10 activities to do away from work that make you better at work.

Happy Labor Day! This is the day we set aside to honor working people like you. Your work is important and noble. It helps you pay for your groceries. And therapy. But today I hope you don’t work at all.

Instead, consider these 10 non-working activities that make you better on the job.

  1. Rest Recover, refresh, and renew. Take time to rest so that you don’t burn yourself out at work. (Yes, I realize that activity #1 is technically an inactivity.)

2. Exercise This keeps your body strong. A strong body is a strong asset during the work day. And if you can run a 5K, rock climb or lift Instagramable weight, then stapling the coversheet on your TPS report should be a breeze.

3. Read: Reading helps you discover new ideas. It inspires. It sparks creativity. It expands your worldview. It enables you to bring new thinking and perspective to work. And like Southwest Airlines, reading helps you get away.

4. Socialize: Develop and maintain relationships to improve your mental well-being. Socialize to expose yourself to new opportunities in a clothes-on-kind-of-way. All of this contributes to your workplace success.

5. Sleep: Experiment to discover your optimal amount of sleep. Then hit your number as often as you can. Getting the quantity of sleep your body loves will help you wake up ready for the world, like an 80’s band. And ready for the work day ahead. Waking up each day feeling strong and rested for the work day ahead is a beautiful way to start your day.

6. Travel: When you see new things it exposes you to new ideas. It leads to a greater understanding of the world and all of its beautiful diversity. Which contributes to creative thinking, problem-solving, and points with your travel loyalty program. (You did sign up for the loyalty program, right?)

7. Spend time with nature. Spend time away from the human-made world to recharge and gain perspective on life. It is a great way to slow down, destress and break out your cute outdoor clothing. While you are out there you have time to think. And thinking is the worker’s most valuable activity.

8. Volunteer: Offer your time, talent, and energy to do meaningful work without pay. It reminds you of the ways your work can create a better, more caring world. It reminds you that there are many ways to add value and contribute. And that there are many ways to be compensated for your efforts that are not monetary.

9. Laugh: Laughing is living. It relieves stress. It makes you feel like everything will be alright. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. See the world as a great comedy and your perspective will contribute immensely to your enjoyment of both your work and play.

10. Spend time with your family: Make sure to balance your commitment to work with a commitment to family time. Spend quality time with your spouse and children. (If you have them.) Spend time with your parents and siblings. (If you have them.) It will remind you why you are working in the first place. (Especially when you see your kids’ smiling, crooked teeth in need of orthodontia.)

Key Takeaway

You don’t become a better teammate, employee, or leader by spending all of your time at work. You become better away from work. Use your time off to become a better, smarter, more relaxed human. Up your creativity, connectedness, and curiosity away from work. Then show up to work a little better every day. Now go make the most of your Labor Day. I want to hear all about it on Tuesday morning.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this message, please share it with them.

+For more of the best life lessons I have learned check out my new book, What Does Your Fortune Cookie Say? from Ripples Media.

How I am making the nap my secret business weapon.

Remember Kindergarten?  I do. It was great. Blocks, snacks, learning to read and being the cutest kids in the school. It was a sweet gig for a 5-year old. And, of course, there were the naps. I remember curling up on my squishy little quadrifold mat. Speckled blue on one side. Flecked red on the other. I zonked and drooled for a few minutes every day. And I always came out of the nap better than I went into it.

For most of us Kindergarten was the last time in our lives we were encouraged, if not forced to take a nap. Now, I want to bring the nap back. But this time for creative professionals. I can’t think of anything that would help my mind perform at its best and  make my days more enjoyable than a regular nap-cation. Even at the office.

Too often we push ourselves until we run out of gas. And you are simply not at your best when you are running on fumes. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we should pay great people with great minds great money and have them operate on low batteries. (Yes I mixed fuel and batteries. I’m a hybrid.) 85% of mammalian species are polyphasic sleepers. Which means they sleep in short siestas throughout the day. But somehow we’ve rejected what the rest of our hairy relatives have heartily embraced.

Napping isn’t just important for creative professionals. In various other lines of work the nap is a must. If you drive an 18-wheeler I want you to stop and nap whenever you need to so that you don’t get your Peterbilt in my chocolate. Doctors, if you’re on for a 24-hour shift, wait, scratch that. ANYTIME you need to make sure you are at your best, you take yourself a nap. I’ll even write you a prescription.

Cultures in other parts of the world highly value the workplace nap. In China you’ll find entire teams facedown at their desk over the lunch hour. I love this! And not just because I would take and post hilarious sleeper pics on Instagram every day. In Spain they siesta. Italy has they rock the riposo. And other countries from the Philippines to Nigeria say don’t worry, be nappy.

My friend and former officemate Vince DeMarinis used to announce every day at 3pm, ‘Welcome to the worst hour of the day!’  But with a well timed nap we could be as great at 3pm as we were first thing in the morning. My Grandfathers were both farmers. And you know what they did between the morning and evening chores to prepare for operating heavy and spinny and choppy farm equipment?  They fed their nap-petites on the couch for a few minutes every day. And their cattle and appendages were better off for it.

So I want to apply the same principle to The Perfect Agency Project. When me and my team are worn down from a long day slinging the pickaxe in the Idea Mine, I don’t want the team to simply push through with caffeine. Or 5-Hour Energy. Or Red Bull. Or Crack. What a fatigued mind really needs is a nap. A nap powers us up like our iPhones plugged into the wall. Only without the electricity and charging cords in our orifices.

I’m not proposing long naps where you shut your doors for a few hours and change into your footy pajamas. A quick cat nap will do the trick. A study by the research journal Sleep found that 10 minute naps were optimal in terms of reduced sleepiness and improved cognitive performance. Another study of theirs showed that almost no one reads the research journal Sleep.

NASA performed some rocket science on sleepy military pilots and astronauts. They found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. It even made Tang taste tangier. Since most of the ideators and pencil pilots I work with spend a lot of time with their heads in the clouds I find these results highly relevant.

I am planning out a napping policy and facility now. We may have mats, build bunk beds or hang hammocks. But the nap will be used. It will be sacred. It will help us develop better ideas faster. And it will help us be more productive. I firmly believe it will give us a competitive advantage in ideation. I encourage you to consider incorporating naps into your routine as well. And when you do, let me know. I’d be happy to come take some pictures of your team hard at sleep.