Deliberate Rest

A blog about getting more done by working less

Demystifying Guitar Essentials: Chords, Scales, and Tuning

Learning to play the guitar is an exciting journey that opens up a world of musical possibilities. Whether you're a complete beginner or someone looking to refine your skills, mastering the basics of guitar playing is a crucial first step. In this blog, we'll explore three fundamental aspects of playing the guitar: chords, scales, and tuning.

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Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less

Arianna Huffington and I talk about REST at DLD17

“You will consider how and why you rest in a completely new light after reading this book.” (Wendy Suzuki, author of Healthy Brain, Happy Life)

“You’re holding some terrific advice in your hands on the virtues of walking, napping, and playing. Pang has written a delightful and thought-provoking book on the science of restful living.” (Clive Thompson, author of Smarter Than You Think)

(From the Happinez Festival, September 2017)

My new book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less is available at your local bookstore, on , on Barnes & Noble, and elsewhere. It’s published by Basic Books in the United States, and Penguin Books in the UK (as part of their wonderful new Penguin Life series). It’s also been translated in a number of other languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, and Turkish.

I also have a masterclass on “The Power of Rest” on the Calm app.

Here I’m collecting links to promotion-related activitiesarticles about the book and deliberate restreviews, as well as information about talksinterviewsradio shows, and other media appearances. I’m also continuing to collect research and stories about the subjects I cover in Rest: stories about the role of deliberate rest in creative lives, research on the neuroscience and psychology of creativity, the challenges of busyness and overwork, and so on.

“I have learned not to feel guilty whenever I close the laptop”

Stem cell researcher Dr Cristina Lo Celso talks the Academy of Medical Sciences about her work, and rest. This bit in particular jumped out at me:

I have learned not to feel guilty whenever I close the laptop to watch a movie or try some new recipes. Usually the best ideas come during or after breaks, and things that take hours to work through when I am tired will likely be solved in minutes once I am rested.

I think for lots of us, learning to not feel guilty when you stop work will have a ring of familiarity to it.

Lo Celso also has a nice bit about “learning to experiment outside the lab,” by trying new things in one’s non-work life. I’m convinced that one of the things doing sports can do for knowledge workers is give them a degree of physical courage, or ability to handle stress and discomfort, that translates into greater capacity for intellectual courage and risk-taking. (John Ratey’s Spark is great on the cognitive benefits of exercise.)

Circadian rhythms and work rhythms

The New York Times has an interesting piece about efforts to match work schedules to circadian rhythms:

At the Denmark offices of the pharmaceutical company AbbVie, employees design work schedules that take advantage of their biological strengths. A nine-hour training program helps them identify when they are ripe for creative or challenging projects, typically mornings for early risers and afternoons for late risers. Lower-energy periods are meant for more mundane tasks, like handling emails or doing administrative chores. Workers save commuting time by avoiding rush hour traffic, and can better mesh their personal and professional lives — for example, by getting their children from school in the afternoon, then working from home in the evening after the kids are in bed.

Employee satisfaction with work-life balance has risen from 39 percent 10 years ago, when the program launched, to nearly 100 percent today, according to company surveys. Last year the Denmark division of Great Place to Work, a global organization that ranks companies based on employee satisfaction, named AbbVie the top middle-size company in the country. “The flexibility actually empowers people to deliver the best possible results,” said Christina Jeppesen, the company’s general manager.

When I first started reading up on circadian rhythms and focus, it struck me that many of us spend some of our potentially most productive hours stuck in traffic. We hit a wakefulness peak– a period when we have the most energy and are most awake– about one or two hours after we wake up; we also have another, less intense one in the later afternoon.

But for most of us, that period gets spent inching our ways down the highway, not actually doing productive stuff. Far better, I thought, to spend that time at home working, and then come in later, after you’ve done a couple hours’ work.

Within groups, though, it’s worth thinking about how you might factor in chronotypes to match the kinds of work you’re doing:

Stefan Volk, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Business School, has suggested that businesses can leverage chronotypes to maximize team success. For example, members of a surgery team should have similar chronotypes because they need to be in top form simultaneously. But at a nuclear power plant, workers should have different energy peaks, so that someone is always on the alert.

“the first step to the investigation of the creative mind is the historical approach”

From the opening page of Rosamund E. M. Harding’s The Anatomy of Inspiration:

We venture to suggest, therefore, that the first step to the investigation of the creative mind is the historical approach…. Such historical research should be regarded as scientific and of psychological value and not merely read to pass amusingly an idle half-hour.

I’m definitely going to enjoy this!

Insecure overachievers

For some time, I’ve talked about why overwork has become the new normal, even for people who are fairly economically secure, or who have lots of control over their time.  Most of us, I think, have an intuitive grasp of what’s going one.

For one thing, many of us don’t work in fields that have “natural” starting and end-times, or clear external measures of productivity. At sunset we can’t look back on how many acres we’ve harvested; when the factory whistle sounds, we don’t have a bunch of widgets we’ve stamped out. Knowledge work and services can stretch out across our days and work their way into the cracks of our calendars. They’re also inherently hard to measure. Consequently it’s easy for the amount of time we spend working, and how seriously we take our jobs, to become proxies for productivity.

Performing busyness is a good way to avoid getting more work piled on your plate, and looking indispensable. It’s a kind of corporate protective covering, a way of fitting in. When everyone does it, living a more balanced life makes you look like a slacker, and feel like you’re not doing your bit.

There’s also a self-defeating cycle that keeps up overworking. You can sustain a push for a few weeks, but eventually chronic fatigue sets in, and productivity drops. To keep up, though, you need to put in even more hours, which might help a little in the short run but then leaves you more tired, and even less productive. Which we try to overcome by working even more.

Finally, Silicon Valley and the finance world has bequeathed us with a vision of success that’s a sprint rather than a marathon, a race against your own obsolescence. In an earlier era, success came by working your way up the ladder, waiting your turn, and building your career; now, it’s a rocket ship driven by the energy generated by the fast decay of your technical skills or business model.

Cass Business School professor Laura Empson had an additional explanation: insecurity.

The core of Empson’s insight is that, as she puts it on her Web site,

belonging to an elite organization can help counteract the sense of insecurity felt by many high-performing individuals, and how social control mechanisms within the firms’ strong cultures can provide a degree of ‘comfort’. However, there is a dark side to this:… comforting social control can lapse into cult-like conformity, and… exacerbate existing tendencies to overwork.

As she explains in Harvard Business Review,

A professional’s insecurity is rooted in the inherent intangibility of knowledge work. How do you convince your client that you know something worthwhile and justify the high fees you charge? The insecurity caused by this intangibility is exacerbated by the rigorous “up or out” promotion system perpetuated by elite professional organizations, which turns your colleagues into your competitors….

[E]lite professional organizations deliberately set out to identify and recruit “insecure overachievers” — some leading professional organizations explicitly use this terminology, though not in public. Insecure overachievers are exceptionally capable and fiercely ambitious, yet driven by a profound sense of their own inadequacy….

Paradoxically, the professionals I studied still believe that they have autonomy and that they are overworking by choice. They do not blame their organizations, which after all have invested in work-life balance initiatives and wellness programs. Instead, they blame themselves for being inadequate.

It’s good to see someone else providing what seems a very plausible explanation for overwork.

If you’re not into reading, Empson also has a BBC1 radio show about insecure overachievers.

A quick update, and more news soon

I realize I’ve posted very little in the last few weeks (though I’ve ), because I’ve been doing a lot on the next book. I’ll have some good news about the project that I can share before too long; in the meantime, I can say that the writing continues, and indeed I’ve discovered a whole crop of companies in Japan and Korea that are practicing 4-day or 4.5-day weeks, which nicely expands my project without making it totally unmanageable. (I’ll be off to Japan, and I hope Korea, in the new year to study these companies a little more closely.)

The more I get into it, the clearer it become sot me that this really is a global movement that just needs to be made aware of itself to really catch fire. We talk about the 4-day week as some kind of great aspirational goal, or as some semi-utopian thing, when in fact companies all over the world are doing it right now, and indeed making shorter hours a cornerstone of their cultures and success.

Frans Johanssen on the Starbucks epiphany


Frans Johansson, author of The Click Moment and The Medici Effect, on :


I’m planning a couple trips myself, and I’ve gotten into the habit to building in some extra time for this kind of exploration. I have some of my best ideas when I’m on the road, but it helps to be open to them!

Why do we talk about the possibility of 4-day weeks, rather than their reality?

This morning I ran across this piece on the Web site of English boutique recruitment consultancy Mitchell Adam:

The Four-Day Working Week: Could It Work?

Today, many people will have heard of the four-day week; a company decision for employers to reduce staff working days from five to four without a reduction in wages. Whilst it’s a popular topic in a number of countries, very few businesses have chosen to implement the change. But why do people believe it could be commonplace before the end of the century?

It’s not at all unusual for discussions of shorter working hours is framed around the question of “is it possible?” or “could it work?” Business Insider recently published an article about how it “could make people happier and more productive;” another HR company asks “Could a 30-hour week actually work?” and a third asks “Is the 4-day working week possible?”

Sometimes the unspoken second part of the phrase is “…at your company,” but often people really are talking about the 4-day week as if it’s an academic idea or policy proposal, not something that companies are already doing. I don’t think this is a product of lazy thinking, or lack of research (though the Perpetual Guardian and Swedish nursing home trials get cited disproportionately); I think it reveals just how incredibly well-entrenched the 5-day workweek is, how firmly we believe in the cult of overwork, and how difficult it can be to break away from that.

Even when presented with actual examples of companies that are doing it– ranging from painfully hip boutique design firms in Shoreditch, to world-class restaurants in Denmark and Sweden, to accounting companies in Australia, to industrial rice milling manufacturers in Hiroshima– it’s hard to believe that evidence actually exists. (And I’m discovering that with American audiences, if you cite Nordic countries you might as well be talking about the elves from Lord of the Rings— each seems equally real to overworked talent development executives.)

This, in turn, makes it even harder to seriously imagine redesigning the workday, without sacrificing productivity and profitability. The reality of companies actually doing that has a hard time competing with people’s preconceptions of what work looks like, and how you do it better.

After decades of ratcheting up working hours, using technology to allow the empire of work to invade every area of our our lives and every hour of our day, it’s hard to imagine a world in which things move in the opposite direction– even when you’re looking at companies doing it.

“In my experience, it is only the over-fifties who really know what they’re doing”

Rory Sutherland makes a good point about one of the benefits of shorter hours in this Spectator article, “John McDonnell’s right – the four-day week could work:”

Trust me, we need older people in the workforce. In my experience, it is only the over-fifties who really know what they’re doing. And this isn’t the 1930s. Fewer jobs are physically gruelling and life expectancy is higher. Wondrous and under-used technologies such as video-conferencing allow people to do much useful work from home. Both my father and father-in-law worked happily beyond their mid-seventies — far healthier than doing nothing at all. True, they didn’t work five days a week at 75 — but that’s exactly my point: it is the length and rigidity of the working week which forces people to stop working when they do: if there were more three-and four-day jobs, people could work longer. The money saved on pensions could then be spent decently providing for people unable to work.

With a four-day week, better use of travel-reducing technology, and more flexible working hours, we could help solve the pensions crisis, the transport crisis, the housing crisis and the social care crisis. It would also give people the time to retrain in middle age.

One of the interesting things that’s come out of my interviews with people at companies that have successfully implemented 4-day weeks is that the people who are best able to adjust to the new system often are a little older and a little further in their careers. They’re people who’ve been through the grueling associate’s program at some investment bank or did their share of all-nighters finishing a client’s Christmas commercial, really know how to do their jobs, and therefore have a good sense of how to redesign it– what parts they really need to focus on, what parts you can ignore, and what tasks can eat up your time if not carefully-managed.

Further, they’re a lot less likely to be impressed by bean bag chairs and a kombucha bar, and more impressed by being able to spend every Friday with their young child.

Chinese Academy of Social Sciences proposes a 4-day, 36-hour workweek

According to a story in the China Daily, “the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences proposed revising the national work schedule in 2030 to nine hours a day and four days a week.”

For a long time I thought that the 4-day week was mainly a Western, and particularly European, phenomenon, but clearly there’s more to it than that. I recently wrote about Japanese company Zozo and its 30-hour week, and there are a number of other Japanese companies that offer 10-hour, 4-day weeks for employees.

And of course, some of the most overworked countries in the world are in Asia, and they recognize that the costs are now outweighing the benefits. China shifted to a 5-day workweek in the 1990s, South Korea recently passed legislation limiting the workweek to 52 hours (with very mixed results), and the Japanese have struggled for years with this. So it makes sense that these experiments would be happening in Asian countries, too.

According to the Shenzhen Daily, the CASS has a pretty detailed timeline for how this would work:

China should experiment with a four-day (36 hours) workweek in large and medium-sized State-owned enterprises in East China from 2020 to 2025, the newly released report said.

From 2025 onwards, a four-day (36 hours) workweek can be implemented in certain industries in the central and eastern regions.

And from 2030 onwards, Chinese people should be able to take three days of rest for every four working days.

However, the China Daily article also notes that the comments on social media haven’t all been positive; in fact, the general reaction has been skeptical. Why is that?

The answer lies in their anxieties about an uncertain future. As capital gets increasingly more accumulated, ordinary workers, blue-collar and white-collar alike, face the sad and cold fact that unemployment is likely to rise. Many people face the risk of losing their jobs to artificial intelligence and automation.

That’s why many people are rather worried about their futures.

To solve this, the key lies in promoting the idea of “rest”. The right to rest and the right to labor must be protected together so that people can be more certain about their future.

Thinking about work and rest together. Now that’s an idea I can get behind.

「休みは仕事の戦略だ」: Talking about rest in Asahi Globe

The Asahi Globe, the Asahi Shinbun’s weekend magazine, has a special section on rest that features a profile of me, or at least a picture of me sleeping in the hammock in the backyard.

That sweater, incidentally, is one that I bought at the Happinez festival last year, and has become one of my favorites. It’s made from recycled jeans material, and is amazingly comfortable and great to write in, especially in the Bay Area. (As Jenna Maroney said on the 30 Rock, “Have fun always carrying a light sweater” when you move to the Bay Area.)

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