Can you imagine an Olympic athlete who trains without resting? Skipping recovery stunts physical performance and makes athletes vulnerable to injuries.
Most of us may not have competed in the Olympics — but many I work with can be considered athletes in mental performance.
Our gold medal is actualizing our potential, our best. And the optimal way to achieve our best is the sprint-recover model.
First, let’s look at some of the ways that we can impede our own progress:
More Input Doesn’t Necessarily Equal More Output
The logic makes sense. More input should equal more output, right? But sometimes more doesn’t equal more — it equals less.
For example, if you train the same muscles every day, your muscles won’t get stronger. When you strength train, your muscles get small tears, and it’s during the rest phase when your body can pump blood back into them to make them stronger. When you rest, your body pumps more blood into the muscles to help them grow stronger. If you skip the recovery phase, the muscle will be prone to injury.
In a similar vein, if you work non-stop, you will get diminishing returns. You may work longer hours but the quality of your work will be lower. You’ll be more likely to get burned out. Your overall performance decreases.
If you want to perform at your best and feel good at the end of your workday, try out the sprint-recover model. Do a focused and timed work sprint and take time for recovery. And by recovery, I don’t mean vacations.
Vacations Aren’t Really the Answer
Vacations and weekends are great but they are too slow of a cycle to be relevant for mental performance.
Our mental performance relies on the Basic Rest and Activity Cycle (BRAC), an ultradian cycle. It is characterized by alternating periods of ~90mins high-frequency brain activity followed by 20mins low-frequency activity when awake.
So our brain is already employing a sprint-recover model with our alertness. We just need to match our work habits to our brains' natural rhythms.
How To Implement Sprint-Recover Model
Divide your workday into 90mins sprint-20mins recovery cycles. See how it works for you. The goal is to match your natural cycle. Observe when your alertness is naturally high and naturally low. Try to match your cycles to that.
There are individual differences in how long one can maintain alertness. While the average is 90 mins, it can range between 80mins to 120mins. So experiment with different cycle lengths to find the right rhythm for you.
When you take your 20mins break make sure it helps you to recover. The activities you engage in during your break should not require a lot of mental resources. Playing with your phone, surfing on the internet are not proper recovery breaks.
Here are are some good ways to use your 20mins break and maximize your productivity:
Taking a shower (working from home)
Listening to music
Playing with a pet (working from home)
Cooking (working from home)
So you can have it all; a productive and high-leverage workday and also a beautiful, recharging workday.
Don’t let this culture of busyness and glorification of hard work mislead you. Sustainable high-performance is only possible in a state of wellbeing.
Wish you a great sprint…