Have you ever had the experience where you have an incredibly productive day of work, and then productivity falls down the drain the day after?
Or the opposite, where after a stressful day of work it shatters the next day of productivity as well?
Or maybe instead of the day by day, you’ll have one great week, and then the next is shit. Or a great month, and then the next is nowhere near that same level.
In any circumstance what we’re describing here is a lack of consistency. A roller coaster of productivity. Ups and downs and inability to be able to string great weeks and months together. Inconsistency across the board that leaves you scratching your head wondering what went wrong along the way.
If you’ve had any of these experiences, it’s most likely because you’re not properly recovering after a long day of work. You don’t know when to stop working, how to turn your brain off, and how to properly recover so that you can build MOMENTUM day on day, week on week, and month on month.
In the same way that if you go to the gym and have a hard workout session your body needs time to recover, the same applies to work. In the same way that we can OVER TRAIN in the gym and do too much, we can over-train in work lives as well (cue burnout, exhaustion, etc).
What many of us fail to appreciate is that the secret to consistency, sustainability, and building momentum is learning how to properly RECOVER after a hard day or week or work.
In today’s work culture of “grind”, work 60+ hour weeks, and optimise every area of your life, the one part of the equation that always seems to be left out is how to calm the hell down and properly recover so that you can perform well again the next day.
This is what I want to focus on today. How to properly recover after a hard day of work so that you can be more consistent. So that you can have a sustainable work life that doesn’t lead to exhaustion and burnout.
What does recovery look like for me?
First things first, after a hard day of work I have a lot on my mind. I’ve made a lot of decisions, taken in a lot of new information, and I need a way to be able to calm my mind down and let go of the work I did in the previous day.
In scientific terms, what we want to do is reduce what is called “cognitive load”- in layman’s terms this is the amount of information that your brain is holding at any given point in time.
You see, the brain has a capacity for it’s ability to hold information simultaneously, also called “working memory”. As the day goes on your brain accumulates more information thus increasing cognitive load.
At the end of the day I want to release all of that information in a serious way. I need to try and empty my mind so that I’m able to create space for tomorrow.
First thing I do is journaling. I get out a pen and paper and I reflect on the day. What happened, highs and lows, energy and productivity check-ins, how I feel, and anything else that really comes to mind. I call it a “brain dump”. I try to sit there until I’ve released all of my thoughts for the day. Journaling is one of the most effective ways to reduce cognitive load.
Then, once I’m finished, I’ll usually get in another round of light exercise. It’s usually yoga or pushups. Something basic. I want to get out of my head and into my body.
IF I have access (big if) I love the Sauna. Sauna is the #1 recovery tool you can use. I can’t preach enough about the benefits. Look up Rhonda Patrick and saunas if you don’t believe me.
After exercise it’s usually time for dinner. I spend a lot of time alone, and I don’t cook, so I will usually get dinner and read a book while I eat. I read fiction so that I can simply enjoy and remain entertained. Personally fiction is one of my favorite recovery tools (although I’m not sure there’s actually much science to back that up or I hope someone can find it).
I’ll also add that I eat healthy — nutrition is another important aspect of recovery. The brain and body needs fuel and the better you nourish it, the better it will perform the next day.
Then my night is open. Sometimes I hang out with people, sometimes I talk to a family member or friend over the phone. Despite being a lone wolf for most of my life, I realize the importance of my tribe, and I notice that when I’m more connected to my family and friends I feel better which helps me to live a happier life. There’s also a growing body of evidence supporting social interaction as an effective means of reducing stress aka social interactions is a great tool for recovery.
Last but not least, before bed I like to take some more care of my body. Stretching, foam rolling, massage wands — loosening up the body and allowing it to relax and decompress. I also find that it helps me to get into my body before sleeping.
I should also mention once it hits around 10pm at night my phone goes on airplane mode…that’s another important one for reducing cognitive load. The phone is the devil if you want to properly prepare yourself for sleep.
Now, I will say though that I often work late, so sometimes it’s harder than others to properly reduce cognitive load before bed. If that’s the case, I try to get extra sleep to compensate. If I can’t — performance usually suffers as a result. This is delicate work here.
Take tonight for example my last call was 10pm and now I’m writing at midnight. But since that time I’ve stretched, eaten, talked to my mom and brother, and now spent some time writing and did a nice brain dump of daily activities. I’ve created some good space between myself and my work.
Next up on the recovery techniques I come back to journaling. But this time, rather than brain dumping the day of activities, I try to think through what are called my MIT’s, or Most Important Tasks for the next day.
I map out the next day so that when I wake up I have clarity about what I need to accomplish and make sure that my brain is primed to be able to do so (remember that clear goals is a flow trigger? 😉 )This also helps to reduce cognitive load for the next day, so that rather than thinking about what I need to do today, I’ve already mapped it out the previous day.
Last but not least, the last recovery tool before bed includes meditation. I will meditate for 30 mins. 10 mins attention to breath, 20 mins body scan, then some time in gratitude.
Meditating before bed allows your brain to get out of beta waves and into alpha and theta waves. It prepares the body for sleep and will give you deeper rest and recovery. A quick meditation before bed is key for priming the body to go to sleep.
Then the most important ingredient of them all…SLEEP. Sleep is magical. YOU HAVE A NATURAL RECOVERY SYSTEM. USE IT. Get enough sleep. 8 hours if you can. My brother recommends 10. I really don’t know if you can sleep too much.
Sleep is where the magic happens. It’s where your body regenerates and recovers and learns and retains memories. The science speaks for itself. Don’t cut back on it or cut it out or try to develop clever systems…sleep, and get as much as you can.
And that’s it! To review, here’s a quick checklist of all the recovery techniques I have mentioned for calming down the mind and body and allowing it to properly recover.
- Stretching/Foam rolling/Massage
- Social interaction
- Turn the phone off
- Map your MIT’s
If you want to avoid inconsistency, recovery is the key. If you want to build momentum, recovery is the key. If you want to be your best, healthiest, most productive self, recovery is the key.
Master recovery to master productivity and be your best happiest healthiest self 🙂
Now, i’m going to sleep and recover. I suggest you do the same!