With my autoimmune disorder and hormonal imbalances I find that I get a lot out of supplementing the nutrition in my food with vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in pill form. The usual suspects for me are vitamin C, D, B complex, Curcumin, digestive enzymes, magnesium, cod liver oil, and acetyl-glucosamine. 
    • Resistant Starch: If you’ve read my resistant starch post you know I’m a big fan. Keeping to my daily doses of whatever resistant starch sources I have lying around (usually potato starch) keeps me (and my gut bugs) really happy.
  • Other Little Tricks
    • Pre-bed Bath: I’ve never been a fan of baths, but when I heard that it can help you fall asleep, I just had to try it. I’m so happy I did. I take a hot bath (as hot as I can stand) and float around for about 15-20 minutes. About a half hour after that it feels like I’ve been hit in the head with a frying pan. For bonus points I sometimes toss epsom salt in my baths to get some transdermal magnesium going on. 
    • Compression Socks: These are my new favourite things. They’re marketed as recovery socks for athletes, but these are insanely amazing for minimizing muscle damage during workouts, staving off muscle fatigue if you’re on your feet all day, and mitigating the dreaded effects of jet lag. 
    • Blue Blockers: The principle of amber-tinted glasses are that they filter out the spectrum of light that the brain senses and interprets as daylight. If you don’t want to be giving your brain signals that the light from the TV is light from the sun and thus that it’s of course not time to go to sleep soon, then I would heavily recommend them. They look ultra nerdy, but they absolutely kick ass.
    • Salt Flush: To replenish my minerals and to give my adrenal glands a little shove in the morning, I start my days off with a glass of lukewarm water with sea salt (himalayan, if I can get my hands on it). 

A Day in the Life
Okay, so it may seem like there’s an insane amount of things I do on a daily basis to keep my budgets topped up. The truth is that I implemented many of these strategies over time and I don’t hit every single strategy, tactic, or even areas of focus when things get really crazy.

walking

 

Remember, the purpose of these things are to keep me moving forward in a healthy and authentic way – if implementing them drives me insane it kind of defeats the point right?

So, what do I actually do on a daily basis? Here’s my typical day:

8:00 – 9:00 
I wake up and drink my delicious salty water before heading down to make breakfast for myself and Nat. Breakfast is generally bacon, eggs, and a mug of fair-trade and organic coffee whipped with butter and MCT oil (Bulletproof Coffee, for those in the know). We chat, eat, watch the news, and enjoy the morning sunshine coming through the windows.
9:00 – 12:00
After a 10 minute meditation session using the awesome Headspace, I toss back my supplements before sitting down to work. First I set up my daily schedule and write down a couple of goals for the day to set the stage, then I start my Pomodoro sets. I find the morning generally goes really quickly. 
12:00 – 12:30 
My biological rhythm has me hungry early in the day, so I generally get my lunch right at noon (leftovers or some baked chicken thighs over some sort of salad mix). This is when I watch my daily YouTube dose of Gary Vaynerchuk, John Oliver, and whatever fun stuff has been making the internet-rounds. Unproductive? Totally. This is my unapologetically brainless time, and you can pry it from my cold dead hands. 
12:30 – 2:00
More Pomodoro!
2:00 – 3:30
This is when I stop work to do some weight lifting, stretching, or bit of yoga depending on how sore I am from the day before. The movement hugely helps with stress as well as with setting me up nicely for sleep. A shower, my second dose of supplements, and popping on my compression socks follows.
3:30 – 5:00
More Pomodoro! This is when I start to wrap up my day. Generally speaking I work with a lot of focus on primarily creative tasks, so my brain is typically mush by 5pm. For this reason I plan to have my simplest tasks  to do at the end of my work day.
5:00 – 9:30 
I try my best to unplug from work after 5pm. Sometimes deadlines arise and this is blown out of the water, but that’s life. When I am able to unplug I use this time to cook, catch up with Nat about her day, go for quick shopping trips, watch TV (Nat and I are currently devouring the Good Wife), and read. Around 7 my alarm goes off to remind me to put on my blue-blocking glasses.
9:30 – 11:00  
This is when I start to wind down for bed, complete with my hot bath, reading, and pre-bed journalling. I drift off to sleep to the Lord of the Rings soundscape project by Philsstuffofdoom.
So that’s the magic I use to keep myself sane! I would love to hear from you all what kind of things you do to mind your energy budget, and whether or not this was helpful for you. 

I hope everyone had an amazing Halloween and an excellent October. Really, really excited for what we have coming for you this month!

Share It :

More

About the author

Jacqui

Jacqui Cardinal is a writer and eater at the elevenses blog with the rest of the Cardinal family. Her column is "Epistéme" and explores the relationships of biology, food, and culture. When she's not blogging and eating, she's finishing her Bio and Sociology degree at the University of Alberta, you can reach her on Google+.

Related posts

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *