In this context, if you work hard, you also need to think like an athlete and understand the importance of routine rest and recovery. The difference it will make may surprise you.

As a business founder, workspace consultant and ex-HR manager, I often have companies ask me questions like, “Alex, we want to make our workers more productive and creative, but we don’t want them to burn out. Can you help?”

The best teams prepare to win and that means having a sustainable strategy for success and sometimes this means making a few lifestyle changes and keeping more of an open mind.

Dr Kenneth M. Heilman – a world-renowned behavioral neurologist – found that when you take a step back from deep focus topics, the result is better mental clarity and more moments of creative inspiration.

Here are some tips to consider if you want to upgrade your routine, stay fresh and recover like a pro:

1. Go away guilt free

Taking a holiday doesn’t make you a hypocrite. Work takes so much of our time, don’t forget to give some time back to yourself. Athletes don’t feel bad about taking a vacation or two in their off season.

Woman sitting on a rock looking at the landscape in front of her. habits and routines, improving productivity, healthy lifestyle, rest and recovery, GamePlan A
Sometimes you just need a break to reinvigorate and reconnect. ©Westend61/letizia haessig photography/Getty Images

Vacation deficit disorder highlights a relationship between one’s vacations or lack thereof and demonstrates just how important vacations are. Time off isn’t a fluffy extra. Those who don’t take a holiday this year are nearly twice as likely to show signs of moderate to severe depression according to Daniel Durazo, Director of Communications at Allianz Global Assistance.

SMART work within a timeframe combats stress and procrastination. Give it a try, your boss, family and friends will thank you for it.

2. Two ears, one mouth

Listen actively to others. You might just hear yourself. Living and working in communities means we also share similar challenges. Finding solutions together often brings us closer and helps us to grow. What stresses your colleague might also bother you. Can you listen your way to a solution?

The ‘Rule of Reciprocity’ says that in many social situations we pay back what we received from others. In doing so, we also gain an enhanced ability for empathy. Don’t forget to communicate what you need in order to be – and feel – better.

Establish common goals with your team outside of your usual tasks and hold yourselves accountable to achieving them. Unlocking your true potential might be one collaboration away.

A man and woman sitting together and laughing together while they eat. habits and routines, improving productivity, healthy lifestyle, rest and recovery, GamePlan A
Do you spend time with your colleagues outside of work? It can benefit not only the team but also yourself. ©Westend61/Kniel Synnatzschke/Getty Images

3. Work together/play together

Companies like IDEO often require new hires to travel to exotic places in order to spend time with their teams out of typical environments.

The shared experiences, meals and unexpected travel adventures help people to get to know each other and themselves. You can often discover more about someone in an hour of play than a day of work. Team-building exercises may mostly happen away from your desk but they don’t need to be exclusively for new starters. Never stop building.

4. Needed Adult Peace or N.A.P

We aren’t immune to the negative impact associated with the lack of quality sleep. A recent post on the Psychology Today website by psychologist and sleep expert Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., explains how not getting enough sleep can mess with your cognitive functioning.

One example is memory consolidation – the brain’s process of storing new memories for long-term retrieval and throwing any unimportant data out. It’s a complex, multi-phase process, and it’s one part of the important work the brain does while you sleep.

A woman lying in her bed and sleeping. habits and routines, improving productivity, healthy lifestyle, rest and recovery, GamePlan A
Quality sleep can affect your performance at work. Do you listen to your body enough? ©Sophie Filippova/Blend Images LLC/Getty Images

Listen to your body and take a nap when you need it. You may not realize it, but sleep is really an all-or-nothing activity.

Your capacity to perform will diminish faster if you don’t learn to incorporate a work strategy that has a healthy respect for connection and recuperation. Challenge yourself to stop investing countless hours in front of your screen hoping you’ll have a Eureka moment. Break the cycle now before you regret it.

Want to read more from our community member Alex?

Alex shares 4 ways to take control of your circumstances and thrive.

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by Nina Weihrauch 12.11.2019
Hi Alex,
thanks for sharing this article. It's great, liked it very much.
What I would be super interested in is how you manage your comeback after vacation as sometimes it can be pretty tough going through thousands of e-mails and other things that waited for you ;)


by Alex Ahom Nina Weihrauch 21.11.2019
Hi Nina, super question that many people struggle with. It's not easy but it's doable.

If possible, prepare the people and teams most likely to email you well before you go away. Construct a killer out of office message and don't worry too much, many of those emails are junk, newsletters or group mails that don't require a reply.

I've often found when I've worked in big and busy companies, most emails you get on holiday have sorted themselves out by the time you get back and read them anyway.

PMA - positive mental attitude
by AM 19.11.2019
How important is company culture in this convo?
by Alex Ahom AM 21.11.2019
AM asked over on the GamePlan A site 'is company culture important.'

Thanks for your comment. Great to get the conversation going.

Having a work environment that is both collaborative and creative is vital. A company culture comfortable with change and openness will support this and other new ways of happy and productive work.

In order to save the world, we must save ourselves first.
by Yah 19.11.2019
Community, collaboration and creativity are so important at work. Why do so many companies get it wrong?
by Alex Ahom Yah 21.11.2019
Great organisations see community, collaboration and creativity as part of a strategy and bigger picture.

The good news is, work and the way we do what we do is changing. It's easy to get it wrong when fear and lack of confidence in people is commonplace.
by Galu 19.11.2019
It took me till my mid 30s to realise I absolutely need 3 breaks a year to keep focused and motivated. Great point Nina!
by Alex Ahom Galu 21.11.2019
It's never too late to learn something new. Especially a way to increase productivity.

Take a look at my other posts on GamePlanA, I have spoken and written about listening to your body which can really help.

Growth mindset wins!
by Elsa I 19.11.2019
Listening actively and effectively is easier said than done. How do you improve on that?

Thanks for the article I’m going to read your others now.
by Alex Ahom Elsa I 21.11.2019
Healthy communication is active and multi-directional. Committing to change, is the first step.

The real progression is implementing that new behaviour. Try some training courses about listening, communication, giving feedback and leading teams. There are some great resources on LinkedIn.
by Misel VB 19.11.2019
Great actionable tips. Have you though about sharing this on a Podcast, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn more people need to hear you!
by Alex Ahom Misel VB 21.11.2019
I'm eager to work in elite teams and I'm looking forward to doing more for the community.

Let's go!
by Gemma 19.11.2019
Great article Alex Ahom ... Rest and recovery (work:life balance) in the workplace is important for a healthy, switched on a productive team!
by Joy N 20.11.2019
I have decades of experience in HR in the UK. Successful companies of the future must implement strategies in their workplaces to allow people to be able to communicate better.

Point 3 is great!

People who are happy and fulfilled at work go a long way. Invest in a diverse, flexible, people/service-centric community. Loving the passion and knowledge Alex.
by Alex Ahom Joy N 18.01.2020
Please write a book.
by HR student 21.11.2019
Thanks for this article. Well written and thought provoking. Take the guilt away from R&R. Top performers don’t have it, why should we. Talent attraction and retention is changing fast.
by Alex Ahom HR student 18.01.2020
It all impacts the bottom line. Ours and the company's.
by Tom 21.11.2019
Sleep is so important. Do you think sleep and naps at work will catch on?
by Alex Ahom Tom 17.01.2020
What we know about sleep is developing so quickly. Not too long ago many people thought 4-6 hours was enough for everyone. Nowadays experts advise not only more but a higher quality.

I also read something recently that suggested two 4 hour sleeps are better than one 8 hour sleep.

How much sleep do we need during our workday and why.... I don't know right now but what I do know is. A flexible, modern and empowering work environment will provide the answer to your question in the future.