Dozen of articles. Improve your lifestyle now!

Renew, rebuild and Unplug

“How was your weekend?” “Not long enough.” Article – source lost. (not mine, but good).

I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard and said the exact same thing.

Those of us who work “office hours” have come to depend on two consecutive days off as a way to rest, relax and recharge – but is it really working?

According to Jamie Gruman, an organizational behaviour professor at the University of Guelph, for many the answer is no.

“On any given day, about 40 per cent of employees report being tired,” he says in his TEDx talk, How to recharge your batteries in an age of relentless demands.

Gruman’s research focuses on positive organizational psychology (those things that make employees perform well at work), and over the past few years has taken a deep dive into the effects of downtime on productivity.

According to the researcher, the secret to recharging your batteries is to use your downtime for activities that boost not only your physical health but your psychological well-being, essentially turning downtime into uptime.

Specifically, Gruman recommends three types of activities under a model he calls REnu:

those that rebuild depleted physical and psychological resources (RE)
those that nourish your physical and psychological needs (n)
those that unplug you from work (u)
1. Rebuild depleted resources

To rebuild depleted resources, you need to refrain from using them.

If your job is highly physical, give your body a break during your time off. If you’ve been sleep deprived all week, a long snooze on the couch may be exactly what you need.

If your job is primarily mentally taxing, as many in the OPS are, Gruman recommends refraining from using the mental skills you use most at work. This doesn’t mean doing nothing at all, however. Instead, Gruman suggests pursuing interests that use skills opposite to those you use the rest of the week.

For example, say you are a policy analyst whose work involves a lot of reading and thinking deeply. To balance this, you might do a group hike, meditate, or take an improv class: activities that give the analytical part of your brain a rest.

But what if you genuinely enjoy using the same skills in both your work and leisure lives? For example, a large part of my job involves writing but I also enjoy blogging on the weekend. I asked Gruman this when I saw him speak in Toronto earlier this year.

He strongly recommended that to avoid burning out, I also do other activities that turn off the communicator part of my brain; for example, dancing. (I didn’t take his advice, burned out, and now include free-form dance events in my weekend plans whenever I can).

2. Nourish your physical and psychological needs

“Nourishing needs is necessary if we are to live and thrive,” says Gruman. But needs aren’t just physical. We also have psychological needs such as:

autonomy: the need to feel your actions are freely chosen
competency: the need to feel skilled at things
relatedness: the need to have high quality relationships
Research shows that people who satisfy their needs in these categories on the weekend, come back to work on Monday feeling less burned out, says Gruman.

To fulfill autonomy, carve out some quality time to do something of your own choosing (a must for those with busy family or other obligations).

For competency, work on a hobby you can improve at (like playing a musical instrument) or see the results of (such as woodworking).

And to ensure relatedness in your weekend, makes plans to spend some time with a friend, family member, significant other or group whose company you enjoy.

Above all, avoid the temptation to spend your entire weekend online.

3. Unplug

“It’s not enough to physically leave the office, or whatever obligations you may have. You also have to mentally leave the office,” says Gruman. “If you’re on vacation and checking your emails twice a day, you’re not psychologically detaching.”

A lot of people have problems doing this, notes the researcher. “Available-ism is the idea that you have to be constantly available to your work or bad things are going to happen in your career.”

Yet, this is counterproductive to doing what you need to do to get the biggest boost from your leisure time, and consequently be more productive when you return.

If this is your problem, Gruman recommends practicing transitional activities – have a cup of tea or a glass of wine when you get home, and put your cell-phone away to indicate you are now going into another aspect of your life.

Ultimately, turning downtime into uptime, the kind of time that boosts your energy, is all about making smart choices in the activities you choose, says the researcher.

And, it’s not necessarily restricted to the weekends. “Uptime can exist in any moment of leisure you have – it can be the weekend, vacation, evenings at home, even coffee breaks.”

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