The hockey season got off to a delayed start due to labor strife but now it is in full swing.  My Chicago Blackhawks were forced to start the season playing 10 of their first 12 games on the road and facing thousands of miles of travel crisscrossing the country.  Most would have thought it would be a success for them to just survive but after the first 12 games they had not lost in regulation time yet.  What is the secret of this success?  Nobody knows for sure but one of the most predominant theories is that the team has been given a lot of time off without practice between the games.  They are asked to relax and save their energy and focus for the games, when it really matters.

Do we do the same in business or are we always filling our time trying to look busy and loyal?  If there is down time is it spent doing emails, voicemails and talking business with colleagues or do we just shut it off and relax?  Take a few minutes, or perhaps even a lot of minutes, to leisurely read through this New York Times piece that shows that productivity is actually a function of how much relaxation you have in your life.  Perhaps this is the perfect time of year to pay attention to nature.  So much is dormant this time of year, but we know that within a few short weeks there will be an explosion of growth taking place once again.  Maybe we should follow suit and make sure there are both dormant periods and the growth periods that result because of these periods of rest.  Nature may be showing us the way!

Taking a closer look at the research in the NYT gives us real fodder for thought.  The correlation between rest and the ability to perform on the basketball court is interesting and because this is measured by free throws it is much more than just having more energy.  The tie between productivity and taking all your vacation is also interesting.  By not taking vacation you are actually hurting the company.  The 90 minute concept is very interesting as are the roles naps, meditation, exercise and other renewal activities can have on your ability to perform.  We have all heard these things in bits and pieces over the years but maybe it is time to start taking them seriously.  The evidence is becoming more and more overwhelming.

The concept that time cannot be controlled but energy can is of itself worth a lot of consideration. This is an area where leaders can really make a difference.  It seems in this day and age people have a hard time controlling how much they work and when they shut it off.  In some ways they need a little guidance and perhaps even controls in this area.  If leaders are truly responsible for the productivity of their teams and the overall contribution each member makes then perhaps they need to start paying more attention to this issue.  Like in so many other areas, it may be time for leaders to lead.

It may be worthwhile looking deeper at sports as a barometer for this issue.  A major league pitcher can only throw so many pitches each day and so many innings a year.  Last year the best pitcher is baseball had to quit the year not because he was hurt but because he had reached the limit he could work.  If this regimen wasn’t followed the manager would have been fired and this decision even cost the team the championship.  How many minutes do you see LeBron, the world’s greatest basketball player sitting on the bench?  Productivity is more important than the number of minutes played.  Even the world’s premier golfers plan the events they will participate in closely so that they can reach their peak performance at the major tournaments.  It is not an issue of being tired as much as knowing they need to balance the work with the rest to really excel.

Perhaps this is a challenge.  Do you really care about being the best you can be?  Do you make the effort of trying to improve or just go through the motions every day?  Think it over and give relaxation a try.  Your future and the future of your company may be at stake here.

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