Think of your brain as a fuel tank. Let's say you have to make a trip to the supermarket to buy groceries for the week. Let's say you then have to go to the dentist because you have some excruciating pain. But then later in the day you just drive because you feel like driving. Which of the three activities will use up less fuel?
Seems like a silly question doesn't it?
And yet that's exactly what happens to our brain — and body
When we are learning something brand-new, or have to execute something that is unfamiliar, we need an enormous amount of brainpower to get going. This is why we feel drained after a learning experience. So let's say you were learning Photoshop for the first time, You would find you are exhausted, especially if the lesson happens to be complicated. But after a while as you get familiar with the software, it would take fewer of your brain resources to do exactly the same activity.
Which is when you think it is okay to do a lot more
And it is okay to take on greater challenges because you can achieve an enormous amount once you have understood how to execute a routine. All the things that that seemed difficult at one point in time become child's play.
And yet, EVERY activity is a drain on the brain
This means that if we access Facebook, or just watch a YouTube video, we feel like we are relaxing, but in reality it is burning through our “fuel” reserves. Even if the activity is an extremely simple activity, it's akin to driving around with no agenda in mind, versus specifically going to the dentist or the supermarket. The fuel used up is exactly the same, and it drains your ability to function at a high level.
For maximum concentration, your brain and your body needs to be as relaxed as possible
The more stressed or tired it is, the more it will take time to achieve the same activity. And yet it's not just the time factor that's under consideration. Your concentration will take a massive hit and the smallest things will start to drain your brain.
You see what is happening here, don't you? The very “fuel” you need to concentrate, is being depleted. This need for a high level of concentration puts enormous stress on the brain. What should have been an easy exercise, like using the tools in Photoshop (because you're an expert by this point), is causing you to huff and puff away.
And you don't really need complex activity to send you into a loop
All you have to do is stay up very late at night, and then wake up early the next morning. Let's say you wake up groggy, and have to write a couple of emails to a client. Words fail you, the text has to be read many times over and you find yourself making inane mistakes. So you try harder, and the more effort you put in, the more you seem to spin.
Yet, on a day when you are completely rested, you would be able to chomp through dozens of emails without batting an eyelid.
And yet, rest is maligned, and hard work is praised
Make no mistake, hard work is critical for your success. No matter how successful you get, there is always going to be a chunky component of hard work. In fact, the most successful people work the hardest. Think of the top tennis players, writers, dancers or the top stars in any profession. They all work much harder than everybody else. And yet over the years they learn the concept of rest.
For most of the top performers, this learning is not voluntary. They run into a situation where they seem extremely exhausted or on the edge of burnout, which is when the lesson is driven home.
That's when they start to take breaks
And yet when you go on the Internet, you will find that people talk about work as if it were everything. The author, Seth Godin's quote comes to mind: “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don't need to escape from.”
In theory, this quote sounds entirely plausible. In fact, it might have been taken out of context when being quoted — as quotes often are. And if we take it in its worst possible avatar, we find it reflects a society that doesn't know how to relax.
Work is work and rest is rest
Rest does not mean watching TV or surfing on Facebook. It doesn't mean checking e-mail. It means physically winding down, resting and doing things that we did before technology rang our doorbell and refused to budge from our couches.
There's just an itty-bitty problem: We don't have time to take a break
When you say “I have no time”, stop and think of yourself as a passenger on a flight. The plane is running out of fuel. What should it do next? Like a jumbo that's done it's leg of the journey, we too should be engaging our landing gear. Instead, all we do is try to stuff more into our day by telling ourselves we have to keep going on. Our concentration plummets and we end up circling the airport instead of preparing to land. Eventually our work suffers, our health suffers and concentration is the least of our problems.
Rest is the key to powering ahead
– Every activity no matter how small, drains our “fuel tank”.
– To restore that “fuel tank” back to normal, we have to rest.
– Some of us may take longer vacations, and others may not quite be in the position to do so just yet. However, all of us need a weekend break. If we choose to avoid that break by checking email, surfing the Internet, etc., we are driving in circles, draining fuel all the time.
– Circling is a sign that we need to land. Yes, there's a massive to do list, but sleep and rest should be at the top of that list.
Take a break
A real break.
Maybe sleep, or do nothing for a change.
Then watch as your concentration begins to soar—quite naturally.
The information and support I received from Sean and my fellow “cavers” about a single Web page was directly responsible for selling $10,000 worth of books in less than two weeks.
Molly Gordon, Shaboom Inc, USA
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