Another Friday coming at you. Let’s do it.
I don’t know how you feel, but I just had a four day Memorial Day weekend and feel even more tired than before. So let’s talk about rest.
In a modern workplace culture so super-focused on productivity, where do we find the room to recharge? And where does AI play into that now that Big Robot is a part of our lives?
Writer L. M. Sacasas did a deep dive into the challenge of trying to “optimize for rest” the same way we tune our workflow or our fitness programs and it turns out rest doesn’t follow the same rules as training to win a 5K. When most of us feel tired, we immediately try to optimize our sleep: new mattress, new sleep schedule, special teas, special pills, lots of coffee. Mostly products.
The challenge with this is there are apparently 7 kinds of rest aside from just sleep. To save you the click, those are physical, mental, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and spiritual. And you thought you were just regular sleepy tired.
When we try to optimize our rest, the very things we’re after – rejuvenation, restoration, a feeling of peace – slip through our fingers via the rigors of the optimization process. When attempting to optimize we squeeze the essential element out of the rest itself: a chance to let go of responsibility and just exist for a moment.
The current culture of always-on hybrid and remote workplaces doesn’t help. We haven’t had a good break from work in about 15+ years. Not in a meaningful 5pm-lights-out way like it used to back in the classic cube-farm-with-a-stack-of-paper days. Even if we’re working in-office we usually have access to our email and business systems at home where we can pile on just a little bit more any hour of the day, forever.
Digital workplace culture is not a brand new problem, but it’s only getting worse as always-on culture makes us feel like we could always be doing more. And whatever the company Slack/Zoom/Asana doesn’t take out of you the ceaseless demands of social media will. With all this going on all the time I’m surprised we get a spare moment at all.
And now add AI into the mix.
As far as knowledge workers go, AI is the ultimate. No exhaustion, no fatigue, no burnout. This would be wonderful if we could delegate entire roles to AI, but that’s likely not the case: AI needs human intervention to finalize outputs for the foreseeable future. So while AI agents are churning out outputs, humans will be needed 24/7/365 to refine those outputs into meaningful work.
The unfortunate truth is that the human-built world is not built for humans. Server farms, CCTV, AI, task managers, bossware and the like are all designed for the relentless pursuit of more always. That simple reality is not going anywhere anytime soon as long as there is more money to be made.
So what do we do about all this?
First step is awareness, which is what you’re doing right this moment. Be aware that you’re not behind, you’re not slacking, and there will always always always be more to do.
Second, realize time is your main gating resource. Not just “on” or “off” time, but different kinds of “off.” It’s worthwhile to not be working, but don’t undermine your rest by constantly checking your email/slack/whatever like I do.
Third, realize in 20 years the only people who will remember how late you worked are your kids and partner.
So take it easy out there. There will always be more to do tomorrow. Always.
** PS: Now that we’re 21 issues in, let me know what you’re thinking about EiT. Drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell me what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see more of in the newsletter. Operators are standing by.
ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNETS
The work is never just “the work:” https://davestewart.co.uk/blog/the-work-is-never-just-the-work/
The history and future of charisma: https://www.noemamag.com/the-secret-history-and-strange-future-of-charisma/
The Two Mice Technique: https://pubby.games/twomice.html
Amazon employees stage walkout over RTO mandate, climate goals, and layoffs: https://www.techspot.com/news/98907-amazon-employees-stage-walkout-over-return-work-mandate.html
How I stayed relevant over four decades: https://thecodist.com/how-i-stayed-relevant-over-four-decades/
Small communities are the best communities: https://manuelmoreale.com/small-communities-are-the-best-communities