Rest Is The Key To Performance
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Rest Is The Key To Performance

Rest Is The Key To Performance. Hello everyone, I hope you are well. In today’s post, I will be sharing a guest post from Karen Meager, co-author of ‘Rest. Practise. Perform. What elite sport can teach leaders about sustainable wellbeing and performance’. Karen will be exposing the secrets to getting the right type of rest in order to boost your performance, whether at work or at home. If you’ve ever come back from a holiday feeling like you need another, you’ll know that getting the right type of rest isn’t just about stepping away from the office. As a researcher into burnout recovery, Karen has long been curious about why some people can bounce back quickly after exertion whilst others find it challenging and remain drained for longer. The reasons behind this are complex, and no single remedy works for everyone.

Rest Is The Key To Performance

I’ve long been curious about why some people can bounce back quickly after exertion whilst others find it challenging and remain drained for longer. The reasons behind this are complex, and no single remedy works for everyone. When we conducted research for our latest book, ‘Rest, practise. Perform.‘ we found that elite sports have a lot to teach us about how to rest and, as a result, perform better. But how can we find the right kind of rest and recovery to fit our role?

The Performance Secrets Of Elite Sports

In elite sports, people’ perform’ only during an actual competition, race, or match. At other times, they are either resting or practising. They spend far longer in the rest and practice phases than performing, but what they do in the rest and practice phases is critical to their performance when it matters.

During periods of rest, although athletes keep active in some form, they shift their attention to pastimes that provide respite for the muscle groups most punished when engaged in their sport. A typical “downtime” activity for professional footballers (and many other sportspeople) is a game of golf.

The low-impact nature of golf offers the opportunity to ease physical and mental strain. While soccer matches and training sessions demand intense physical exertion, golf requires a different skill and alternative strategic thinking in a more leisurely and relaxed setting. Moreover, golf can be enjoyed individually or socially, allowing players to play for enjoyment or with a competitive edge.

For business leaders, golf may fulfil similar needs. Still, if golf isn’t your thing, it’s crucial to identify an equivalent activity that suits you and offers genuine respite from work-related stress.

Workplace burnout often occurs because of a lack of deliberate relaxation. Those who recuperate swiftly tend to engage in activities that broaden their perspectives, providing an outlet for energies unrelated to work. This mirrors the approach of rest and practice observed in elite sports.

Rest And Burnout Recovery

Burnout is the most prominent and frequently identified consequence of a lack of conscious rest in the world of work. When I researched burnout recovery, I noticed that while people who recovered quickly might have needed complete rest initially, they soon became active again. But not active at work; they did something that broadened their horizons – an interest or a hobby. Those who did return to being active at work found a different way of engaging with it: writing rather than speaking, reading or learning rather than executing. This seems to be the non-sports person’s equivalent of rest.

Here are some examples of different types of work and what you can do to get the right kind of rest:

Emotionally Draining Work

Emotionally draining work can involve humanizing people’s difficulties and struggles. People who engage in emotionally draining work include HR professionals, coaches, medical professionals who interact with the public, therapists, and managers and leaders (management and leadership roles have become increasingly pastoral in recent times).

If you engage in this kind of work, you will need a break from it occasionally. So, you might organise all work that falls into this category a few days a week, giving you time on more cerebral or practical matters for the rest of the week. Some leaders, for example, chunk their team development work into an intense period and then spend a few weeks on non-team matters. Many people find this more useful than spreading emotionally draining workouts. If you can’t escape it, you must pace out your holidays and switch off. Also, ensure your personal life provides you some respite from it – so there are minimal dramas in your private life!

Mentally Draining Work

People who have to focus and concentrate over long periods are at risk of exhaustion from the mentally taxing nature of this work. This work is mainly technical in some way and can include people who work in tech, such as architects, technical designers, and engineers. To give yourself a mental rest, do something physical or practical. You could take some walks in the fresh air between bouts of mental intensity or build something concrete or tactile. Additionally, these people tend to do a lot of work alone, so (leaning into a change is as good as a rest) a rest can include participating in some group project or undertaking something social. Another way people get mental rest is to focus on just one thing if they usually oversee many things, or vice versa. This switch gives their minds adequate mental rest.

Creatively Draining Work

People who engage in creative work are frequently compelled to do something creative with almost everything they experience. It’s how their mind is programmed. It is a natural gift, but it can also be exhausting. People who engage in creative work get rest by taking things as they are, appreciating something for what it is and looking for simple, straightforward solutions. Most creative people have some of these elements in their work, so organising them in such a way that they do them in one period of time will help them to switch their minds off from generating creative work and give it some well-needed rest.

Physically Draining Work

Nowadays, for most of us, work is much less physically draining, but there are exceptions. People who train or make presentations do a lot of standing, as do those who work in retail or security – people in these roles will need physical rest. While more of us work part or all of the week from home, many still undertake relatively punishing commutes that are uncomfortable and sometimes stressful; this needs to be considered when considering rest strategies. The key is to work out whether a part of your work is physically draining and plan appropriate physical rest. This doesn’t necessarily mean completely stopping, but a punishing workout after a commute may not provide you with rest, more gentle exercise may be more appropriate.

Listen to your body to understand what you need in terms of physical rest. What’s more, listen to it after you’ve done something physical. That’s because what we think we need is not always what we actually need. Sometimes, a workout after the commute will leave you feeling energised, regardless of whether you want to do it beforehand. If you feel exhausted and further depleted afterwards, it might not be the right thing for you.

In Conclusion

There is much we can learn about achieving and maintaining performance in our fields of work from the rhythm adopted by many professional sports—one of the findings from the research for ‘Rest. Practise. Perform.‘ taught us just how different everyone is when it comes to energy; therefore, any remedy to tiredness or exhaustion must be tailored. However, we all need some help sometimes to get us started, and I hope that thinking about how your work is draining will help you create a rhythm with the right kind of rest. For individuals and organisations alike, elite sports teach us that well-rested people perform better.

I hope you enjoyed that.

Talk soon.

About The Author

Karen Meager is co-author of ‘Rest. Practise. Perform. What elite sport can teach leaders about sustainable wellbeing and performance’. Karen takes the latest scientific and

academic thinking, making it valuable and easy to apply. Her approach is grounded in research and professional practice that spans 20-plus years. Karen holds a master’s degree in psychology and health research, and her specialist research area is mental health and burnout in organisations. Karen’s goal with ‘Rest. Practise. Perform.’ is to help leaders and organisations find a working rhythm that delivers top performance while prioritising people and their health. See:  



Working with Strong women, I help empower women not to give up on their goals and find true happiness within themselves. #lifestyle #womenempowerment #selfcare


  • Marysa

    I do not do well when I don’t get enough rest. I do find that I need both sleep, but rest from work or noise. I spend a lot of my day with other people, and sometimes I need that break from it.

  • Nikki Wayne

    I agree in the statement of rest is the to performance. Because your energy is building up that’s why resting is nice to do before doing something that is need to execute more power.

  • Tameka

    Hardly have there been a truer word spoken. The way you are more likely to work without productivity and the how the quality of your work depletes is crazy.

  • LisaLisa

    This is soooo true. I had to learn it the hard way but now, I will back away from everything and get me some rest. I feel so much better when I do it and I can really be productive when I’m well rested.

  • Alice Mola

    This is so true, I found that I perform better at work when I go to bed extra early (though at the risk of my social life and downtime!). Getting enough sleep each night does so much more than heal our minds, it heals our bodies too!

  • Kimberley Asante

    Your insights into the importance of rest for optimal performance are truly enlightening! In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to overlook the significance of taking breaks and allowing our bodies and minds to recharge. Your post serves as a valuable reminder to prioritize rest as a crucial component of our overall well-being.

  • Richard Lowe

    I found something very interesting about myself recently. My body is not on the “normal” cycle. I do better going to bed at midnight, getting up 4am, then taking a couple of 1 to 2-hour naps during the day. Changing to this helped my rest. Thanks for the great info.

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