‘On’ is impossible without ‘Off’

The human heart beats on, off, on, off. It’s not a motor. As humans, we are distinctly different from machines. We’re an organism, and organisms run in cycles. While machines move linearly, humans move cyclically.


Our human minds can focus on any given task for 90-120 minutes. Afterwards, a 20-30 minute break is required for us to get the renewal to achieve high performance for our next task again. So instead of thinking about “What can we get done in an 8 hour day”, we’ve start to change our thinking to “What can we get done in a 90 min session”.

The best sprinters in the world are not only recognised for the power of each step, but also, for the net force they generate. The net force is the amount of force delivered in the desired direction minus the force generated by the antagonist muscle at the same moment. If we’re trying when we should be relaxing, if our ‘antagonist muscle’ is creating a counter-force, we’re not doing well.

We need to start thinking of productivity and output in cyclical, rather than linear terms. We have peak times during the day in which we’re better workers. Other times, we’re better thinkers. Other times, all we’re good for is …

It’s only when we come to appreciate and accept these ebbs and flows that we can really start to be productive, creative people.

We need to incorporate ‘off time’ – the outward breath, the ebb – into our working patterns. Not with simple lip-service like ‘you need to sleep better’, but as an integral, affirmed part of the process of working. If work, in whatever sense, ‘off’ is just as much a positive input as is ‘on’.

Summing-up: We need to understand that ‘on’ is impossible without ‘off’, and that the distance between the two needs to be made closer: like the beats of a heart or the steps of a runner.

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