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Bundle 4: Recuperate after study or work

To work and to study productively, you need to feel invigorated and energetic.  The degree to which you feel invigorated and energetic will primarily depend on your capacity to recuperate after work or study.  This set of exercises presents some vital insights on how you can recuperate most effectively during the evening.

Exercise

1.1 If possible, perhaps an hour or two before dinner, you should itemise the various tasks you plan to complete the next day.  You might record these tasks on computer or on paper.  This catalogue of tasks could include

  • duties you must fulfil
  • problems you need to address—coupled with one to three actions you will initiate to help solve these problems
  • goals you would like to achieve, such as the development of a skill

Did you know?  When individuals reach firm decisions of the tasks they will complete the next day, they are not as likely to ruminate about their work during the evening. [Leroy]] If people do not ruminate about work, but instead feel detached from their work, they tend to feel more refreshed and invigorated the next day.  [effort recovery]


During the evening, you should prioritise activities that facilitate recuperation but also boost progress on other goals.  However, many people assume that:

  • if they want to recuperate and feel revitalised the next day, they need to indulge, such as binge on their favourite Netflix series
  • if they complete activities that are helpful or productive, they are not as likely to feel as rejuvenated the next day

These assumptions, however, are not entirely correct.  After individuals complete the following set of activities over several weeks, they can develop habits that enhance recuperation and productivity simultaneously.

Exercise

1.2 Over time, gradually develop a catalogue of activities that enhance productivity but, if implemented correctly, could also facilitate recuperation.  In particular, record activities that correspond to the following criteria:

  • videos, podcasts, or books that are likely to be informative but entertaining to some extent
  • activities that improve health—from exercising or meditating to cooking healthy food
  • enjoyable activities that consolidate relationships—from complimentary emails or messages to coffees with friends or acquaintances
  • activities that instil the feeling that your life feels organised, such as cleaning or filing

Did you know? To recuperate effectively, individuals do not have to relax or indulge.  Instead, when people complete activities that extend their capabilities, improve their relationships, or instil a sense of control over their lives, they are more likely to feel refreshed the next day. 

Exercise

1.3  Record activities you frequently undertake in the evening but would like to restrict because they are unproductive or unhelpful.  These activities might include gambling online, playing repetitive computer games, watching the same video many times, as well as other indulgent or addictive behaviours.


Sometimes, we convince ourselves to indulge in more of these unproductive or unhelpful activities than necessary.  For example, we may invoke false beliefs to justify these behaviours.  The following table:

  • outlines some of the beliefs that people might invoke to justify these behaviours
  • presents some more accurate and helpful alternatives to these beliefs
False justificationPreferred alternative
Unless I really indulge, I will not feel as refreshed the next dayAfter some practice, more productive activities, such as watching an informative video, can be as invigorating as more indulgent activities.  These productive activities, however, facilitate recuperation only after these behaviours become more habitual 
The amount of mental energy that I can devote to more productive activities is limited.  Once I exhaust this limit, I need to indulge; otherwise, I might experience burnout

As research shows, if people believe that mental energy is not especially limited, they are more able to sustain effort across the day. 

Exercise

1.4  Whenever you indulge, attempt to record any thoughts or beliefs that justify this behaviour.  An example might be "I need to rest before tomorrow". In response to these thoughts or beliefs, answer three of the following questions

  • What is the objective evidence that supports this thought?  What are other explanations of this evidence?
  • What is the objective evidence against this thought?
  • Did I reach a conclusion without all the evidence?
  • What would one of my more successful friends say about this thought?
  • Did I learn this thought or assumption from someone else?  If so, are they necessarily right?
  • How could I shift this thought to a more specific, nuanced belief?

Exercise

1.5  Sometimes, the temptation to indulge in unhelpful and unproductive activities, such as languishing on the couch, is powerful.  When you experience this temptation, you could attempt one of the following techniques to override this urge.  Eventually, with practice, these techniques can become habitual and thus more effective. 

TechniqueJustification
Defer this indulgence to another day.  You might decide, for example, that you will not watch a specific TV show now but will defer this experience to the weekend. When people decide to defer an indulgent activity, their urge to initiate this activity tends to diminish.  In contrast, if people strive to avoid this indulgent activity indefinitely, the urge often magnifies. 
Imagine yourself, perhaps a year in the future, in a setting you often visit, telling a specific friend or relative that you have relinquished this indulgent activityWhen people imagine themselves in the future, their capacity to resist temptations improves
Choose to undertake one of the helpful, productive activities you listed before, such as watching a documentary.  Decide you will maintain this activity during the next 10 minutes at least.Often, after you immerse yourself in productive activity, even transiently, the urge to indulge in an unproductive activity gradually diminishes   
Physically increase the effort that you need to expend to indulge in these activities.  You might scatter objects over your couch to deter you from languishing on this furniture.  You might store biscuits in a cupboard that you reach only if you climb a ladder. Urges to indulge subside if these activities demand effort.
Refrain from the temptation to indulge in this activity to a modest extent. For example, when attempting to refrain from biscuits, individuals might grant themselves the right to eat half a biscuit.  Yet, after they consume half a biscuit, they can readily convince themselves to consume a bit more.  Abstention can prevent this tendency.