To Res[is]t or Not to Res[is]t!

One of my goals entering into 2019 was to bring into my life more rest and leisure. The moment I tried to consciously identify periods I could rest or experience leisure, I had a hard hitting realization. Planned or Unplanned, Our ability to rest is not a function of time. You may have a day to yourself and you may have nothing to do and yet end up being more tired than you started the day. Now this intriguing observation [may be way too obvious for you] had me thinking and I found that I am not alone.

Have you ever started the evening feeling hopeful that tomorrow is a day off and I can laze around and rest and recover. Let me start my evening by watching a movie lying on my couch and then you connect your device to wi-fi and start browsing through Netflix and Amazon Prime and other options you seem appropriate in your case. So tell me, Are you a type of person who finds what to watch immediately or Are you like me who probably spends the next half an hour browsing through multiple apps trying to find the best possible source of entertainment for the next 3 hours. Oh tiring. Very very tiring.

It does not end there. I may have selected a movie or a TV series and run through it for probably 7–8 mintues [ You choose — is it longer or any shorter than mine] and you start questioning your choice. You are nearly tempted to go back to options and choose something else or you persist with a great deal of determination hoping against hope that the movie turns out to be nice enough to meet your expectations. I don’t know about you, but as I type I can nearly feel the feeling and I already feel tired.

Our generation has been bitten by the productivity bug. The bug runs in the background and questions every action from our end. It is a bug that questions the choices we make and the consequences. The productivity bug is a delusion we are so fond of that we hold on it dearly and add to our personal suffering. When was the last time you picked up a book to read for the sake of reading. Even before you buy the book you spend equal amount of time researching about the book so that the book adds value to your life and is not a waste of time. In the process you have so many options in terms of books to read and articles to read and podcasts to listen to that the productivity bug is called out to help you. Oh Productivity Bug, My Savior, guide me through the options. Which book, podcast or article shall provide the best value for my next half hour? and you know what happens next.

Humans are not very good with choices. Each time you take a decision you deplete your decision making ability by a certain amount. We all start our days with the bucket full but with the productivity bug by our side trying to make a choice between your breakfast options so as to save time for better productivity you start using the bucket way too early and without any caution. By the time you reach office or school you have already made a dozen decisions to help you save more time and by the time it is mid day, your bucket is empty and you have absolutely no logical amount of energy left to take wise decisions any more and no matter how passionately you call our productivity bug friend to help our cause, in most cases it makes it worse.

So I hope you are getting the drift. Stop controlling. Stop overthinking. Yes Being productive is important but micromanaging whether you should wear a t-shirt or shirt to save time in wearing the buttons is wearing you out. Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg are famous examples for this. They automate simple non essential decision making and they would wear the same t-shirt and jean to reduce decision making so that they can save the energy for better decisions.

Now this productivity bug mode, once turned on, does not let you live in peace out of office. Because you are no longer predetermined to be a mediocre, you are destined to be the next big thing in the universe and hence every moment of your life is precious. You look for opportunities to grow in your personal life so that the growth here impacts the growth there. You start Yoga, gym, meditation with an “ulterior” motive to derive more juice out of your life.

I have nothing against you being more successful or productive, but have you given it a thought, when was the last time we did anything without asking a question “Why should I do it?”, “ What is the measurable benefit to it”, “ How will it impact my life in long term?” Well, this is why I am writing this blog. It is hard to find any action being performed for the sake of it. We have smart machines trying to take work away from us [ washing machine, dish washer, smart home appliances] so that we can put time to a better use. This has a serious side effect, next time you have to iron your clothes, you do it in a hurry or with a thought in your head that this is the unproductive side of me. I need to get it done quickly so that I can do something more productive with my time [say react to political rants on Facebook].

I find it difficult these days to stop this voice in my head which is always questioning why?, what are the benefits?. I think we have overdone productivity. Productivity happens when from moment to moment you immerse yourself in the experience of the task. Challenge yourself, feel pushed, feel driven by the task and then once done cherish the process and the result is always taken care of. Our deepest problems lies in the “resistance to the present moment”. Be it brushing your teeth or cleaning your kitchen. The voice in your head is always resisting the action and does not allow you to give your best. We forget the task is by itself its reward. Our “attachment to results” for every task performed has turned us into maniacs. Only if we learn to drop the resistance against the present and attachment to result for every task encountered, we may discover the joy of focus and attention. That every task is a reward in itself because it offers us engagement. It offers us a deep sense of connect as a direct result of focus, concentration and attention. Occupation was supposed to be a task that occupies the mind in a constructive way, today Occupation is the source of our stress.

Only when we learn to enjoy the task in the present, do we really learn to drop the baggage of expectation [attachment to result] and enjoy the mundane thanks to the mindful approach [drop the resistance] to the task. This frees us from all baggage once the task is accomplished leaving us free from chain of thoughts. With this freedom and lighthearted attitude when you enter boredom, solitude or rest you encounter deep fulfilling rest.

Our ability to rest lies in our ability to work well. Our ability to stop running the productivity race and dropping the urge to control every moment is a great gift to oneself.Our productivity bugs need counselling. They need to understand that rest is critical. Only when you rest after an engaging gym session that you get to build muscles. The muscles that get stretched and torn during a gym session rebuilds itself during the period of rest. Similarly our periods of rest are what make us deeply productive because of the resulting intensity with which we work and make choices.

Our rest is hence a product of our own ability to drop the resistance and attachment to results. The more you struggle to understand and resist this idea the more you struggle to find rest and more stressed and unproductive you end up in your life. May we all learn to enjoy the innocent pleasure of rest.May we watch a lot of stupid TV shows, laugh our hearts out and not worry about the time wasted in watching those shows. May we brush our teeth with more presence and may we iron our clothes with more presence and the productivity will take care of itself when the time is right. Till then, Rest. Rest well.

Corporate Trainer by profession, Philosopher by heart and Writer by choice.