This may seem like a big departure from what I usually share in this space. What in the world does “rest” have to do with visual marketing? Stick with me. I think you’ll be glad you did.
I have a confession to make. I’ve been secretly studying creativity and how to boost creativity for years now. It started out of necessity. Working in a profession where my job performance is tied directly to building graphics and generating new ideas, it can be a struggle to be creative on a consistent basis.
So I’ve made it my mission to learn what it takes to “hack” my creativity and find ways to kick-start those creative juices when the well runs dry. One of the biggest hacks I’ve discovered is the importance of rest and relaxation.
The big reason I started studying how rest leads to greater creativity was because of a book my pal Erik Fisher sent me called (affiliate link) Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
In the book, he breaks down rest by sharing these four main insights.
- Work and rest are partners.
- Rest is active.
- Rest is a skill.
- Deliberate rest stimulates and sustains creativity.
This last point is what really caught my eye. It seems that no matter how much the #hustle culture or the #nosleep blowhards on Instagram and Twitter would have you believe, there really is no trade-off to overwork. Long work hours don’t make you more successful. Instead, no rest makes you tired, sick, and uncreative.
Scientific studies have actually shown that creativity takes place when the mind is at rest. Overwork dulls your creativity.
So, as creatives looking to get a leg up on becoming more productive, here are some steps we can take to boost our creativity using rest.
Nap time is time well spent
Did you know that Albert Einstein, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, and Leonardo Da Vinci were all power nappers? One of my favorite bloggers, Michael Hyatt tries to take a nap every day!
Have you ever noticed when you have a problem or creative roadblock that after a nap you have a “Eureka!” moment? It seems that science is showing that napping can help with creative problem-solving.
Napping can help with memory as well. Pang writes in his book: “Regular napping can also improve memory. Just as the brain uses a good night’s sleep to fix memories, so too does it use naps to consolidate things you’ve just learned. Neuroscientist Sara Mednick found that napping for an hour or more during the day – a nap long enough to allow one to dream – improves performance on memory and perceptual tasks.”
Seems like our kindergarten teacher had it right. Naps are good for you. Now if we could only get those blue rest mats in adult sizes. Graham Crackers and milk wouldn’t hurt either.
Go for a walk
“The morning constitutional” didn’t use to mean stumbling to the bathroom half awake first thing in the morning. It actually used to mean “morning walk that was good for your health.” We got lazy and our walks were shortened to the outhouse in the morning. Walking and thinking have been companions since ancient times.
After a session of walking and discussion, Stanford scientists realized even though it was common knowledge that walking stimulates creativity, that no one had ever really measured it. They found that subjects performed better on tests that measured creative thinking while walking. Walking lets the creative part of the mind do its own thing and lets “more ideas to bubble up.”
One of the key things for creatives when walking is to capture the information as it comes. Beethoven carried paper and pencil on his walks. Lin-Manual Miranda did the same when working on the lyrics to Hamilton.
Schedule walks as part of your work day. Take a short break to walk around the block when you get stumped with a problem. Capture those ideas! Carrying a pen and paper is too bulky for me (plus I always forget them) I use apps like Evernote when I need to capture ideas or thoughts.
Deep Play is as important as work
Play isn’t just for little kids with action figures or big kids with trust funds. Deep Play is a tool that we can use to become more creative. Mr. Pang shares four characteristics of Deep Play.
- Deep Play is mentally absorbing.
- Deep Play offers a new context in which to use some of the same skills from their day job.
- Deep Play offers some of the same rewards as their day job, but also offers different, clearer rewards.
- Deep Play builds on things from the person’s past.
“Creative people don’t engage in deep play despite their high levels of activity and productivity; they’re active and productive because of deep play.”
I’ve actively worked on increasing my deep play time and can honestly say that I’ve seen some tremendous results.
I’ve taken to wood carving just to do something away from being in front of a screen all day. My sleep has been better and my creative production has been up since I’ve taken the time to “unwind” at the end of the day by slowing down and doing some carving.
Think about what you could do for some “Deep Play” time. Painting? Sculpting? Creative writing? Many people say “I just don’t have time for that.” How much time are you watching television? I’ll bet you could cut that time in half and make some time for Deep Play that is fulfilling and would boost your creativity.
Go to bed
If we are all honest with ourselves, we know that we need more rest. Sleep experts are saying that we need more rest and reports show that we are actually getting less. Sleep is essential for the well-being of our creative mind and body. Skipping sleep not only causes us to be no fun to be around but can also be harmful to our health. Here are some tips to get a better night’s sleep.
- Put away the screens. Sleep experts are recommending putting away blue-light emitting devices one hour before bed.
- Put your phone in another room. The anxiety of always being connected leads to lower sleep quality. If your using phone as your alarm, instead buy a cheap old-fashioned alarm clock. If that’s not an option, at least move your phone away from your bedside so the temptation to check it is diminished.
- Make work/reading places separate from your sleep area. I have been reading in bed since Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine It’s a hard habit to break. But when I read in a separate area and then go to bed, I find I fall asleep faster and seem to have a higher quality of sleep.
- Try different sleep hacks that you’ve never tried before. Lower the temperature, get new sheets or a pillow. I’ve just recently discovered (affiliate link) weighted blankets! My sleep has never been better.
The more I study this topic, the more I see that creativity and rest go hand in hand. With today’s hectic, always-on, always-connected society, making time for rest and play is not just something we do when we have time. It’s something we need to deliberately schedule time for.
What are some of your biggest hacks or tips for creativity and rest? I’d love for you to let me know in the comments.
Erik Fisher and I had a great discussion on his podcast about this topic and this book. You can listen to that podcast here. The transcript of the conversation is below.
Erik Fisher: Hello and welcome back to another episode of Beyond the To Do List. I’m your host, Erik Fisher, and this is the show where I talk to the people behind the productivity. This week I’m welcoming back my good friend, Jeff Sieh, to have a conversation with me about a book we both read awhile ago and have been implementing pieces of it into our lives ever since. The book is called Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Pang, and in this conversation you’ll hear us talk about why rest is not the opposite of work, and why rest and work are partners and hand in hand, and can complement each other.
So in effect, it’s not that you’re working less, it’s that you’re getting more done when you work less, when you’re resting, when you’re intentionally resting. When you’re investing in your resting, you get more done. And I really think this is a milestone episode for a lot of reasons. I think you’re going to really enjoy this, and I know you’re gonna really enjoy the book. You should probably just check that out as well. You’ll find a link to that in the show notes, which you can find at BeyondTheToDoList.com/230, and I’ll just get out of the way and say it, enjoy this conversation I had with Jeff Sieh about Rest.
Well this week it is my privilege to welcome back to the show my friend, Jeff Sieh. Welcome back, Jeff.
Jeff Sieh: Hello, thanks for having me on.
Erik Fisher: So we’ve been talking … this book came out, gosh. We both wanted to talk about this book, and it’s called Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less. And it’s not about like hey, let’s just do less work.
Jeff Sieh: Correct.
Erik Fisher: You get better work done, you get good work done. And honestly, better work and higher quality work, and even more work. But it’s all about coupling that or balancing that with actual rest. And I know people out there that are like, “Yeah, we’ve heard about this. Rest is a thing that’s like elusive, you can never have it. It’s not gonna ever happen. I take breaks, whatever.” It is what it is, but the book talks way more about rest, as if it’s something that is a partner to work. It’s not the anti-work thing.
Jeff Sieh: It’s not not working.
Erik Fisher: Right.
Jeff Sieh: It’s not not working, but the thing that got me about this book, and you and I have discussed it at length because it was kind of, I don’t want to say a paradigm shift, because that’s overused, but it did make a thrilling-
Erik Fisher: Game changer.
Jeff Sieh: Yeah, a game changer. The thing that really made us think about is it really did … it made me structure rest, I guess would be the same thing. It would make me almost schedule rest. It made me make it a priority, instead of something that I just didn’t do, like I just didn’t do work and I slept in on Saturday. Actually, going and say, okay, how am I going to hack rest, so that can be another title of the book is Hacking Rest or-
Erik Fisher: It could be, yeah.
Jeff Sieh: … I mean because that what these tools and tips inside the book on steps to really make your rest the best rest it can be. It sounds like a recruiting poster, but-
Erik Fisher: Hacking work, making your rest the best rest it can be.
Jeff Sieh: That’s right.
Erik Fisher: I think that’s for me, when you think about it, you think, oh, rest, yeah, that’s good, but you almost feel like it’s reading a book about how to rest feels like trying to read something to get away with justifying procrastination and laziness and not having work ethic and drive, and quote, hustle and all of that. I’m just like, no, actually this is actually gonna, if anything, this book is almost the secret to being able to hustle when you need to, and then not hustling when you shouldn’t be.
Jeff Sieh: It feels weird because rest is a thing that we associate with sleep, and that’s kind of a natural thing. It’s like, here’s a book about how to go to the bathroom. We all rest and we all have to … but this is really how to do it the right way, and not only why it’s important for you to do it, but some steps that you can take to really optimize, optimize that’s another good work, and optimize your rest. We both have practiced a lot of these things and really have noticed a difference.
Erik Fisher: I want to say, one of the biggest, key pieces from the book is this idea that rest, I’m going to go ahead and say, not only can it be active, that it really ought to be active. What I mean by active, there’s two-fold meaning there. One is you can be doing something fully physically active and have it be rest, but also active in the sense that it’s intentional. You’ve intentionally decided to be resting and doing something other than your normal, your work, your every day, that gets you away from that, so that you can recharge and be fully usable for that again, when it’s time.
Jeff Sieh: Yeah, and the thing also is I’m all about creativity. Creativity hacks and how can you be better at creative person, and oddly enough, rest is a big factor in being more creative, have more ideas pop in your mind, and how to use those hand in hand … you’re creative, and be creative in your rest, and rest makes you more creative, and so there’s all those different things that factor into it, as well.
Erik Fisher: It’s the idea that almost like a person who goes to the gym, like today’s leg day. Tomorrow is arms and something else day, and you alternate because you can’t have the same muscle get worked over and over again or it doesn’t grow or it doesn’t have any energy left in it.
Jeff Sieh: Just like food, both you and I like to eat, but we don’t like to eat the same thing, and both you and I love pizza. Whenever we get together for a master mind, we always try to hit a pizza joint or some place that serves mac and cheese, just so you guys know if you ever want to have us, that’s what we like, but we wouldn’t want to eat that every day for the rest of our lives. You need variety, and rest needs the same thing if you want to optimize it.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, exactly, and so it can be … we’re talking about, there’s probably some standard things you need to put into place first and foremost, that are daily elements of rest if your life, as well as, bigger chunks of stuff for even daily and weekly and then the weekend. When I say weekend and planning for the weekend and rest, I automatically think of one particular person, and I know you know who I’m thinking of.
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: And so, Michael Hyatt. Yeah.
Jeff Sieh: I love planners. Planners are cool, they help you organize your life. I thought, that’s great, but the thing that made it stand out for me, and maybe it’s in a lot of other ones, but I had never seen it before, but Michael Hyatt really … he schedules the weekend and schedules the rest, and scheduling naps, even. That kind of changed the way, starting to schedule rest in other than on the weekend, and you know I like going to bed, but makes a lot of sense. I mean, he’s a big proponent of naps and I started trying, if I need one, to take a nap, and boy, that sure boosts creativity, too. The whole scheduling of rest has kind of been a new thing that I’ve implemented in my life lately.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, being intentional about it, planning it to where you have it if you need it or actually planning it, so that you have it, even when you don’t know that you need it. You could overboard. I know, and I’m not saying he does this, but I’m saying I know that Michael Hyatt will literally unplug from work stuff for the entire weekend. Now, he doesn’t necessarily unplug from social, which could be a debatable topic, I think to a certain extent. Let’s go to that later.
I know right now, he’s on a month long sabbatical, where he is not doing any work thought at all and he’s not doing emails, doing no work, whatsoever. If you can imagine that, honestly, I would love to do that. I would love to take a month off of everything, but I do know … so, here’s a funny thing, I sent him a message on Instagram stories ’cause he had posted, he’s going on sabbatical, and, I said, okay, I’ll see your reply to this message when you get back in a month and he replied right away and was like, oh no, I’m still using social while I’m gone. I really admire that he’s doing that, in the fact that he’s proving that it’s not a compulsion thing. He’s using it for the enjoyment factor, but anyway we can talk about the social media aspect of it later or go to it now, I guess, I don’t know.
Jeff Sieh: My thing is I also want to highlight that. Some of us, and it’s all about seasons of life. Michael Hyatt has been doing this for a long time, he’s got a team behind us. A lot of us don’t have teams. You and I both can’t do a sabbatical right now. It just can’t, financially or family wise, it just doesn’t work. Someday, oh yeah, I would love to do that, too, but we can take mini-sabbaticals that do a lot of recharging and a lot of stuff that we can do that gives us a lot of benefits that we tend to try to cram stuff in.
You and I were talking about this before, and I had read an article a couple weeks ago about people … you know, it’s vacation time right now, and one of the problems is, people stress so much about their vacation, that it’s not really worth it. At the end of the day, it doesn’t give them any benefits because they try to cram too much in to everyday to get the most bang out of their buck. They’re going to Disney Land, I gotta go and do all of it the first day, and this article was really talking about, hey, give yourself time. Make it okay before you even start to let yourself to know that you’re not going to do certain things, because it’s just not practical. That’s I think really key, too, because I think, at least in our nation, we do try to cram a lot of stuff in our vacation, where it’s not, even almost fun anymore.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, it’s funny you bring up Disney ’cause I literally just got back from there with my family last week. One of the things we were talking about after the trip was the idea of what we would have done differently, is we would have gotten down there to Florida, and checked into where we were going, and stayed for a night or two before getting over to Disney. Even then, we didn’t try to Disney, all of the above, all at once. We picked one park per day, and did two days, and that was it. Even then, it was a little overwhelming. I learned how to … and this is a skill. Rest is a skill. You’re going to learn how to do this better as you try to do it and attempt to do it, small scale, and slowly build up.
There are times when I get through a weekend, and I wonder, did I really get enough rest? Sometimes, I feel like, no, probably not. Even Sunday night, I’m thinking, I feel like almost need to crack the laptop, just so that tomorrow morning I don’t feel as rushed and I hate that feeling. I’m trying to figure out how to get around to that, not look at email over the weekend, which there are weekends where I don’t. There are weekends where I take a peek, and then I always regret it. Almost always regret it. It’s a skill, and it’s about getting better at it, it’s about not trying to cram in as much. As we go back to what Michael Hyatt does, he literally will take … he checks out on Friday at the end of the day. He is off … again, he’s older and an empty nester and he and his wife, Gail, will get out of town often from Nashville, which is great. Unfortunately, not great for me because when I go down there, and then, he’s not there now to visit. I’m like, crap.
Jeff Sieh: Here’s one of the things, we mentioned a lot of us, I have a feeling a lot of your listeners are in the same situation, we can’t take a month sabbatical off, but we can do things that we can in our own realm of … Now, what I can do is if I’m going to Dallas, and Dallas for me is about two and a half hours away. If I have to go there for a family thing or like we’re going to a show or whatever, instead of, a lot of people will drive to Dallas, go see the game, and then drive back. Well, that takes a lot of time. I’m blessed to have the funds and resources that I can get a hotel. I’m not stressed, and I know how I would be, and this will bless me and my family.
I’ll spend that extra money to get a hotel room, and you know this, even when we meet for the Tribe’s conference in Nashville, I can drive it in a day, but a lot of times what I’ll do is I’ll work ’til the afternoon a little bit, and then I’ll drive halfway and spend the night. Then, have a nice leisurely drive, not kill myself getting up and going, that kind of stuff, learning how your body relates and how you need rest. We can’t take sabbaticals, but we are … a lot of us are blessed enough to have enough finances to get a hotel room and it doesn’t have to be at The Ritz or anything, but just a place to crash and decompress. I tell you, it makes a world of difference. I am a new person, my family loves me more when I do those kind of things, when we can have that leisurely time, and not the mad scramble, it seems so much to get out the door.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, I totally agree, and again, I like what you’re saying about how people can’t typically afford to, unless they’ve really been intentional about it, and prepared for it. They can’t do a sabbatical. They can’t do, even two weeks off is hard for people. Even a week off like I just did, is sometimes a little bit harder depending upon your position, what it is you do, how you do it. For most of us, the practical day in, day out, is we’ve got work days in front of us, and we’ve got weekends. I’m not saying, hey, let’s live for the weekends like a lot of people are. What’s funny is a lot of people, what is it they say? They say something along the lines of-
Jeff Sieh: Working for the weekend.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, but not only that, they take that and they spin it. They say that it’s like, oh man, those people who are just working to the end of the week to have their weekend, like I pity them. I’m like, yeah, but at the same time, the weekend’s time is much more free in some ways depending upon, I don’t know, I’m going down a bad tangent here, so I probably should stop.
Jeff Sieh: The other thing is, people flip it and go, if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Erik Fisher: There’s the rub, there it is right there. I think it’s those two things combined that it’s like, no, what it is are both are true and both are false. Both are sayings. What it comes down to is, even if you love what you’re doing, you cannot do it eight hours a day, and then come back the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and then work on the weekend, as well. You will burn out. You will run out of ideas or you will come up with worse ideas because you have to deliberately rest in order to stimulate your brain, and sustain your brain in different ways, and have creativity as a resource. Or else, you will just not have it. Trust me. Or you’ll treat the people you work with poorly as well.
Jeff Sieh: You mentioned deliberate rest and maybe we can go into that because there’s different types of rest. To be deliberate for all those types of rest I think is important. For one example for me, is I try to get away from screens and this is-
Jeff Sieh: … me is, I try to get away from screens and this is, I do this mainly so I can stay creative because my job is usually based on my output of creative ideas and videos or whatever, and I have to cultivate that and this came almost out of necessity, is I got so tired of looking at screens, and so what I try to do is I got into woodcarving. I try to wood carve at least 20 minutes a night, even if it’s something stupid simple or woodworking with my dad on the weekends or whatever.
Every night I try to break away and get away from those goofy screens. I have found that has … the biggest thing that I have done that increases my creativity is that kind of stuff, and so I think that’s one type … I’m working with my hands. I’m going and not looking at screens. I’m still being creative in a different way, but that lets me … it stimulates some part of my brain that helps me have other thoughts when I wake up in the morning and start fresh.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, and that’s what I was gettin’ at with the whole word active is that it’s not a passive thing, you’re not sitting there doing nothing. And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with that. Rest comes in that form as well.
Jeff Sieh: Right, that’s good too. Yeah.
Erik Fisher: Rest can be incredibly passive.
Jeff Sieh: And meditation.
Erik Fisher: Yes. I mean it can come very much in the form of, still intentionally, but doing nothing. Like not consuming. Not creating. Literally letting your … hanging yourself up to dry for awhile and just letting yourself hang out. You know?
Jeff Sieh: Right. Like I just took … you just mentioned your trip and so I just got back from a trip with my son for his … he graduated. My dad took me on a senior trip, and I took mine to the same place in Branson, Missouri, and we sat out on the dock and fished most all the time. We went to an amusement park a couple times, but mostly we sat there and fished and talked, ’cause that’s what he wanted to do. That recharged me more than anything. It wasn’t a long, super long like week long trip, I mean.
This is another thing that you and I both have kind of figured out how to hack our schedules is … Like we have a Friday show. I left right after that, drove down there, and then I was back to the office in Tuesday. It wasn’t a long drawn out thing, but it was the what I did, which was just sitting and watching the fog roll in over the river and fish. I mean, just, it rejuvenates you, and so that’s … that would probably be even less active than carving-
Erik Fisher: Right.
Jeff Sieh: But, like you said, it’s okay to sit there and do nothing, or sit there and hold a fishing pole, or write on our great American novel, if that’s what helps you relax and use a different part of your brain and rejuvenates you. I would say, wouldn’t you say to figured for yourself would be like, take a journal Erik and figure out, like, “Okay, I did this and man I really like that and I really felt like on Monday I had all these new ideas.” I mean how have you discovered what your thing is that rejuvenates you?
Erik Fisher: Well, and I would even say there’s a definite … speaking of notebooks, I mean being able to pull one out and have one with you on the go, say on a weekend that when you think of something, “Oh I could tweak that or I could, you know, that’s an idea for a this or a that or whatever. Like I don’t know that it’s wrong to capture ideas on the go, but I think then going down the rabbit trail of like trying to craft them and do those things. Especially if that’s what you do during your regular week. Like, shift modes.
Shift into a different gear, actually is a better way to put it. Like shift into different gears, not just in your day to day. Like, again we should probably go back to some of the day to day stuff after we get off this weekend stuff. Shift into a different gear, deliberately. Coast for awhile even and let yourself, you know, recharge in a way that maybe a hybrid would where it’s not using the gas stuff, it’s coasting and it’s charging your electric battery to use and travel in a different way.
But yeah, I think that for me I really like to … I really, I’m just gonna confess, like I love TV and I love movies and I want to go to the theater and I want to sit downstairs in my big screen 4k that I have now and comfy couch and sit with the kids. I mean and it’s an interactive family thing, you know, most of the time.
Jeff Sieh: But I also think you’ve hacked this because I know you go out once a week with you and some guys and watch, it’s the same kind of thing …
Erik Fisher: Yes. Yes.
Jeff Sieh: But it’s almost that active resting because you’re going there and you’re still … but you’re disgusting and debating the topics that you-
Erik Fisher: You said I’m disgusting. That’s funny.
Jeff Sieh: …watched. No, you’re disgusting. Watch you watch is … No.
Erik Fisher: We disgust things. No, we-
Jeff Sieh: You disgust. You know what I mean.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, we get together on a Wednesday nights. Me and some guy friends, we get together and we watch old Episodes of the West Wing and we talk about it. But honestly? Like, after doing it for almost two years now or more, come to think about it, we’re already … we’re talking about like maybe doing other … watching other things or whatever and the instigation of putting a different thing to watch in place is still, so that we have like a-
Jeff Sieh: Spring board.
Erik Fisher: … rallying point, you know. But, it’s honestly most of the time we end up talking. We do still watch stuff most of the time, but we do like majority of the time of the time we’re together still we’re talking. We’re talking more than watching and that’s what I’m saying with like sitting down and watching stuff and whatever. I often in the evenings like to watch like half hour comedy stuff. I’ve gone through a number of series over the past four years, starting with Seinfeld way back in the day, right after Social Media Marketing World, the first one I went to. And yeah, it kind of lightens my mood, I mean it’s almost like sitting there and just decompressing.
Jeff Sieh: Well see, and see, but this reminds some of some … one of my favorite authors C.S. Lewis, what he did with Tolkien went and did the Inklings.
Erik Fisher: Right.
Jeff Sieh: That was kind of the … almost your West Wing is your Inklings. You know?
Erik Fisher: Yes.
Jeff Sieh: Where you do go stuff and this all bounces back to being this active rest. You’re not just laying on a couch somewhere, but this is resting, but you’re using a different part of your brain interacting, and I know that helps make you more creative.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, and again I … he doesn’t … Alex Pang, the author of the book, doesn’t talk about it as if it’s different gears, but I like thinking about it in that way, where I like thinking about like, hey, when I am ultra-focused during the workweek time and I’m in one of the four to five hours that I really am gonna get a lot done kind of a mode. Like that’s a high gear. That’s a … takes a lot of focus and effort to make it happen and then I’m in a different gear for other times in that day and then in the evening.
In the morning I’m in a different gear and then on the weekend, it’s a whole other gear and there’s … And then there’s the laying on the couch and doing nothing mode or the laying on the couch and watching TV mode or the sitting and watching with my family, which is a whole other thing. There’s the … I mean there’s way more than like the five or six gears that are normal in a car, but you see what I’m saying.
Jeff Sieh: And you know what made me feel a lot better is that podcast you had with the author of The Creative Curve-
Erik Fisher: Yes!
Jeff Sieh: … awhile back and the whole thing, it made me feel so good ’cause I did it and I was like. I kinda felt guilty about it for so many years is I collect things to help me be creative. Like I’ll, like you said, I’ll watch some comedy and there will be something that’ll spark and I’ll write down an idea, or I’ll go for a walk and that’ll spark an idea, or I’ll listen to a podcast, or see something on … read an article or something I read and kick all the ideas and he mentioned all that. That’s collecting to be creative, and that’s collecting to be creative and that just-
Erik Fisher: It’s consuming.
Jeff Sieh: Yeah. It was me consuming to be creative and so that, as long as I don’t abuse it and say, “Well, I’m just gonna sit and watch, you know, binge watch all the Marvel episodes and that’ll make me creative. That’s not … I’m actively trying to get ideas when I’m collecting. That made me feel a lot better listening to that podcast because it was so much like, that’s what all these creative people do, and I was like, “Wow. I feel good, ’cause that’s what I do,” and for so many years I thought, “Well, that’s just wasting time.” It really isn’t.
Erik Fisher: Yeah. I think about it almost as metaphorically back to food, like we were talking about earlier, where it’s the … you consume for fuel. Well you consume content for creating. Like it’s by observing and seeing and thinking about other things that even if you’re doing a different kind of work as you’re watching it, you’re still kind of analyzing it, and or enjoying it to then maybe use it in something else that you do. Especially if you’re a knowledge worker.
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: So, I mentioned this four hours, five hours thing and I think I should probably clarify that like in the book … By the way, we’re barely skimming over the book.
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: There’s so much in this book.
Jeff Sieh: Yeah, it’s a great book.
Erik Fisher: We’re just kind of taking the stuff that is readily applicable to us, but there’s a lot more in there that I know is gonna be applicable to a lot of other people. But one of the things he does is he kind of goes over a lot of high output really creative people, and he says, by studying what they did in their … not just their mornings, but in their days, he saw that basically they had four to five hours of concentrated work and that was a good day for them.
We think about that from our “modern work day” and we’re like, “Eight hours a day and then some!” Where … “Crack the laptop in the evening. Get up early at 6:00 a.m. and do more.” And it’s just like, “No!” You’re really not outputting more or even better, especially ,is the key piece here, when you’re doing that, and so … and by the way, I’m recording again with Cal Newport coming up and that’s gonna be interesting ’cause I wanna kind of revisit the whole focus thing with him, now that it’s been a few years. He’s gone off and … I mean, he’s got other things coming up for sure. New books and stuff, but like, yeah it’ll be interesting.
Jeff Sieh: Well, this time thing ties into also what Chris Brogan always says, what he schedules only a small part of his day because of all the other-
Erik Fisher: Right.
Jeff Sieh: … you know, and so he schedules that time, which is his focus time and then leaves the rest open for other things and life to happen, which ties into like, you only have so much hours of really concentrated work and so you think about how small it is, but then you think about, “Okay, how can I optimize that? How can I remove the distractions? When do I need to take breaks?” ‘Cause I can’t, myself, and now other people can, like Cal Newport and I think some other high functioning people, which I am not, goes … they can do four hours straight of really concentrated stuff and I can do that rarely.
Most of the time it’s like, I can work for thirty minutes an then I get up and I have to do …you know, I can’t sit on my butt that long. You know I have to go take a walk. And that’s another thing we mention that he mentioned in the book, the importance of walking, and how many of the smart, creative people … and he did some studies on actually go for walks and that changed the way I think about it too and I’ve been trying to schedule those in my day as well.
Erik Fisher: Yeah and the other thing I was gonna say when you brought up Chris Brogan and not scheduling out his whole day, it made me think again, back to Michael Hyatt’s full focus planner that we referenced earlier in terms of … in regards to the weekend and planning that. One of the things that he suggests with the planing of your workday is not only to have the start up routine and the shut down routine, but that you’re not putting on that list of stuff to do today more than say … you’ve got your big three. You know?
And I think, if you’ve thought about it, like that four to five hours of focused concentrated work spread across three different things and maybe if it was like, “Hey, here’s …” If we take what you were just saying where you take about a half hour to maybe an hour if you’re on a role and you almost push one of the three big things to completion, take a break and then come back and finish it and then you move on and you know, number two. Same thing. Three. Same thing.
That’s a good day and I think that’s kinda … for us that are not as practiced with this focus time or not as … For those of us, I have to throw this in there, for those of us who don’t have complete control over our own time, because we work for other people and things come up and we have calls that are not things we planned for. Like that’s probably the best approach to do that. Then in the meantime, like, yeah if you’ve got those three things … the three big things done today, and you got four to five hours of solid work and then maybe you did some passive admin stuff and you call it a day, like you’re still getting more done than just frittering back and forth between a whole bunch of different things on top of just not resting.
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, I just think that this is huge to not, you know, overdo your to do list. You know?
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: To have the over flowing to do list.
Erik Fisher: To have the overflowing to-do list, is really where it goes.
Jeff Sieh: When you’re done with your day, how do you check out? You know I’ve talked about this, and one of the hacks that I use is that, when it comes to the weekend, I change my watch face on my Apple Watch to be like Mickey Mouse, like the retro Mickey Mouse one, because that way, whenever I look at my watch, because I’m usually looking at my watch because, “Oh, what do I got to do next,” I am reminded that, “Oh, it’s the weekend. I’m supposed to be relaxing.” Just that little mental or visual trigger really does help. Even during the workday when you check out, putting your phone in the other room when you’re sitting at dinner, that kind of stuff, what are some other hacks that you have found that you really like to use?
Erik Fisher: Yeah, well, one of the things that I’ll do is, I have found, even though … Because of the nature of my day job and your day job even to a certain extent is that we’re on social media and we get notifications there from people who are doing things over the weekend. I’m thinking deliberately about Facebook at this moment. I try not to go in there, because I see is almost another work email inbox, and so, number one, I will actually do the trick on iOS where you offload the app. You don’t delete it, but you offload it so that you have to re-download it again, even though the placeholder for the app is still there. By the way, I have all my social apps in a folder on the second page of my phone, so I have to dig a little bit-
Jeff Sieh: That’s smart, yeah.
Erik Fisher: Harder to get to them, but I will offload those apps. Maybe I’ll do Twitter and a couple of others. I will typically do that, so that I am not tempted to, even though I may or may not have my phone, I would love to get to the point where I’m not having my phone on me at all, or as much, or even having one of those burner phones, where my number forwards to it for calls only. I was considering that, actually.
That’s one of the things. Then the other is, I will use something like Boomerang, where I will pause my inbox in multiple places, so that nothing new comes in. Actually in fact, what did I just say I did? Offloading?
Jeff Sieh: Boomerang? Yeah.
Erik Fisher: Offloading my mail app on my phone, so that I don’t have the ability to check my mail randomly while I’m standing in a line, because it’s a habit. We’ve trained ourselves, these last 10 years, we’ve grown accustomed to slide to open or press and hold with thumbprint open, on all these devices in our pockets while we’re out and about, when we should just be decompressing and being bored on purpose.
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: I’m trying to think of what else I do. Yeah, I try to do those things. I try to do the shutdown routine. I try to plan the weekend and say, “Okay, what are we going to do this weekend that’s different from the work week?” I’m not saying, don’t have cool unique things to do during the work week. That would be great too. Heck, my wife and I went to the movies last night, completely unplanned. At least, I was like, “Hey, you want to go see the movies?” She was like, “Yeah,” and we did, and we never do that. I want to do that. I want to go every Tuesday when it’s cheap ticket night. Anyway.
Jeff Sieh: Right. Then it’s deliberate practice. This stuff that, like in your podcast with Cal Newport you mentioned as well is that, one of my things is, offloading my tasks and writing them down so I don’t worry about them when I’m supposed to be resting.
Erik Fisher: Yes.
Jeff Sieh: That’s a huge thing for me. I used to do this for that to capture my ideas, and I’m trying to get my … I was telling my wife how much it’s changed how I can sleep better and all this stuff. The other thing, offloading that, and also saying, I just say out load, it’s like, “Shutdown complete,” so I can say that, because when I leave my office, because my office is in my office in a portable building out back, so I don’t forget, “Did I lock the door? Did I set the alarm?” If I say that, and it sounds stupid to say it out loud, but it really does make me go, “Okay, I’m done. I am done. I don’t have to worry about it anymore.”
Erik Fisher: Yeah. I think that’s, for me, especially now with the kids home, the end of the day is different for me. I’m trying to figure out how to press “stop” and close out the door. That’s literally funny, because that’s when we’re recording this, so I’m thinking about it actively in my head. I’m like, “Hmm. Dinner.” Maybe it’s a thing where it’s like, I shut down as much as I can, but then I step away for a while, and then I ease into doing other things in the evening. I don’t know. It’s different for me in my season right now. You’re season’s different.
Jeff Sieh: Right. I just inaudible 00:36:42.
Erik Fisher: You’ve got your man shed in your yard, whereas I’m literally inside the house.
Jeff Sieh: I mean, some of the things is making you having triggers for yourself that work. Like, the one you taught me that really helps, not to eat after supper, is brush your teeth. That could be a shutdown sequence. “I’m brushing my teeth. I’m not doing work.” I’ll put sandals on. When I really want to feel like I’m not working, I’ll put sandals on. I don’t know why.
Erik Fisher: Yeah. Oh, gosh.
Jeff Sieh: My kids are like, “What is Dad in sandals for?” I’m like, “I’m done.”
Erik Fisher: It’s Mr. Rogers, where he switches his shoes and his-
Jeff Sieh: Exactly.
Erik Fisher: Sweater and stuff when he comes in, and then when he does and when he’s leaving, he’s doing the opposite. That mental image right now actually really helps me with that. I think I might try and start doing something along those lines.
Jeff Sieh: I’m not going to knit you a sweater, I’m not going to do it.
Erik Fisher: No, and I’m not going to wear it.
Jeff Sieh: Okay.
Erik Fisher: Maybe switching into sandals or something, although I typically will wear sandals if it’s warm enough, so anyway. I’m trying to think of where else we can go here, because I know we’re running down on this topic, but I really think the thing to keep in mind here, one, I think everybody should get the book. This is a no-brainer book for most people to grab.
I think really, only by studying what he says in the book, as well as studying yourself, are you going to figure out and be convinced, to be honest, that this is a huge thing that is, honestly I think, a real stumbling block or speed bump to a lot of people’s true having energy and creativity that they may not be even fully aware of. They have tired parts in their mind that they are not even aware of. Like I said before, they think they have great ideas all day left and right, but they could have even more or even take them to the next level, not even to mention the fact that, again, you’re probably cranky with your family and cranky with your workers, whether they’re above or below you. You could have this all so much better set up. I know I could.
Jeff Sieh: Right. Well, one of the things-
Erik Fisher: And have been.
Jeff Sieh: Yeah. I think what people need to think about too, and I have actually started trying to do this, is an investing in your rest. Like, I invested in tools to try carving. If it didn’t work, I would try something else. If you’ve always wanted to paint, and you think that would be something, invest in some paint classes and some paints and stuff. I’m always trying now to hack my sleep. Erik, our bed stunk and it was bothering me, and I’m like, “Gosh.” Erik told me about the beds that he uses. I went to one similar. It was like a Leesa bed that came in the mail. It was awesome, and so that increased my sleep. Recently, I started using a weighted blanket, of all things.
Erik Fisher: Yes.
Jeff Sieh: Which I never thought I would use, and I studied that it helps with anxiety and it helps people stay in the deep sleep a little bit longer. I tried it out, and I love it. My wife hates it. She does not like to be confined, and it’s not confining, but there’s something about having that weighted blanket that I missed it when I went on vacation. It’s not hot and all that stuff, and if I wouldn’t have been actively pursuing better ways to rest, I would never have come across that idea. Think about that stuff. Don’t be scared to try new ways to hack your rest, and then use what works and throw away the rest.
Erik Fisher: Yeah. I love weighted blankets. My son is using my daughter’s old one, and then my daughter has a new one. I actually really want to get one for myself as well. You find them on sale on Amazon often pretty well.
Jeff Sieh: Yeah, that’s where I got mine.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, so I guess the thing that I would want to close out on is just saying, look, you may think you’re good at breaks or that you’re taking breaks at all, but I’m telling you, you might find it’s better to not just think, “Okay, I need to walk away for a minute.” No, you need to start integrating rest, not as a walk away from your work, but as a tool to do better work. Think of it that way, and you will get more out of your work, as well as more out of your rest, and you’re going to feel better and you’re going to do better work. I don’t know. Anything else you want to add?
Jeff Sieh: No, I think that’s great. This is all about productivity and being beyond the to-do list. I think rest is something you have to add to your to-do list, and not just schedule, “I’m not going to do anything right now,” but really think of how I can increase my productivity through rest, and then track it. I think one of the things you and I learned, especially from the full focus planner, is being able to track that and then make adjustments after that.
Erik Fisher: Yeah, perfect. Jeff, it’s always awesome. I mean, I talk to you all the time, almost everyday.
Jeff Sieh: Right.
Erik Fisher: This is a normal conversation for us, just a little bit more polished and recorded, but I’d love for everybody to find out where you’re at. By the way, if you guys really like Jeff and I talking about this, I guess I’ll tease this out, we are planning on doing a podcast together coming very, very soon. You’ll find out more about that. If you enjoyed this conversation, I’d love for you to let us know somehow. If you know us, reach out to us on social. Jeff, where can people find you other than when you’re talking to me?
Jeff Sieh: Yeah, I’d love for them to connect with me on all the socials. I’m Jeff S-I-E-H, that’s I before E, especially in Sieh, and then also at ManlyPinterestTips.com, where we’re always adding testosterone one pin at a time. Sign up for the newsletter there, because I’m always talking about social media stuff on that, and so I’d love to connect with you that way.
Erik Fisher: Awesome. Jeff, thanks for being here. Glad to record with you again.
Jeff Sieh: Awesome.
Erik Fisher: Like I said at the conversation there, I talk with Jeff all the time about all this kind of stuff. It’s cool for me to be able to share one of those conversations with you, because I think you can get a lot of out it. We’ve both read that book, we’re kind of like doing a book study in front of you, and I think you need to get the book. This is one of the handful of books across the years that I think is a must-have, this “Rest” book. The book is called, again, “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less.” It’s by Alex Pang, you’ll find it on any bookseller’s place.