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How to build a ‘rest ethic’ that is as strong as your work one

The authors of a new book offer creative and thoughful ways to maximize your time off that will gift you with inspiration, ideas, and recovery


Take in a deep breath and hold it. Keep holding. How long can you hold your inhale until it gets uncomfortable? Thirty seconds? A few minutes? It doesn’t take long until we all, eventually, need to exhale.

Think of your work ethic as the inhale (it is, in a way, as essential to your career as air is to your body). With a good work ethic, we make, execute, coordinate, manage, fulfill, and get things done. Task list—inhale. Project execution—inhale. Making our ideas come to life—inhale. But we can’t keep inhaling forever. Eventually we have to exhale. This exhale is your rest ethic, and it is just as essential.

A solid rest ethic gifts us inspiration, ideas, and recovery. It allows us to build up our enthusiasm and sustain our passion. Gaining a fresh perspective—exhale. Project ideation and “aha” moments—exhale. Letting big ideas incubate in your mind—exhale. And just as a deep exhale prepares you for a better inhale, your rest ethic enables you to have a better work ethic.

In 2020, in the wake of COVID-19, a lot of people have found themselves with more free time on their hands than ever before, and many have realized the need for a solid rest ethic: Rest is not simply a result of free time. It is a skill that needs to be learned. It is something that—just like a meeting at work—needs to be scheduled and protected. And not all rest is created equal.


According to one of history’s greatest minds, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, rest is not just relaxation. Relaxation, he warned, is often just something we do in order to recover for more work. But true rest, what Aristotle called “noble leisure,” is defined entirely in itself and is the highest thing we humans could aspire to, because it fills our life with meaning.

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