Your Brain Needs Downtime. Less Is Really More

In an article in Scientific American (see link below), Ferris Jabr reported on research on rest that you should reflect on as a school leader.

The research shows that working your brain at full-blast all day and all night is counterproductive and leads to a lower level of performance than individuals who more appropriately weave their work into how their brain actually works.

We have been cultured, particularly in school leadership, to believe that we have to be doing work or thinking about work all the time. That preoccupation with our work, not just in school leadership, but in other vocations in our nation, leads to the notion that you are either working/thinking about work all the time or you are a slacker.

What is actually the truth, long considered to be so by many practical people and now empirically proven, is that many important brain processes require sleep, downtime, and meditation to occur. Our brains are processing the world in which we’ve interacted when we’re at rest; when we don’t permit that rest to occur, much of the processing fails to connect.  It’s not just a quantity either (forgetting things, not being mindful to important things) that slips when we miss out on rest.  It’s also quality.

K. Anders Ericsson of Florida State University, a researcher for over thirty years in high performance has found that people can engage in deliberate practice of their work for only an hour without the need for rest.  Further, the most extremely talented people across many fields (athletics, music, writing) rarely practice more than four hours in a day, and accomplish their greatest work in the mornings.  In the absence of the equilibrium of nighttime sleep and daytime rest and meditation, performance wanes and if it goes unchecked long enough leads to burnout.

My career in education is over thirty years of which over twenty have been as an administrator or in support of administrators, and I can say that the research on the critical function of rest is one that you should give great consideration.  We have created an archetype for the Wonder Woman/Superman school principal that is just not sustainable nor based on research.   You will be do better as a leader if you seek balance, prioritize rest, and embrace the processing that your brain needs as a function of both.

To read the article from Scientific American, please follow this link:

#Leadership365   /15

Published by Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson encourages teachers and administrators across the country. He has been a teacher for nearly three decades and coaches principals, assistant principals, and aspiring leaders in a variety of formats. The National High School Principal of the Year in 2009, Dr. Wilson consults with school systems, coaches leaders, and shares encouragement to motivate teachers, staff and students. Mark has been a teacher, coach, assistant principal and principal. He served as an administrator for 15 years and is in his fifth year of full-time support of school leaders. This is a blog about the matters of principals because, principals matter!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: