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Management R&R is essential, but are we getting the second part wrong?

What does R&R stand for?

The first 'R' is easy: Rest. The second usually stands for relaxation, recreation or recuperation.

Jamie Gruman believes we’re missing an important 'R' in all of that: Rejuvenation. On a daily basis, many of us feel depleted and exhausted, and are in desperate need of rejuvenation.

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The professor of organizational behaviour at the University of Guelph outlines in his book Boost three “buckets” you need to fill in order to successfully turn your downtime into uptime:

Rebuild: Replenishing the resources that get depleted in your daily or weekly activities. That involves both physical resources, such as physical energy and stamina, and psychological resources, such as concentration, emotional regulation and self-control.

It requires engaging in uptime activities that draw on different aspects of yourself and give your already depleted resources a break. “For example, a lawyer who argues court cases all week and then on the weekend coaches his daughter’s softball team and argues with parents about who the starting pitcher should be is not filling his rebuild bucket. This is because in his leisure time he is drawing on the same resources he uses to get his work done during the week,” Mr. Gruman says in the book.

That lawyer would be better building houses for homeless people, where he could give his argumentative side a break. Research shows rebuilding psychological resources on the weekend helps people to feel less burned out on Monday morning.

Nourish: Satisfy your human needs. And while rebuilding resources – the first bucket – is nice to do, nourishing is necessary if we are to thrive, research has shown.

It can start with physical needs, such as sleep and exercise. It moves on, of course, to psychological needs, and he highlights three. Humans have a need for relatedness, to feel close and connected to other people, and you can satisfy that by spending quality time with friends, family and lovers. The need for autonomy can be handled by making choices about activities such as vacations. The need for competence, mastering challenges, can be addressed by enjoying recreational activities or simply fixing the defective light in the kitchen.

Satisfying your psychological needs is a key part of rejuvenation. “Research shows that people who satisfy their need for competence by mastering a skill or challenge on the weekend come back to work on Monday morning feeling more recovered. Employees who satisfy their need for relatedness by participating in more social activities on the weekend end up feeling less burned out on Monday. And employees who spend their coffee breaks satisfying their need for autonomy by participating in activities they prefer come back from those breaks feeling less exhausted and reporting fewer physical complaints such as headaches and eyestrain,” he reports.

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Unhook: That involves relaxation. But the research literature shows it has less power to boost us than some components of the other buckets. So unhooking requires a second component: Psychological detachment – mentally turning off your obligations.

“If you leave work but keep thinking about the presentation you have to deliver next week, you’re not psychologically detaching,” he says. “If you go on vacation with your spouse but call grandma at home five times a day to make sure the kids are okay, you’re not detaching.”

He suggests psychologically detaching is probably most important for people whose obligations are particularly stressful. And he adds that not psychologically detaching can interfere with your ability to fill the other buckets.

So rebuild, nourish, and unhook.

Quick hits

  • Consultant Alice Boyles says you should use an easier behaviour as a reward for tackling a harder behaviour. Her example: Reward yourself for finishing a cognitively demanding task such as writing a complex report by completing a low key but necessary task, like running an errand that helps you stay organized.
  • Spice up your internal communications with podcasts in which leaders share with their teams, says consultant Karin Hurt.
  • The next time you’re in a potentially awkward conversation with your boss or a colleague, instead of asking “why?” when you don’t understand something they have declared simply say, “Tell me more,” advises consultant Michael Kerr.
  • Daywise is a traffic cop for notifications on Android devices, says tech writer Jared Newman: It bundles and delivers them at scheduled times so you won’t be bothered at inopportune moments.
  • Carl Jung said: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."

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