How entrepreneurs can increase productivity with relaxation and recovery

Woman relaxing in hammock on beach

How does relaxation increase productivity?

Entrepreneurs can increase productivity by adopting the same principles of rest and recovery that are used to train aging elite athletes.

If you do a quick Google search, you’ll see running a business compared to running a marathon. But is that really accurate? Most entrepreneurs are in business for the long run, not to finish a single event. Entrepreneurs want to be like elite athletes and experience continued, sustained, injury-free success well into their old age.

What elite athletes can teach entrepreneurs about relaxation and recovery

Like elite athletes, entrepreneurs want to sustain their careers for the long run. So entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the book Play On: The New Science of Elite Performance at Any Age, as author Jeff Bercovici investigates the factors that keep athletes performing well into their “old age.”

In an interview with Angela Chen at, Bercovici says: “[Training technology] is helping athletes and coaches take a more sophisticated approach to … understanding that athletes that are highly fit but accumulating a lot of fatigue are going to perform worse and sustain more injuries. … There are a number of technologies that are used to monitor athlete training loads and look for signs [athletes] might need more rest.”

Like athletes, entrepreneurs must plan rest and recovery

Rest and recovery will not magically happen for entrepreneurs. There will always be more to do! It’s important to follow the example of elite athletes and make recovery time as important as your work time.

The only way to find time for rest and recovery is to plan for it. I prefer to plan at the beginning of the year with a fresh paper calendar, but you can start any time and use any online tools or planners that you like.

Schedule rest and recovery time on your calendar

Take a look at the upcoming year and enter all of your personal and professional commitments on the calendar. Mark off time for holidays and vacations. Then look at your monthly, weekly and daily commitments. Figure out how much time you can realistically work over the course of the year.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning for rest and recovery. If you have school-aged children, your time off may be partially based on the academic calendar. You may have religious celebrations; a busy or slow work season; medical challenges; or dozens of other issues that will determine your ideal schedule. You will want to include annual, weekly and daily rest breaks in your schedule.

Begin with annual rest breaks

Holidays. President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving  … There are many holidays during the year that you may wish to celebrate. If you have children in school, you’ll be amazed at the number of planned days off due to teacher training, exam schedules and school breaks. You may also wish to take off for your birthday or to celebrate time with a loved one.

Vacations. If you don’t schedule your vacations, I can guarantee that they won’t happen. Plan on at least two weeks a year and guard that time carefully. If you’re home-based, plan vacations that get you out of the house so you feel like you’re getting a real break.

Conferences and Retreats. Live events are slowly returning to our post-covid world. These can be great networking opportunities, in addition to a way to learn more about your field and to hang out with like-minded people. Like vacations, these need to be on your calendar. Since I’m a learning junkie, conferences are always fun for me and a nice break from every day life.

Schedule weekly breaks

Day of rest. Take a cue from most religions and schedule at least one day a week for rest and renewal. I also recommend that you schedule recovery days after trips or completing deadlines.

Self-care. Dental appointments, vision checks, physicals, haircuts, manicures, massages, yoga class, gym visits, and many other appointments can break up your work day.

Family and household management. Grocery shopping, laundry, car tuneups, pediatrician visits, and town meetings can take up a significant time during the week. I also recommend that you leave a bit of breathing room for emergencies. It’s usually when I’m super busy that the dog has an allergic reaction to a bee sting or my air conditioner stops working.

Socializing. Plan for some fun time with family and friends. I also enjoy regularly scheduled phone calls with my best friend. We live on different sides of the country, but we make time in each week’s schedule to talk.

Creative, Recreation & Hobbies. Kevin Eschelman, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, showed that people who are more engaged in creative activities scored 15 to 30 percent higher on performance rankings than people who were less engaged. According to Eschleman, “We found that in general, the more you engage in creative activities, the better you’ll do at work.” (Source)

Don’t forget about daily breaks

Brain Rest. Do you ever wonder why you’re so exhausted from sitting behind a desk? It’s because your brain, which only makes up 2 percent of your body weight, uses 20 percent of your energy. Concentrating is exhausting. Depending on which study you look at, your brain can fully concentrate for between a few minutes to a couple of hours. After this time, you need a break to renew and refresh your brain. (Source)

Nutrition and hydration. Students get lunch and recess. Corporate employees get coffee and lunch breaks. As a business owner, you deserve the same consideration. Take a break from your work to enjoy a healthy lunch or snack. Also make sure that you have water nearby and are drinking at least 64 ounces a day. Some of the symptoms of the afternoon slump — such as headaches and muscle cramps — can be explained by mild dehydration. (Source)

Exercise. Schedule exercise into your day. Whether it’s a stretch break, a trip to the gym, or just walking around the block! Swedish researchers found that taking just 2.5 hours per week for exercise during work hours increased productivity, even though workers were logging 6.25 percent fewer hours. (Source)

Meditation. There are many studies showing that meditation can improve your health, your sense of well-being, and your productivity. This has certainly been true for me. I take a meditation break in the afternoon, usually around 3:00 PM for about 40 minutes. I’ve been meditating for almost 2 years. Not only does meditation give my mind a break from stress, I see my productivity dip after a couple of days of not meditating.

Learning. While it’s impossible to know everything about your field, spending 30 minutes a day consuming educational material is reasonable. It’s also a great way to spend an afternoon slump!

End of Day. I stop work either (1) when I’ve completed my tasks for the day or (2) at 5:00 PM. As I said previously, solo entrepreneurs will always have more work to do. It’s up to us to put limits on the time we spend working. I start at 9:30 AM and I am tired by late afternoon. By the next morning, I am rested and ready to continue working in a productive matter.

Sleep. Good quality sleep is essential for physical and mental health. For more information, you can download this free report: Sleep Matters: The Impact of Sleep on Health and Well-Being.

How to structure breaks using the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, and published in his book called The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time Management System That Has Transformed How We Work. The goal of this technique is to maximize productivity by not letting your brain get too tired. To do this, you use a timer to divide your work into 25-minute sessions called “poms.” After each session, you take a five-minute break. When you have completed four poms, you take a longer break of up to 60 minutes. You can learn more about the Pomodoro Technique here.

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How entrepreneurs can increase productivity with relaxation and recovery
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