We touched on this last Monday, but it is worth repeating. As we gear up for the week ahead, I know the vast majority of us are looking to make progress on our goals. Whether that is finishing the book we are working on, promoting our website or physical business or just being on time to work to make sure we can keep earning funds to keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. One important aspect to keep in mind is scheduling some mental health time. If you can get so much done in a certain amount of time, it would make sense that the longer you work, the more you will get done. This is true, to a point.
Let us take this picture of these people paving a road, I am guessing. Let us say they can get a certain amount of road done in 8 hours. If we kept them working 24 hours straight would we assume they would get three times that amount of road done? Of course not. Eventually, they would begin to tire and become less physically able to do their job. We have all had this happen, haven’t we? Even if we do not do construction for a living. We could be working around the yard, for example. When we start out we are feeling good and making great progress. After a few hours that shovel begins to become a little heavier, that lawn mower a little harder to push. Sure, if we keep working we could make a little more progress, but it would be at a slower rate and more likely to contain some mistakes. The human body has its limits. They vary from person to person, but we all tire out eventually.
It is not just physical exertion we need to be aware of. The brain, just like any muscle in the body has its limits, maybe even more so. Your brain requires glucose and oxygen to operate at peak efficiency. We need to make sure our diet and exercise are good if we are going to push ourselves mentally. We also need to make sure we let the brain rest as well. This could be working in some meditation, laughter or even a nap during the day. As we push our brain we also begin to lose the rate at which we can produce and increase the chance we will make a mistake. As a writer I can testify to this. I can sit down and write for hours if I am properly rested (and caffeinated) After a while, if I don’t give my brain a break I may struggle to spell “cat”. This is one of the many reasons there are not a lot of cats mentioned near the end of my blog posts. Just remember your brain is muscle like your arm or leg and needs to rest to perform at its best.
As we work towards all we wish to accomplish this week let us keep this in mind. Hard work is a noble pursuit to be sure, but intelligent hard work is what leads to the best results. We need to remember to recharge both our physical and mental batteries as we go along. There is a law of diminishing returns, or arc of productivity as I prefer to call it. There reaches a point where if we push ourselves the returns will slowly get less. Keep pushing ourselves and we will end up making mistake after mistake, generating negative returns. It would be better, and more productive, to take a break, get some rest and begin again.
Look, I get it, sometimes the cake for the party is due and you only have an hour left. Maybe your publisher (or mother) is expecting that book to be done yesterday. What can you do other than keep pushing? When the cake falls over or you accidentally delete 3 years worth of writing and find yourself worse off than when you began, you will say to yourself, “I should have listened to that Neil guy.” or you may just utter an explicative. Either way by pushing beyond your limits, you will have created more work for yourself. The best way is to plan accordingly. Schedule some time to rest. Believe it or not, this is one secret to an amazing life.