High-Performance Rest

2020 has been a crazy year for everyone. We’ve all experienced substantial shifts in how our routines, our work, and our days flow. We’re spending way more time in front of screens, both at work and at home, and less time in person with our colleagues and friends. Chances are you’re feeling a level of exhaustion beyond anything you’ve felt before. I think that everyone is feeling this on one level or another; whether it’s a dull and constant feeling of low energy or an acute sense of complete overwhelm. 

Unfortunately, the holiday parties, the family gatherings, the busy streets full of shoppers will all be on hold until next year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get some solid restoration in through the break and rebuild resilience for January.

The secret to making the most of your holidays is practicing High-Performance Rest. What the heck is High-Performance Rest (“HPR”)? It might sound like a contradiction of terms, however, the concept comes from the world of elite athletes and their focus on the quality of their rest and recovery in between workouts and competition. Elite athletes know that their downtime is just as important as their training time, something the rest of us seem to have forgotten. 

If you really want to reset and elevate your energy levels, mindset, and performance, the quality of your downtime is critical.

Let’s look at three ways to master High-Performance Rest. 

Before we begin it’s important to note that HPR does not include randomly scrolling through social media, news, Youtube, or binge-watching Netflix. Part of the fatigue we’re feeling is because we’re spending so much time in front of screens, and so much time consuming content. It’s important to remember that when we’re mindlessly scrolling, our brains are working hard to process all that information. It’s by no means restful for our brain to spend time on our news or social feeds. 

1. High-Performance Rest Activities

We access elevated levels of rest when we unplug and include one or more of the following activities: 

  • Doing things that involve physical movement like walks, yoga, bike rides, or workouts
  • Doing something creative that allows us to work with our hands and different parts of our brain like drawing, painting, playing an instrument, doing a puzzle, or playing a board game
  • Meaningful social activities with others, which can be challenging right now but not impossible. We can still get out for walks or other activities outdoors. We can also make an effort to do something besides watch TV with our family members. Meaningful activities are ones that include dialogue, reflection, and eye contact.
  • Getting out into nature is a scientifically proven way to enhance your mood, energy and quality of life. Find a park, go snowshoeing, get into the woods, or hit the ski hill!

The more HPR time you can get over the holidays, the better you’ll sleep, and the better you’ll feel. Of course, High-Performance Rest is a big part of a productive workday as well. It’s not just for weekends or holidays.

2. Create Space

One of the reasons we’re feeling so exhausted is the “always-on” mentality we have with our content consumption. No matter what we’re doing, we have Youtube, Netflix, Audible, or podcasts going in the background or we’re scrolling through work messages and emails. This starves the subconscious mind of precious time it needs to process information, emotions, and everything else going on in your life. A simple way you can increase the quality of your downtime is to simply turn off the information firehose and put on some relaxing music while you do the dishes or get out for a walk. When we create mental space in our days we’re more creative, resilient, and better able to problem solve and make decisions. We also sleep better. 

3. Optimize Sleep

The other way we can dramatically improve performance and wellbeing is to optimize the quality of our sleep. There is a lot we could talk about here, but I’ll just mention three tips that can make a big difference: 

  • Be consistent with your sleep and wake times. The body loves consistency in our patterns and routines.
  • No screen-time in the hour before bed. Replace screens with a book, or other relaxing, low-light activities like a bath or shower, a cup of tea, or perhaps a breathwork meditation.
  • Reduce your alcohol and cannabis consumption. While many find that alcohol and/or cannabis is a good short-term anxiety reducer or sleep aid, the truth is that both substances interrupt the quality of your sleep and repress REM sleep, which is critical for mental wellbeing, learning, problem-solving, and emotional processing. Cutting back on both of these substances, especially in the 1-2 hours before bed will make a big difference.


I hope you find some true downtime and get some High-Performance Rest this holiday season. 2021 is just around the corner and while there is a vaccine clearly in sight, we still have a number of months to go managing the “new normal”. The better we take care of ourselves, the better we’ll perform and feel! 

Blessings and best wishes for the holidays. 


Steve Rio
Co-Founder – Nature of Work

Nature of Work

Learn to focus on what's most important.