“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” —Alan Cohen
In our workaholic, FOMO (fear of missing out) obsessed culture, the act of “recharging” is usually an afterthought—if that.
I don’t know about you, but I always feel the need to be “on.” With work to do and experiences to be had, taking a step back and actively recharging has always been somewhat of a struggle for me.
For most of my life, recharging wasn’t a priority. It didn’t fit into work, social activities, hobbies, or exercise. It didn’t seem important so it was ignored.
Life went on like this for a while—always doing something and never resting. And it was fine, until it wasn’t.
It hit me like a ton of bricks. I woke up one day and stopped feeling good—it was as if mind and body were protesting against my lifestyle and demanded change. I was less motivated to attend social activities. I was incredibly unproductive at work. I was exhausted all of the time.
At first, I didn’t know why I felt this way. I was eating healthy, exercising, and doing all of the things that I wanted to do (or at least I thought I wanted to do).
It took about a month of self help books, reflections, and consulting my friends and family before I realized that I wasn’t feeling good because I wasn’t actively recharging. My bandwidth had been overextended and I needed to take a step back and chill out.
Realizing this wasn’t easy, but during my journey, I found that many other people also have trouble recharging, which has a negative impact on productivity at work, relationships, and the like. The thing is, actively recharging is vital if you want to be successful in all areas of your life.
The Act of Recharging
There’s no right or wrong way to recharge. Some experts believe in taking breaks periodically throughout the day by working for 52 minutes and breaking for 17 minutes, while others vouch for working in 90-minute intervals, then taking a break. Some have even propositioned this idea of a six hour, 11am-5pm work day to give each person an extra couple of hours to recharge.
Our company JotForm’s CEO, Aytekin Tank, leads by example and takes at least one full week off from JotForm each year to help his family harvest olives in Turkey.
Each person has different needs when it comes to finding their sweet spot for recharging, reinvigorating, and reenergizing themselves. Sometimes it takes a few tries to figure out what works for you. I’m no expert, but after conducting homegrown tests, I found three things that have worked well for active recharging.
1. Recharge during your favorite part of the day
I’m an early bird by nature and my favorite part of the day is the morning. Everyday, I wake up by 6am and actively recharge for one hour before heading into the office. During this time, I do things that make me happy, such as drink a cup of coffee, read or write, stretch, reflect, or listen to music.
While I recharge, my phone sits on silent out of arm’s reach. Work emails go untouched. New text messages are left unread. The environment is designed to be stress-free and totally focused on the recharging activity at hand.
Using the mornings to actively recharge helps me get into “the zone” before work and prepares me for the day. After recharging, I feel more energized, relaxed, and productive because I started the day doing something that I truly enjoy.
2. Take a vacation
Taking a vacation doesn’t mean you have to book a fancy trip abroad or even leave town for that matter. It simply means that you should “take a vacation” from your day-to-day life.
Stefan Sagmeister has an interesting approach to taking vacation. He has a design studio in New York and every seven years, he closes it for one year to focus on experiments he’s interested in as well as to regain energy. Though Stefan embraces more of a “staycation,” he’s purposely taking time off to pursue something that will recharge him.
One of my favorite vacation rules of thumb was taught to me by business school professor, Chris Haroun. In one of his books, Chris teaches us to take a vacation every six months, and when you return, to immediately book your next one so it’s on the calendar. By blocking off time, you make a promise to recharge again, even if life gets crazy.
When you leave your day-to-day setting, all of the stress, worries, and obligations stay behind and you’re able to fully rest. I find that whenever I go on vacation, my mind completely clears, and somehow the creative ideas and solutions I was desperate for at work naturally come to me. Getting into this clear headspace always puts me into a productive place, and I’m ready to hit the ground running when I get back into the office.
3. Go unplugged and be present
Going unplugged and being present isn’t just some “millennial talk” (well maybe a little bit), but it’s actually an integral part of our well-being. My co-worker, Leeyen, mentioned that Americans check their phone on average once every 12 minutes. Crazy, but also very believable. Even crazier—that’s just our phones. Most of us work on computers all day, we read books on our Kindles, we watch Netflix—we’re constantly using technology. I’m a huge proponent of technology, but in order to truly recharge, we have to put it away and be present from time to time.
The combination of going unplugged and being present is a powerful duo. Not to say that you have to lock your phone in a box and go on a hike alone in the wilderness, but just turning it off for a couple of hours on a Sunday or even doing a digital Sabbath is enough to get the benefit of going unplugged.
It may be overwhelming at first, but after you get past the hump, the anxious feeling quickly dissipates and you start to feel good. To get my unplugged fix, on the weekends I head to yoga and leave my phone at home. Doing this forces me to stay present and in the moment. It’s incredibly relaxing to walk with no headphones in, no buzzing text messages—just being me, fully in the moment.
Taking a step back and going unplugged on the weekends is a nice escape from the technology that we use everyday. And because we have a break from it, we’re able to appreciate it more during the work week.
When you choose to regularly integrate recharging into your life, you’ll see a positive difference in your productivity levels at work, relationships with friends and family, and in your overall well-being.
When you feel good, you do good—in all aspects of your life.