Why rest matters and overworking is counterproductive

The creative industries are notorious for fetishising long hours and all-nighters. But for creativity, overwork is counter-productive, says Tanya Livesey. Taking time out to get some proper rest is much more productive and effective

In a world where round the clock working is actively encouraged and the frequently uttered, ‘I’m up-to-my-eyeballs’ is met with nods of secret approval, rest is often seen as a luxury and time-out for the weak or under-inspired.  In a challenging work environment, it’s easy to succumb to the myth that working longer means greater productivity. But in a creative business, the reverse is actually true. Creativity requires us to disengage – to let our thinking brain take a back-seat and relinquish control, whilst our minds wander freely. So whilst it might sound counter-intuitive, the creative mind often works hardest when it’s at rest.

To be clear, hard work should not be confused with over-working and neither should rest be confused with laziness. In the quest for great creativity, rest and hard work go hand-in-hand and neither should be more revered nor taken less seriously. 

According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, the author of Rest, even when our brain is not directly focused on a task, it’s still active, using its internal attention system to solve problems and make new connections. Only by learning to ‘rest better’ can we support this subconscious creative process and allow it to work its magic.