As moms, we all do it. You’re gifted a period of time – an hour, an afternoon, maybe even an entire day – without your kids around and you’ve got a list about two pages long of what you’ll be able to accomplish.

So you bust your caboose the entire time those rascals are out of the house, push harder and faster than you normally do (which is already hard enough to earn yourself some exercise minutes on your activity tracker), only to get through a handful of the listed items.

If you’re like me, you’re super frustrated that you didn’t get more done.

What’s even more frustrating than my lack of a completed task list is how exhausted I am by the time I pick up my kids or walk back in the door.

Our bodies and scientific research tell us there is a reason why less is more and why taking frequent breaks results in more productivity.

Short Sprints are Best

I read this great article that talks about something I already knew, but didn’t really fully understand and let sink in. Our bodies do better when we work in short sprints. We cannot just go-go-go all day long and expect it to not take a toll. Trust me, I’m speaking to myself here as much as I am to anyone else. 

Most of us are familiar with the idea of sleep rhythms, especially those of us who have had newborns in the house. About every 90 minutes, babies toss and turn and even wake up a little bit. Then they settle down and make you wonder if they’re still breathing because they’re so still. This is known as the Basic Rest Activity Cycle (BRAC).

Well, something similar happens when we’re awake. As this article points out, there are continual cycles of high frequency followed by low frequency brain activity throughout the day, or an Ultradian rhythm.

The article is great at explaining what goes on in our brains in more detail, but to summarize, when we push our brain to compute, make decisions, and problem solve, there is a resource drain that takes place. There is an actual chemical reaction taking place when your brain is at work, so once all that computing is finished, it’s no wonder you feel tired. 

No wonder I’m more exhausted after 45 minutes troubleshooting friendship with my teenage daughters than I am after hours of building a train set with my preschooler.

The Importance of Rest

Even as I wrote that heading, I wanted to roll my eyes. I feel like as moms, we’re always being told to “be sure and get some rest.” Yeah, yeah, yeah, I get it. I need to take care of myself so I can take care of others. Blah blah blah.

That being said, it really is true. Ignoring our body’s signs of exhaustion (anyone else needing that 2pm pick me up?) pushes us to over-tax our brains and the entire balance within our body. It leads us to snap judgments or statements, being less productive, and not the people we want to be.

I know from experience, on the days that I lay in bed for 10 minutes during nap time, I’m a much better mom the rest of the day. Some days I actually fall asleep for 15 minutes, some days I just lay there and unplug. But I always have a better afternoon because of it.

This article talks about just a few ways that resting more boosts our productivity at work. If you’re a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM), then your work is taking care of your kids and you can apply the same principles he mentions to your home life. If you work outside the home, then incorporating some of these principles into your day may help you feel less drained by the time you get home, and accomplish more at work.

What Does Rest Look Like

Rest doesn’t always need to mean a nap – although they are so lovely. It can mean a quick walk around the block or office building. It can be coloring while listening to music. Maybe you sit in your car for 10 minutes with the seat laid back. Read a magazine that’s just for fun. Wander around a store without a list, just to look. Drive to school pick up without the radio on just to enjoy the silence. Heck, even lock yourself in the bathroom, sit on the floor, and close your eyes for five minutes.

I think what’s most important when thinking about rest is realizing that it can look different for each of us and can change throughout the day and at different phases of our life.

For me, walking the dog is not restful. It’s a chore my kids are supposed to knock out and my task to be completed when they don’t. But maybe taking the dog on a walk is your way of getting a break from decisions and your phone.

My eyes and back get tired during the day, so simply laying on my back with my eyes shut feels supremely restful.

If we can build in some small amounts of rest, then we have the ability to be even more productive in whatever our days bring. Each mom’s daily routine looks different, but we all desire to be a good mom and excel at life. So by carving out moments of rest, even if it’s just a change of activity for a few moments, then we can show others what it looks like to put ourselves first.

What’s your daily routine look like if you think of your routine in terms of 90 minute sprints followed by a period of rest?

Looking for More?

For more articles on the importance of working in 90 minute sprints, here are a couple more great articles.

For Real Productivity, Less is Truly More 

Why You Need To Unplug Every 90 Minutes

The Science of Productivity Sprints 

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