Nov 30, 2020
People often talk about how to work better, but it is rare to hear discussion of how to rest better. Take the famous so-called "10,000 hour rule". This is adapted (with some distortion) from the work of K. Anders Ericsson, the late great psychologist of expertise. The nature and volume of practice among top performers in various fields, as described in his work, is widely cited. But the same research contains details of how high performers rest differently. And yet nobody seems to have taken notice.
In Rest, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang argues that work and rest are not adversaries, but partners. Looking closely at the lives of many great writers, mathematicians, scientists, politicians, and businesspeople, he reveals that although their lives revolved around their work, their days did not. They would have ample leisure every day; they would rarely do more than four hours' work per day; and they often seem to take more naps than other people.
Scientific research on this topic seems thin on the ground. Pang shares what little he found, including a study of physicists in the 1950s showing that those who worked around 15-20 hours per week published more research articles than those who worked 40 or more hours a week. Another startling finding is that scientific Nobel laureates are 20 times as likely to have a hobby of dancing or acting than the scientific population at large, and 9 times more likely to be involved in the visual arts.
Overall, this is a book to make you rethink the commonly assumed view of rest as passive recovery that takes away time from work, rather than an active process that changes the nature and quality of work itself.
Enjoy the episode.