Review- “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” (and thoughts on the productivity book I want to read.)

(cross-posted from my Goodreads review. You can check out the book here.)

Rest is well written, well researched, insightful, and interesting. I’m convinced. I need to learn to relax more, and I feel like I now have permission to make it a priority. Definitely worth reading.

But it was missing insight on something that might be outside of the scope of what the author wanted to do with this book, but that I would LOVE to read about some day in a book on productivity/work/creativity.

PLEASE NOTE: I understand that this book is “WHY you get more done…” and not “HOW to get more done…”. And I understand that this and most productivity books are assumed to be for The Professional Peoples With Big Careers, so the focus on them makes perfect sense. This is not a complaint, but a suggestion for something I really wish I could find more research/books on. This book absolutely achieved what the author set out to explore, but this review seems like a good place to mention a related issue.



We read here about a lot of people who are massively smart, successful, and dedicated to their work. It’s inspiring… but their lives look nothing like mine. Even in later chapters that focus more on people in more modern times, the one thing they all seem to have in common is that they were/are apparently able to focus their lives on a cycle of professional work and personal rest. People with servants, assistants, the means to take overseas vacations and sabbaticals… and even if not those, then these at least seem to be people who are not primarily responsible for household tasks and childcare in their homes. There are a few occasions when the author mentions “and this on top of children and responsibilities and…”, but we don’t get insight into how people achieve that balance or what that actually means for them.

The balance stated a few times in the book is between work and rest. But there’s another part of life that’s not professional work, but it also definitely isn’t rest, and it takes up a whole lot of time and energy if it’s primarily your responsibility.

I have so many questions about those people in the book who are acknowledged in passing to have home/family responsibilities. Do they have a spouse/nanny/servant/assistant who shoulders the mental load and most of the attention/time/energy burden for their home and family, allowing these creative types the freedom they need to achieve greatness through work and rest? Do they feel guilty about taking off for a solo sabbatical in the woods and have to make it up to the family when they get back, or is it assumed that the greatness of their career/genius justifies them taking on less of the burden at home? Or are they somehow working their four hours every day, getting in several more hours of reading/walking/napping and then having to cook meals, organize bath time, take the kids to baseball practice, help with homework, clean the toilets, make something for the class bake sale, and scoop out the litter box before they summon the mental energy needed for some deep play after the kids are in bed? (If it’s that last bit and they are doing all of that while writing brilliant novels or conducting breakthrough research, please refer me to wherever it is they’re mining their energy, because just typing that exhausted me.)

Basically I want to know how this applies to those of us who don’t have the freedom and support that these exceptional minds seem to have (and if not, that aspect of their schedule definitely deserves to be dug into a little deeper). Those who maybe started out as SAHMs or just aren’t the primary breadwinners but are trying to hone our productivity, do creative work, and improve our mental/physical health while doing that other work. Or people with chronic health issues, mental or physical, that interfere with the work/rest cycle. I need someone to refer me the research on how we do super cool stuff. Or not. Are we doomed if we can’t pass those responsibilities on to someone else? Is it either-or? (Honest question there)

*To be clear, my question isn’t just for this book.*

It’s just something I’m always hoping to see addressed and never seem to. I’ve read a ton of books on creativity and productivity, and none of them* have addressed the question of what happens when most of your schedule is dictated by other people’s needs. For example: Getting up early to work like the Dilbert guy sounds fantastic… except that in order to get up early enough to get an hour of work in before I have to get the kids up and off to school, I’d have to go to bed before those kids if I wanted to get enough sleep to not be a total zombie in the morning BUT HEY THE SPOUSE IS WORKING NIGHTS so that doesn’t work. Having a nap after lunch sounds amazing (and I’m super good at it, too), but I’ve got to get those four hours of work AND my walk in before the kids come home from school and we have to get cracking on their homework, so to fit that in I’d have to cut something else out. A sabbatical sounds AMAZING, but…

I’m not complaining, and wouldn’t trade my life for 52 sabbatical weeks a year. It’s just a different kind of challenge, and one I suspect involves different aspects of things like guilt/societal expectations than the workaholic trying to carve out time for rest. It would be cool to see someone explore productivity in that context, or just to see it acknowledged in books on productivity.

I’ll definitely be trying to work through a lot of the ideas in this book and to adapt them to my needs, and it’s given me some amazing ideas for when the kids are older and don’t need as much of my time. It’s also given me inspiration for a lot of things I’d like to do more research on just for personal interest (anyone seen a good book on Wilder Penfield? He keeps popping up in my reading). This was a very useful book.

But maybe an idea for someone to tackle in a future book would be to take a look at people who are achieving productivity and creativity under different circumstances, ones that don’t allow them to take up surfing or have hours of free time after work (any challenges, physical or mental or lifestyle-related). I’d love to read that.


*Shonda Rimes did a fantastic job in her book of acknowledging that she couldn’t do the work she does without her nanny AND that she finds that when work is going well her home life crashes, and when her home life is going well, work suffers. Just her acknowledging that challenge was amazing and comforting and inspiring.


About Kate Sparkes

Kate Sparkes was born in Hamilton, Ontario, but now resides in Newfoundland, where she tries not to talk too much about the dragons she sees in the fog. She lives with six cats, two dogs, and just the right amount of humans. USA Today bestselling author of the Bound Trilogy (mature YA Fantasy), Into Elurien, and Vines and Vices. Writing dark, decadent, and deadly Urban Fantasy as Tanith Frost. View all posts by Kate Sparkes

One response to “Review- “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” (and thoughts on the productivity book I want to read.)

  • Ruth Nestvold

    I am in awe of anyone who can write (or whatever) while raising small children. Okay, so I did get a masters thesis and dissertation written during that time, but my creative career went on hold until my kids were mostly self-sufficient. All I got done in those years were a few “finger exercises” — poems and songs.

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