Mental Health

The three kinds of rest every entrepreneur needs

You're probably resting wrong. Most people are. Every entrepreneur needs three kinds of rest (Active, Functional, and True) to make the most of their working day

As alluring as it sounds, bingeing Netflix all day can be harmful. It could actually make you feel more anxious, tired, or whatever emotion stopped you from getting your work done. Rest is about rejuvenation and recuperation so you can be more successful – not so you can do nothing and hope for the best.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes doing absolutely nothing is precisely what you need. It’s just not all that you need and doing too much of it will cause harm over good in the long run. I learned this lesson from my Olympian track and field coach while a varsity athlete at Yale. But it wasn’t until I founded my first business (I talk about this in our About page) did I see just how applicable the lesson – the 3 kinds of strategic rests every athlete needs – is to the entrepreneurship world.

Rest 1: Active rest

The premise of active rest is simple: it’s the things that make the things you need to do easier.

Wordy, right? Let me explain.

Let’s say you need to hit the phones and make 100 phone calls to potential customers. Getting on the phone may be a daunting task, not to mention time consuming. Whether you’re burnt out, scared, or something else, you find you just can’t pick up that phone. But you have to be productive.

This is where active rest comes in. Active rest is all about unblocking mental blockers and facilitating your work.

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In the phone example, the thing you have to do is pick up the phone and call customers. The things that make the thing you have to do easier would be things like:

  • Researching phone numbers of prospects
  • Building a bigger list from 100 to 200, just in case a few don’t pick up
  • Writing / rehearing your call script
  • Asking for feedback or reading articles on how to close a sale from a cold call

Whether it’s increasing your education, your “infrastructure” or building a system so the main input of your task becomes automated, active rest is all about facilitating your work.

Active rest comes with the major downside that, at the end of the day, it’s fake productivity. Sure, you made a list of 200 leads to call, but you haven’t called any of them. You feel deeply productive and potentially spent hours doing it, but you haven’t actually accomplished your core business needs. It’s easy to leverage these tasks as excuses for not doing what you really need to do, so it’s best to keep this to 10-15% of your working hours (5-10 hours a week) so you reap the benefits but don’t get sucked in.

Rest 2: Functional rest

Functional rest is about getting completely out of the headspace you’re in when you “do the thing” but not shutting off completely.

Putting it simply: do something else that gets your brain going that is unrelated to work. It’s the work equivalent of “I can’t talk about that right now”.

In particular, functional rest is great for idea generation. Your mind is working, but you aren’t so “close” to the problems you face.

If you’re burnt out from phone calls but you don’t just want to laze about, think of other stimulating things you can do:

  • Workout
  • Read a book
  • Have a conversation about anything other than work (politics usually works for the strong willed)
  • Mediate (make no mistake, meditation is an active thing)

Functional rest is really helpful, but the downside is that it can throw you off course. You might really like chatting with your friend or reading that book, but suddenly you get sucked into that world and try to map lessons from it too closely to your business. Take ideas as inspiration, but always contextualize them to your business when you get back to work. It’s best to keep this to around 10% of your working hours (so about 4-6 hours a week).

Rest 3: True rest

This is when you shut off, but only kinda. Like the other two types of rest, true rest is contextual. The focus is to shut off and restoring any faculties you need in order to do the thing later on.

By resting properly I got more out of my efforts when I acted”

Stefan Palios

Depending on how intense the actions are that you need to take, this can be all consuming and it may render you watching Friends reruns for the fifth time. That’s ok. True rest is all about energy recuperation.

This could mean:

  • Mindfulness
  • Going out with friends
  • Watching a movie
  • Bingeing Netflix
  • Going for a leisurely walk

The only thing to be aware of is how seductive this type of rest seems. It’s so luxurious. You deserve this, right? Be careful. It is absolutely, 100% necessary, but too much of a good thing will damage you in the long run. It’s best to limit this to about 5-10% of your total allotted time for working (that’s about 2.5-6 hours a week for most people, maximum).

Rest properly so you can act energetically

Adding up the totals, you see that rest only takes up about 30% of your time. However, for some that’s revolutionary. We live in a society that doesn’t take enough rest or doesn’t take the right kind of rest. We often assume it’s a binary where you’re either doing (taking action) or resting (explicitly not taking any action), but the reality is much more of a spectrum.

When I was a varsity athlete, I spent the majority of my time doing my sport and perfecting my technique. As an entrepreneur, I spent most of my time on whatever critical thing the business needed at the time – most of the time it was getting new customers.

In both cases, by resting properly I got more out of my efforts when I acted; I’m sharing this framework with you in the hopes that you get the same benefit.

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Photo by Brodie Vissers from Burst

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