Why taking a holiday will fast track your success, according to Jeremy Snape
Today’s working week hardly leaves a moment for rest. Long hours at the office and little rest have become a part of most managers’ careers. Some feel forced into this cycle, while others take pride in how long they spend working and their constant availability to clients.
Many managers discount the idea of having a proper break, underestimating how psychologically vital it is to fuel your best creativity and great decision making.
In the sporting world, rest and recovery are seen as the new competitive advantage. Coaches don’t just focus on physical recovery, but understand how important mental rest is critical to helping athletes stay focused in high pressure moments.
Even top athletes like tennis star Andy Murray have suffered recently without a proper break. Murray pulled out of the Rome Masters due to fatigue and decided it was important to take recovery time so he could be both mentally and physically ready to deliver his best at tournaments like the French Open and Wimbledon.
In many ways the business world parallels that of sport. Without a must needed break this can harm your performance. But what can businesses learn from the extensive research into sport’s highest performers about taking a break to achieve more?
The benefits of rest to critical thinking and creativity
Relentless hard work doesn’t necessarily bring the best results. Recovery is needed to prime the brain for creativity and critical thinking, and often the very best ideas strike in the moments spent away from the office. Vin Walsh, Professor of Human Brain Research at UCL, believes “The Eureka moment always comes when you’re not thinking about the problem.
“It’s called offline processing. Often, it’s not the workaholic that finds the solution, it might be the person who takes a month’s holiday in August. The brain is making new connections and associations between all the things they’ve been sweating over for the rest of the year. And its downtime is really underestimated.”
The physical science that begs you to rest
Neuroscience advances have shown parallels between emotional resilience and physical resilience. Weight training pushes muscle tissue to the point of damage, but with adequate recovery that tissue mends with increased strength.
This holds true for emotional stress - short bursts of pressure followed by periods of recovery can boost emotional resilience. The time taken to recover from that stress builds the strength to deliver increased impact, whether that is higher levels of creativity or simply the ability to handle more stress in the future.
For many just leaving the office does not remove this emotional stress when faced with a difficult commute. Many managers will be faced with traffic jams and packed trains, reducing the time in the evening to really unwind.
Joan Coates, senior research fellow in neuroscience and finance at the University of Cambridge, explains the consequences of allowing chronic emotional stress to build over time.
“In the office you can sit in a chair for months, even years, at a time suffering these stressful situations with no recovery period. With no recovery period, the stress response can be acting like acid on your body. The stress hormone cortisol will actually break down muscles and fat cells. A long period of stress can actually start breaking down your body.”
Rest = Resilience = Ready for anything
The best leaders measure their achievements by their impact and not by their busyness. The true test of success lies in the quality of time spent rather than the quantity. To maximise quality you must recognise when rest is needed to achieve results.
Anne Hemmings, MBE and former Olympic kayaker who suffered from chronic fatigue syndrome, says “a big part of resilience is about having the energy to deliver your performance day in day out at your best. Being strong in the face of adversity, being well equipped mentally, emotionally and physically in the face of life’s challenges.
“Being stubborn is just ignoring the warning signs really of what’s going on around me - when I’m starting to get tired or I’m starting to get stressed or I’m starting to get tetchy with other people. If I don’t listen to those warning signs, I know where I could end up and I don’t want to go there.”
This summer provides a great opportunity for you to recover and refocus. Whether you are competing for the Ashes or increased market share, ultimately you will be judged by the end result so get yourself into the best shape possible and use your holiday to recharge your mental and emotional batteries for the challenges ahead.
Jeremy Snape is the managing director of high performance consultancy Sporting Edge and a former England Cricketer ()