Have you ever felt like Kendrick Lamar was quoting you when he wrote, “I’ve got hustle, though, ambition, flow inside my DNA?”1 Perfect. Here are four counter-intuitive ways to win at work by maximizing your time off.
Don’t work all the time. The jury is in: you and I absolutely MUST recharge, or we will slowly wither into dried-up raisins and then die—all while becoming less and less productive and deeply dissatisfied along the way. ESPN just released yet another comprehensive report on the value of rest. More and more, it seems like one of the most critical measures for elite performance is the amount and quality of your time spent resting and not doing the thing you want to be elite at. In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea of the 10,000-hour rule. The basic idea is that it takes 10,000 hours of doing a thing before you become elite at that thing.2 In the years since that book was written, the full picture of what it takes to be elite has come into sharper focus, and it turns out that 10,000 hours isn’t the complete magical formula we once thought. In fact, increasingly, it seems like a core part of becoming elite is resting from the thing you want to be elite at. No matter what your field of work, you must have time away from the field to recover, regroup, and recharge. If not, you have zero shot at winning.
“OMG, I’m tired of hearing that I need to rest.”
K. But are you doing it? If not, it’s time to get started. Or just embrace your future.
No skinny dipping. Swimming naked is fantastic3—I’m talking about the quick little dips into work you take throughout the evening and weekends. Somewhere along the evolutionary trail, my thumbs must have developed their own brains because without me thinking, they tap in my lock screen code,4 swipe to my email app and punch it open. Before I’ve consciously registered what’s happened, I’m working. The problem, by the way, isn’t the three minutes spent on work email. The problem is the share of my imagination, mind, and emotions that work will continue to own for the rest of the day. I get paid to solve problems. If I open an email that introduces a problem to solve, that problem will capture a share of my imagination for hours after I read the email. But I will only be half-thinking about it and therefore, only half-solving the problem. Rather than being fully on or fully off, I’ll exist in a half-state doing neither well and gaining no benefit toward my work or my rest.
Do freelance or for-fun project. I have the best job in the world: telling the incredible true and life-altering story of Jesus in a language people can understand.5 Like with any job, however, I can get unintentionally stuck in ruts. My creativity and energy level dips. A sure-fire way to breath new life into my work has been doing freelance projects outside the church world. In helping companies in other industries tell their story in a language their customers can understand, I’ve found fresh insights that I’ve been able to take back to Crossroads to the benefit of my work. For instance, in doing work for a clothing company a few years ago, I discovered that for many people, the prospect of turning 30 comes with a fear of never reaching their full potential: that your 20s are about potential and your 30s are about fulfilling it. That insight has helped me create better experiences and messages for people in each of those decades. What freelance project could you take on that is far enough out of your daily grind that it requires different muscles and forces you to view things from fresh angles? That sort of side hustle can produce massive returns for your day job.
Value your family job as much as your work job. Your spouse is your most critical teammate. They will either elevate your game at work or hinder it, and the deciding factor between those two outcomes is the amount of work you put in at your other job: your family. The more you invest in your family life, the more your spouse will root for and support your work life. That means bringing the same creative problem solving, organization, and effort you bring at work to home. Is there a recurring problem bugging your spouse? How might you, without them asking, help solve it? When my wife, Sara, was a worn-out, tired new mom, I brought home the same creative skills I use every day at work to create refreshing experiences for people and invented Mommy Night—one predictable, uninterruptible night a week that she would be fully off and away from the house to do whatever the crap she wanted: get coffee, wander the aisles of Target like a zombie, or park her minivan in the backlot and fall asleep.6 After a few weeks of Mommy Night, Sara’s attitude toward my work shifted from regretting every hour I was away to rooting for me to have the time and support I needed to succeed.
Want to win at work? It starts by maximizing your time off.
1DNA is a powerful song. Do I agree with everything it says? No. But is it a valuable insight into how someone different than me sees the world and does it happen to have a killer bass line? Yes. Just please don’t misconstrue my quoting it as me elevating the song as a treatise on how to live life. Cool? Cool.
2 I am an elite beer drinker for instance. Though I worked VERY diligently at beer drinking in college, it is only within the past few years that I can honestly say my 10,000 hours are complete and I’m elite at it.
3Seriously, if you’ve never skinny dipped, you’re missing out. Also, if you get arrested for skinny dipping, we never had this conversation. I don’t even know what you’re talking about.
4I have an Iphone 8—no face recognition for me—which means I’m basically Amish, voluntarily living with the technology of yesteryear. I might as well start churning my own butter.
5Meaning: a lot of the time, the story of Jesus feels inaccessible and confusing. Which is a tragedy because Jesus is the God who is named, “Emmanual” or “God with us.” He’s the only God-figure who claims to have put Himself into our world and learned to speak our language.
6Mommy Night is a must for new moms. By the way, after Mommy Night started, my wife was so grateful, she invented Daddy Night—a standing night a week for me to get out and have a break. Marriage works best when you are firmly in each other’s corner working for your spouse to enjoy their life.