What is the best work-to-rest ratio for peak performance?

“Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work.” – Ralph Martson

Many of us struggle a great deal with being stressed out or even burned out! We all have so many things in our day to day lives to juggle that we could basically be circus performers. This leads you feeling fatigued, tired, stressed out, or even burned out?

Or, you simply don’t want to put forth much effort and then wonder why you aren’t accomplishing what you need to!

Anyways, your brain is what allows you to do anything, including juggling your crazy chaotic personal and work lives. Your brain functions quite well, however you do need to take care of it with RECOVERY time!

Research continues to show that stress kills mainly because we all fail to effectively RECOVER. So, what would be the best work-to-rest ratio that would give us our best optimal performance (an optimal functioning brain)?

That answer can be found in a great book titled, “Peak Performance,” written by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. In their book they answer that question by stating:

“While the exact work-to-rest ratio depends on the demands of the job and individual preferences, the overall theme is clear: alternating between blocks of 50 to 90 minutes of intense work and recovery breaks of 7 to 20 minutes enables people to sustain the physical, cognitive, and emotional energy required for peak performance. This ebb and flow runs counter to the all-too-common constant grind of either perpetually working in an ‘in-between zone’ of moderately hard work or working at the utmost intensity nonstop. Neither of these more traditional approaches is ideal. The former leads to under-performance. The latter leads to physical, cognitive, and emotional fatigue and, eventually, burnout.”

From their conclusions, you can clearly see that for you to give your optimal best performance, you need to work intensely for 50 to 90 minutes (intensity). Then, give yourself 7 to 20 minutes of rest (recovery).

They also describe the two major dangers affecting your optimal performance. First of all, working all day at a moderate to half pace (pacing yourself with no break), leads you to underperform! And secondly, going at an intense pace all day with no rest (push yourself, push yourself, and keep pushing), leads to burnout!!

A quick and easy way to remember:

Moderate Intensity + No Recovery = Poor Performance

Intense work + No Recovery = Burnout!

What you really want:

Intense work (50-90 min) + RECOVERY (7-20 min) = your OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE!

OK, so now it is your turn with this. Go ahead and start using this formula the next time you need to work hard and see what happens!

About Chris Swenson

Chris Swenson is a licensed Couple and Family Therapist currently helping people develop resilience at his private practice counseling office in Sterling, CO (Rhino Wellness Center). To contact Chris, you can call 970-522-0796 or schedule an appointment online at www.rhinowellnesscenter.com