'Rest is productive': How slowing down at work can help you get more done

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Rest is often cast as the antithesis of success. 

In a culture that often glorifies "the grind," clocking insanely long hours, eating lunch at our desks and having no time to do anything outside of our jobs have become badges of honor. 

The message that success belongs to go-getters who work themselves into exhaustion in pursuit of their dreams is preached everywhere from viral Instagram posts claiming "sleep is for the weak" to business executives who brag about working 100-hour weeks

But it turns out that slowing down, doing less and setting aside time to rest can actually help you be more successful — and productive — at work in the long run. 

The hidden benefits of resting at work 

Spending more time resting during the workday doesn't just stave off burnout — past research shows it can stimulate creativity, help you concentrate better and make the time you spend on meetings and tasks more efficient.

"Rest is an essential component of working well and working smart," Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of the book "Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less," once explained in an op-ed for Greater Good Magazine.

What's more, "rest is productive," LaShawn Davis, a human resources consultant, tells CNBC Make It. "Productivity isn't just about getting results, it's about getting the best results you can, and it's impossible to perform your best if you're not well-rested."

People who prioritize rest, Davis adds, show up to work more energized, focused and prepared to tackle any challenges that arise.

That's because even when our brain is resting, it's still active, engaging its "default network" to problem-solve, think creatively and seek out new information, Pang explained. 

"We may not be able to control these processes completely," he added. "But by learning to rest better, we can support them [and] let them work."

How to incorporate rest into your schedule

Although taking a week-long vacation or an afternoon nap between meetings sounds divine, it isn't always possible. 

Instead, think about the rest you need within realistic time increments. Davis recommends taking a 15-minute break from work every four hours and taking an hour-long break for lunch, if possible.  

"Look for opportunities to inject fun into your day or do a small activity that gives you joy, whether it's going for a walk, calling a friend or reading a chapter of a book you're excited about … even if it's only for 15-20 minutes," Laura Pendergrass, an industrial psychologist who advises Fortune 500 companies, suggests. "Those small, restful activities can go a long way toward recharging your battery."

You can also set small "rest goals" to work toward, Davis says, like signing off completely by 6 p.m. every day, or planning a meeting-free afternoon at least once per week. 

Ultimately, however, rest should be non-negotiable at work. Whatever you have to do to hold yourself accountable for taking a break — whether it's setting a recurring reminder on your calendar or having a conversation with your manager — it's worth it, Davis says. 

"There's nothing, no task, no paycheck, no project that's more important than you and your well-being," she adds. "Don't compromise your rest, your sanity, for the sake of a job." 

Check out:

New to the job market? These 5 'soft' skills could give young workers an edge, according to LinkedIn

3 morning habits to help you be happier and more productive at work, according to psychologists

How to beat the post-holiday slump at work, according to executives

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How this 26-year-old earns and spends $25,000 a year just outside NYC
How this 26-year-old earns and spends $25,000 a year just outside NYC