I caught the most epic flow wave I have ever experienced this week. I rode that thing for hours, glancing at the shore, expecting the magic to end any minute. It didn’t. It was like catching the most fantastic wave on the most beautiful beach near Los Angeles.
In fact, that epic flow wave clocked in at about 3.75 hours. I wrote well over 4,000 words, generated at least three fantastic ideas for my company, and only stopped to pee (more than once thanks to this article). Cowabunga, productivity nerds.
Here’s the interesting thing — not only was I productive and I got a lot more done than I usually get done, but I also enjoyed it a lot more. I felt the exhilarating whoosh of flow blowing through my hair as I typed a mile per minute.
I grinned at the witty words as they exploded from my fingertips, easily and conversationally filling the screen. I had one “eureka” moment after another, I wrote them on my nearby notepad, got another high from my new ideas, and rode that wave until the next win.
I was aware of what was happening, but I observed it as if I was a bystander staring at myself in my Los Angeles home observing my own productivity. Not unlike standing Titanic-style on the bow of a speeding ship, rested flow is a high similar to what I have experienced as runner’s high.
I was high on productivity.
Now, before you think I’m one of the many people in Los Angeles that is off my rocker, let me explain that runner’s high (and subsequently potentially productivity high) is totally a scientifically explainable thing. While most runner’s highs are few and far between and likely attributed to endocannabinoids in our bodies (yes, like marijuana), most people (erroneously) refer to a runner’s high when they receive a burst of dopamine from accomplishing a run.
Psychology Today says that those dopamine bursts can be replicated by accomplishing small goals (like finishing an article). Ralph Ryback, M.D. says,
“It’s possible to manipulate your dopamine levels by setting small goals and then accomplishing them. For instance, your brain may receive a spike in dopamine if you promise yourself that you’ll clean out the refrigerator, and then you do.”
So, when I was working, I experienced a spike of dopamine after accomplishing my first small goal which then gave me the burst of energy needed to accomplish the second. And then, the third, and so on. I rode that productivity dopamine wave all the way to a beautiful Los Angeles accomplishment shore.
So, what did I do differently to win this day more epically than all of the others (where I often write more like I’m trudging through the Swamp of Sadness)? Well, I wasn’t quite sure at first, but my work session was so fruitful that I decided to track back over my actions to find out what sparked my victory over lethargy. After a little bit of reflection, I realized what spurned my productivity high. Do you know what it was? I took a rest.
Yep. Rest. That good old four-letter word that makes productivity aficionados like me dry heave meditation apps and silent retreats. Yes, rest. And I actually did that rest thing the day immediately before my ridiculously productive work session.
The Sunday before my productivity high, I decided to take a day off. I did absolutely nothing work-related for the entire day before the fateful day of my epic flow wave. I rested. And then, on the morning before my productivity high, I slept in.
I know, I know. I will be the first to tell you that resting makes me itch. I didn’t actually plan to rest for a whole day so that I would get a lot done the next day. I just decided to take a day off (for once). Who knew it would spark the most epic bout of productivity I have had in a long time?
Well, it turns out, a lot of people actually knew. Including Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. Pang says, “resting more can improve your productivity. Rest is an essential component of working well and working smart.” In fact, Pang literally wrote the book on resting (it’s called Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less).
Sure, we all know this as a concept, but y’all…I’m here to tell you it actually works. I got more done in my Los Angeles home in less than four hours than I usually get done in ten. And the best part is that it was exciting. I was watching myself work…almost from the outside. And it was good work! And a few of my work ideas have proven to be very fruitful.
Is this the most abstract and exciting concept you’ve ever heard? Likely not. We have all probably heard that rest is important. In fact, you’ve probably been hearing it since you were a small child. But I write this article in hopes that I might inspire at least a few of you to give this whole rest thing a try. I am willing to wager my nonexistent surfboard that if you try it, one day off can lead to an epic day of productivity. Now, how do we deal with the rest of the week? I’m still not sure about that.
But I’ll be here to let you know when I find out. Happy surfing, productivity nerds.