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Restfulness is close to Godliness

adorable-21998_1920Before we start, I want to let you in on a little secret: every successful person you truly admire takes naps.

On May 15, Laura Vanderkam wrote a story for the New York Times, The Busy Person’s Lies, calling bullshit on all of us busy professionals who end our days in tears believing our lives ravished by our 60, 70, 80-hour work weeks.

Her tagline says it all, with four kids and a full-time job, time is precious. But it’s also plentiful. In it, she tracked every hour of her every day for an entire year. After she did the math, she had time to take runs, to go to the spa, to read books, and even sleep an average of seven or eight hours-a-night.

sleep-264475_1920Her conclusion is that we spend way more time dreading, worrying, and freaking out than we do actually doing office work or domestic chores. You may be at the office for 80-hours but you’re really only working for 35 of those hours. And no, your commute doesn’t count, only the work, not the seat-warming.

Some of the most universally-admired gods of industry, stage, and screen play as hard as they work. They put on their own oxygen mask first. They pay themselves first. They take calls on lounges or on treadmills. They stay at hotels instead of commuting for two hours if they need the time. They’ll take a half day. They’ll make like a doc and take Wednesdays off. Or, they’ll actually love their jobs enough to make every day feel a little like a play date.

child-85321_1280They’ll do all that and then lie to your face about how early they start, how late they sleep, and how they have no life. Why do they do such a thing? Because if they ever told you what their real life was like, you’d resent the hell out of them. They work smart–not nearly as hard as you’d think–or at least not in the kind of steady-state way that grinds all the rest of us into nubs. What “they” do is something more akin to Tabata, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), or Jeff Galloway‘s run, walk, run marathon training. Ever watch an ultramarathon on YouTube? There’s a lot of walking, even amongst the leaders.

Nobody can keep up even a slow jog for 50-weeks-a-year, not even your hero.

park-813937_1920I was infected when I was 16 by US Senator from Hawaii Daniel Inouye. I was in DC, my current home, with a bunch of other high-performing teens from Hawaii, my home state. He invited us into his office and amazed and impressed us in so many ways.

What I took away from the visit is that Senator Inouye professed that he only got 5-hours of sleep a night.  From then on, I fancied five hours of sleep to be the x-factor associated with getting everything done. I’ll admit that I am not the most efficient human in the world.

sunbathing-1207930I could blame being a Pisces or my debilitating ADHD, but the truth is more along the lines of needing to steal time, interspersing the time I committed to work with bits of play. With little sips of recovery, because I deserved it.

It worked when I was warming the seat as a salary man in an office job but it just doesn’t cut it at all when you’re your own boss (I am judge jury and executioner at Gerris).

Mindfulness is not mumbo jumbo.

sleeping-1311784_1920Mindfulness is Norton Antivirus and System Tools for you.  Unless you’re a sociopath, an Ascended Master, or a Virgo, you’re spinning your wheels to some degree or another. You’re either really lost at sea or you’ve developed an elaborate suit of armor against the little happy place you’ve begged, borrowed, and stolen to protect.

Either way, a little bit of mindfulness and some accountability are all you’ll need to unlock the gate to your very own magic garden. And by magic garden, I mean all that time and happiness you magically have when you’re on holiday for two weeks every summer, up until that dread of returning to work starts creeping back on day ten.

cat-645084_1920I am not an expert in Mindfulness. I am not even a practitioner. While some of my best friends are mindful (David Gelles wrote the book on Mindful Work), I am starting with getting enough rest and enough sleep. More of a gap between my work and my play.

What I do know about what mindfulness is and should be is this: you never stop experiencing your life and everything in it, but you’ll become better at disconnecting from all the crazy associated with the crazy. You’ll be able to compassionately detach (not insouciance–professional distance–but simply recognize the difference between what you think is going on and what is actually happening).

dog-717718_1920The tenets of mindfulness, as I grok them, are similar to the tenets of the Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Mindfulness is the wisdom to know the difference.

The extent of my mindfulness training includes running, rowing, lifting, cardio, naps, sleep, and as much time spent with the Headspace guided meditation app that I can (it’s really wonderful, at least when I’m not unintentionally sleeping through the guided meditations).

sleeping-cat-1164900_1920I don’t know about Apple products, but my PC and my Android need to be periodically rebooted and recharged. I also need to defrag hard drives, delete cache, kill rogue processes, uninstall unused apps, keep up with application updates and system upgrades, and even downright delete and reinstall.  If I don’t do this kind of maintenance on both my machines, resources become so clogged that you no longer have access to them. They’re there, but you just can’t use them.

You’re the same.

dog-871773_1920You’re not working nearly as much as you think you are. You’ve become an inefficient engine, dumping way more of all the energy you generate to heat than light. It’s because you’re going mental. It’s because you’re stressed, worried, insecure, unsure, and wasting your brain power keeping an inventory of how you come up short, what you haven’t done with your life, the money you haven’t saved and don’t make, and you’re just in a big frothy tizzy and it just might kill you.

It doesn’t have to be that way, just as long as you can promise me that there’s nothing in your crazy that you’re addicted to.

dog-848390_1920So, if you’re already fully aware that you have an embarrassment of leisure time you just don’t want to share any of that time with your friends, neighbors, spouse, or family, then that’s your business, go ahead and be too busy.

For the rest of us, the truth is, we’re kind of freaking out. We’ve lost control of the train.

Some of you have been humping that pack since you were a tween and your ruck was made by JanSport.

baby-1266116_1920You might not even know what it’s like to have all the time in the world. To sit with a book in a sunny spot all afternoon. To put aside time every weekend for your long marathon training run, or even the hour every day you’d like to spend at the gym — and, according to the accountability work done by superwoman Laura Vanderkam, you won’t need to “just sacrifice your sleep and get your ass up at 5am, soldier!”

None of that.

grass-829909_1920Of course, the idea that nothing can help you of your busyness is part of an elaborate pissing contest (I’m the first into the office the morning and the last home at night)? Is your busyness a ruse? Do you resent your spouse, friends, and family, and either hide out at work as much as you can to avoid them (do you commute to DC from West Virginia, do you commute to NYC from Connecticut)? Are you keeping a lover on the side? Another family?

But if you’re really and truly losing your proverbial shit, there are ways you can cope–and you already know this–coping is not the answer.  Coping skills are awesome, but they’re much more akin to snooze alarms then truly enough sleep, rest, recovery, and resources.

dog-338980_1920The only human with more going on than Laura Vanderkam is Arianna Huffington who is currently obsessed with both mindfulness and rest. The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time is Arianna’s way of getting off of her habitrail the only way she personally knows how: by writing an entire book, doing a book tour, jumping on every interview imaginable, and working more than ever.

While the road to mindfulness is a long one, my prescription for you is to take a nap. Lots of naps, actually. As many as you can steel. Step one: become OK with taking naps.

cat-800760_1920I drove to NY and back from DC yesterday and by 8PM on the Jersey Turnpike on my way home my eyes were tired. I was driving my old Bimmer somewhere between 80-90 in a light shower. My eyes were burning even after popping a caffeine pill and downing a red eye.

I was smart.

I took the exit to the Walt Whitman Service Area, drove to a dark corner away from traffic, stopped the engine, reclined the seat, locked the doors, and lost time.

baby-1266117_1920By the time I woke at 8:40pm my eyes felt so much better, I was aware that part of my tiredness was dehydration (I needed to drink a lot more water), and my mind was clear and I was Autobahn-ready again. I never feel this way on my motorcycle because I am always overstimulated and engaged, but my car is warm, smooth, comfortable, easy, effortlessly fast, and there are infinite podcasts, audiobooks, and 80s New Wave.

I don’t know if taking a break would have been enough.

cat-201118_1280If I were to just park, stretch my legs, take a walk, use the bathroom, and grab a cuppa, I don’t think it would have had the same effect as those 35-minutes of shut eye did, assuming some meth head didn’t slit my throat while I was sawing logs, which thankfully didn’t happen.

Now it’s your turn.

And, starting today I think I’ll give go git ’em tiger a rest. Let me know if you miss it too much.

Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham

Chris Abraham, digital strategist and technologist, is a leading expert in digital: search engine optimization (SEO), online relationship management (ORM), Internet privacy, Wikipedia curationsocial media strategy, and online public relations with a focus on blogger outreachinfluencer engagement, and Internet crisis response, with the digital PR and social media marketing agency Gerris digital. [Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call with me] A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and adviser to the industries' leading firms. Chris Abraham specializes in web technologies, including content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.  Chris Abraham was named a Top 50 Social Media Power Influencer by Forbes, #1 PR2.0 Influencer by Traackr, and top-10 social media influencers by Marketwire; and, for what it’s worth, Chris has a Klout of 79 the last time he looked. Chris Abraham started doing web development back in 1994, SEO in 1998, blogging in 1999, influencer engagement in 2003, social media strategy in 2005, blogger outreach in 2006, and Wikipedia curation in 2007. Feel free to self-schedule a 15-minute call, a 30-minute call, or a 60-minute call. If you want to know the services that Chris offers check out Services If you want to work with Chris use the Contact Form You're welcome to follow me via Social Media You can learn more about Chris over in About Chris writes a lot so check out the Blog Chris offers webinars so check Events

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  1. Avatar Mark Harrison

    Great article Chris! It is a quiet and insidious disaster for our society that the majority of people are going through their lives in a sub-optimal-to-exhausted state. The amount of lost productivity, lost creativity, errors in judgement and execution, destructive interpersonal interactions, and erosion of physical health across the population, while never fully calculated, must be staggering.

    The New Yorker did an article on this back in 2013: http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/snoozers-are-in-fact-losers

    We live under what I like to call “The Tyranny of the Non-Existent Farmers” – we unnecessarily and counterproductively start our days at the crack of dawn as if we were all 19th-century agricultural workers, obliged to follow the circadian rhythms of our livestock. We violently jerk ourselves away each morning before sunrise, and set off a cascade of physiological and psychological problems that have us waste the first 2-4 hours of our days in a sub-optimal stupor, and strain our bodies and minds for the rest of the day. This is called “Social Jetlag”, and the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich has found that 69%(!) of the population suffers from this syndrome and its negative health impacts: increased alcohol, cigarette, and caffeine use, increased obesity, higher-than-normal rates of cancer, potentially fatal heart conditions, and other chronic disease like metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

    Fortunately, the fix is easy. Scientists found that when they took students on a weeklong camping trip where they went to sleep and rose to their natural schedules, within a few days, their sleep jetlag had disappeared. The students were operating on their natural schedules, sleeping better, and actually fully awake upon waking.

    It almost sounds like the single most impactful thing we could do as a nation to improve our lives and lower costs would be to have work and school start at 11am, rather than 9am – simply make the time that we generally take off to relax and be with loved ones be in the morning, rather than the evening. Instead of having the typical low-quality, stressed interactions with our families at the end of the day when we’re exhausted, we’d have relaxing mornings, then productive workdays fully alert, then come home tired in the evening, ready to go to bed, having handled all our day’s socializing and working at their optimal times.

    It’s time we throw off the oppressive yoke of the 1800’s farming class’s cultural norms! They’ve been ruining our lives for too long. For the sake of our health and for the sake of the nation, we need to institute long, lazy morning and say no to the destructive tyranny of the flawed “early to bed early to rise” ideology.

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