Imagine a table set before you with an empty jar and various sizes of rocks.
Your objective is to fit as many of the rocks into the jar as possible.
If you start with the littlest pieces, the sand, and pebbles, then you won’t have the room for the bigger rocks.
But if you put all of the bigger and medium-sized rocks in first, you’ll find that you have plenty of room for the pebbles and sand.
Your life is no different.
Our priority should be on the “big rocks” in our lives. Our faith and Families. Everything else comes second and finds space in our day around these more essential things.
But sometimes, after a long day, the big rocks may also include resting when we could let ourselves do more, and that’s okay.
As you’re about to discover, resting, even while your competition continues to work, provides a significant leg up.
Stress + REST = growth
It would be easy for a busy person at the end of the day to say that they will fill their night with as much work as they have the extra time for.
But that would be a mistake.
In the book Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness identify the equation for growth.
Stress + rest = growth.
As part of their exploration of this equation in the professional world, the amount of rest that elite athletes build into their schedules astounded Stulberg and Magness.
Many Olympic athletes, for example, sleep over 8 hours per night.
They can perform at such peak states because of their routines of rest.
They have found the select few things they want to work on and make time only for those activities. They then spend the remainder of their time resting so they can become elite in those activities.
Could we learn from and follow their example and rest a little more?
Rest is a very close second to the 10,000-hour rule
In Essentialism, Greg McKeown refers to rest as a “huge competitive advantage.” He also identifies a lesser-known but crucial observation about the landmark study of violinists from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.
Of all the activities that were part of elite violinists routines, the second most notable was how much time they made for rest. Researchers discovered that, on average, the elite violinists rested more than the average American.
“Sleep, the authors of the study concluded, allowed these top performers to regenerate so that they could practice with greater concentration. So yes, while they practiced more, they also got more out of those hours of practice because they were better rested.”
— Greg McKeown, Essentialism
Many of these studies specifically mention rest, not necessarily sleep.
Why is rest so important?
It’s is not merely about sleep, although sleep is a vital factor in rest.
Rest means taking time to relax by watching a movie or playing a video game.
It’s laying down on the floor and letting your kids play around you, rather than beating yourself up for being too tired to do more with them.
Deliberately resist the temptation to do more little things each day so that more big rocks can be placed in the jar of life.
If you think you can do more when you are nearing the end of the day, stop yourself, even when your competition may continue.
Think carefully for a moment.
Recognize what more you might be able to do the next day if you were to sit back, relax, and practice the critical skill of rest.
You’ll find that, in a world of hustling workaholics, you can achieve better results than those who seem to work endlessly.