Why You Get More Done When You Work Less
Overwork and endless hustle are the keys to success, right? They don’t have to be.“This is a book about work,” says ALEX SOOJUNG-KIM PANG in Rest. Being productive isn’t about multi-tasking or “hacks.” Make no mistake—Rest is not about leisure. It’s about committing deliberate periods of non-work that fuel your business hours, making more from less. Work smarter, not harder.
Churchill painted, Darwin took walks, and Alex Pang’s Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less shows why relaxation—as a partner to work—is anything but idle. Going to the gym or training for a marathon are forms of rest in that they redirect our attention away from primary work. As Arianna Huffington said in her glowing New York Times review of the book, “If work is our national religion, Pang is the philosopher reintegrating our bifurcated selves.” Even the sleep-when-you’re-dead world of business has turned an eye to Pang’s research, inspiring articles in the likes of Fast Company and HR Magazine.
In his 2013 book, The Distraction Addiction, Pang explained how we can use technologies to escape perpetual distraction and be more focused. Rest is an expansive sequel to The Distraction Addiction, discussing how activities we might think of as time-wasters actually inspire and sustain creativity. Together, The Distraction Addiction and Rest have been translated into ten languages.
“If work is our national religion, Pang is the philosopher reintegrating our bifurcated selves.”— Arianna Huffington
Besides being a bestselling author, Pang is also founder of The Restful Company, a consulting and research firm devoted to bringing deliberate rest to an overworked world. As a consultant, this is where Pang puts his theories to the test, studying the methods by which people create, and the richly varied domains we do it in. His work draws on history, anthropology, neuroscience, and psychology to understand how great minds use intense focus, play, and mind-wandering to both stimulate and sustain creativity, and how technology can be used to enhance rather than erode those efforts.
A visiting scholar at Stanford University, Pang holds a Ph.D. in the history and sociology of science.
Our lives are ruled by overwork and busyness. In today’s 24/7, always-on world, we celebrate hard-driven entrepreneurs, over-schedule ourselves and our children, multitask constantly, and treat sleep as a nuisance. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Some of history’s most creative and prolific people—Nobel prize-winning scientists, famous novelists, painters, even generals and politicians—achieved more than we did while working fewer hours per day, taking long vacations, and leading lives that seem admirably, almost impossibly, leisurely.
How did they do it? And what can we learn from them? In this talk Pang draws on history, biography, neuroscience, and the psychology of creativity to argue that people get more done when they practice deliberate rest. They choose forms of daily rest that restore their energy while feeding their creative minds. They use exercise, deep play and sabbaticals to sustain their long-term creativity. They layer periods of hard concentration and diverting leisure, maximizing the effectiveness of both. They show that rest is not an obstacle to a productive life, but an essential part of it. If you want to work well, you must learn to rest well.
Today, rest feels elusive, but by taking it seriously, it’s possible for individuals and organizations to rediscover the power of rest to stimulate creative thinking, sustain creative lives, and improve your quality of life. People are discovering that by taking rest seriously, they can do fulfilling work while having better lives. Companies are finding that shorter working days, nap pods, and more generous vacation policies can improve productivity and profits. Learning how to rest, it turns out, is the smartest lifehack of all.
Smartphones, PCs, and the Internet all promised to make us smarter, more connected, and more productive, but all too often have the opposite effect. Some argue that there’s nothing we can do, or that it’s not really a problem. Old users always lament the arrival of new information technologies, and computers have already rewired our brains to read status updates rather than Steinbeck. Alex Pang wants to provide an alternative to this sophisticated pessimism. In this talk, Pang explains how we can learn to use our devices to be more focused and mindful, not fractured and distracted. He explains how technologies can be used to extend our minds, and augment our abilities—not break up our attention and skew our thought process. Rather than be forced into a state of perpetual distraction, with all the unhappiness and discontent such a state offers, we can approach information technologies in a way that is mindful and nearly effortless, and that contributes to our ability to focus, be creative, and be happy.
It’s an approach Pang calls contemplative computing. Based on a blend of new science and philosophy, some very old techniques for managing your attention and mind, and a lot of experience with how people use (or are used by) information technologies, Pang shows us how your mind and body interact with and react to computers, how your attention and creativity are influenced by technology, and how small, everyday aspects of our relationships with devices—like whether we breathe when we’re checking our email—have surprisingly large consequences. He analyzes how our minds and high-tech lives work, why we become entangled with technology, and what makes our relationships with devices so seductive. Finally, Pang illustrates how we can use big ideas from philosophy, psychology and neuroscience to consciously redesign our relationships with technologies, rebuild our capacities for attention and creativity, and take back control of our digital lives. With clear language and deep insights, Pang gives you the tools to redesign your online life, and construct a healthier, more balanced relationship with information technology. With the eight steps toward contemplative computing, Pang helps you start using technology to quiet the constantly browsing, tab-opening, googling mind.