Introducing Practically Deliberate
Plus, how deliberate rest can make you more creative and effective
Hello there! You’re receiving this message because at one point, you signed up to learn more about my work (if it’s been a while, here’s a refresher about me). I’m thrilled to introduce you to my latest project, Practically Deliberate. Read on to find out more...
Why Practically Deliberate?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved puns and double entendres. There’s no question I’m drawn to these words because practically has several meanings, as does deliberate.
In addition to showcasing my love of wordplay, Practically Deliberate describes the needle I attempt to thread in this newsletter and in life: being intentional nearly all the time and being pragmatic about being intentional.
More than one friend has accused me of being “the most deliberate person they know,” but since that doesn’t always scream FUN, I also schedule time to be spontaneous (and of course I realize how ridiculous that sounds). Nevertheless, I do this because the most extreme version of something isn’t necessarily practical (for example, the extreme rock climbing captured in the Academy Award-winning documentary Free Solo), and I value pragmatism.
That’s one reason the concept of “practical wisdom” resonates with me. Aristotle identified the concept of practical wisdom as the highest intellectual virtue; it leads to doing the right thing in the right way at the right time. Researchers believe practical wisdom - the combination of knowledge and experience, of theory and practice - leads to better decisions. And who doesn’t want to make better decisions?
Which leads to why the verb meaning of practically deliberate (i.e., “to deliberate in a practical way”) is also apt. I’ve been known to engage in long and careful consideration, especially when it comes to the big life decisions my co-author Myra Strober and I wrote about in our book, Money and Love: An Intelligent Roadmap for Life’s Biggest Decisions. However, while there’s value in deliberating, deliberation without action isn’t terribly useful. So while my decision-making style tends toward “analyzer,” I do my best to act instead of getting stuck in analysis paralysis.
One of my goals in this newsletter is to share actionable insights I’ve gleaned through my own deep dives into intentionality, decision-making, and personal development that lead to greater wellbeing.
Since you’re already on the list, you don’t need to do anything to continue to receive free posts of Practically Deliberate. But I also decided to turn on paid subscriptions.
Candidly, I deliberated a lot about whether to turn on paid subscriptions at all, especially at the outset of this project, before I’ve convinced you of its value beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I decided to do it for a few reasons: a) turns out, I’m my own harshest critic (thank you, years of therapy!), so I’ll likely set the bar too high in terms of when to turn on the paid option; b) I believe in voting with our dollars for more of what we want to see in the world (for me, that’s independent bookstores, local florists, and slow fashion brands). I have happily paid to support the creative endeavors of people I respect over the years, and I want to give others the opportunity to do the same for me; and c) it would be hypocritical of me (an author of a book called Money and Love) NOT to test whether this newsletter could become a real source of income for me and my family. So here’s to experiments!
Free subscribers will get access to most of my posts and recommendations. I’ll post at least once a month but not more than once a week, so you don’t have to worry about cluttering your inbox if you subscribe (you can always choose to read these only in the Substack app if you don’t want any emails).
Paid subscribers and Deliberate supporters get additional benefits, including:
Full access to all posts (especially the super personal ones that I might feel reluctant to put out there to everyone) and bonus content
Special discounts on recommended products and the chance to win some of my favorites (starting with my favorite dark chocolate bars)
The ability to ask questions/ask for advice, leave comments, and engage with other members of the Practically Deliberate community
Extreme gratitude for financially supporting my work
(Deliberate supporters only) A personal thank you note and custom bookplate
I would be honored if you’d consider becoming a paid subscriber if you’re able to. Not only will you get access to the above benefits, but your financial support will also enable me to dedicate more time to this project, making it better for everyone.
I’m running a launch special; if you sign up for an annual plan by October 15, you’ll get 20% off. Plus, did I mention I’ll send my favorite dark chocolate bars to a few lucky paid members? It’s a sweet deal (pun intended).
The Life-Changing Magic of Deliberate Rest
Now…let’s get into it!
There are so many surprising areas that we engage in automatically, assuming that being deliberate would be a waste of time. Consider rest, for one. This first Practically Deliberate post focuses on the concept of deliberate rest, which I first encountered in the wonderful book Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang.
I read Rest a few months ago, and it has been life-changing.
Some context: my family planned to escape the San Francisco summer fog by spending two weeks in Bend, Oregon in early July. Despite the fact that I hadn’t taken more than a few consecutive days off over the preceding nine months (when I was promoting Money and Love), I insisted that it was going to be “a relocation, not a vacation.” Our kids were signed up for a local summer camp, and my husband and I planned to work most of the time.
Shortly before we were scheduled to leave, our kids came down with a terrible bug, which they promptly gave to us. We spent most of our first week in Bend feeling crummy. My head was congested and fuzzy, my laptop stayed closed, and I realized that even though I loved the marathon of launching a book, I was exhausted.
I ended up reprioritizing the rest of the trip to rest, which helped me feel renewed and get more clarity on what was next for me. When I posted about it on social media (see below), my friend Yael Schonbrun, who’s always full of science-backed wisdom, recommended I read Rest. I did, and it resonated deeply.
In Rest, Pang argues that we’ve been thinking about rest all wrong. Instead of seeing rest as work’s competitor - something that gets in the way of work - we should be appreciating it as work’s ally. Rest helps us be more creative, productive, and efficient at our work.
In the book, he describes four principles of rest. In his words:
Work and rest are partners. “Rest is not work’s adversary. Rest is work’s partner. They complement and complete each other.”
Rest is active. “Physical activity is more restful than we expect, and mental rest is more active than we realize.” Rest includes both “restorative daytime naps” and “lengthy vacations,” but also “insight-generating long walks” and “vigorous exercise.”
Rest is a skill. “Rest turns out to be like sex or singing or running. Everyone basically knows how to do it, but with a little work and understanding, you can learn to do it a lot better. People don’t just become world-class performers through deliberate practice. They also practice what you could call deliberate rest.”
Deliberate rest stimulates and sustains creativity. “Super creative people…structure their days to have time for both intense, focused work and downtime.”
Throughout the book, Pang cites numerous examples of creative, ambitious people across disciplines (scientists, writers, politicians, painters, and composers) who “worked far fewer hours than you would imagine necessary for producing world-class work.” Charles Dickens loved to take long walks (he averaged ten miles a day); Winston Churchill maintained his habit of taking a midday nap even amidst the Blitz (inspiring John F. Kennedy to take up the same practice); and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan plays basketball and has adopted a boxing regimen (introduced to her by the personal trainer she shared with her colleague, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg).
One of the most fascinating studies he describes followed a group of young and mid-career scientists based in Southern California (at prestigious schools such as Caltech and UCLA) for several decades, tracking which ones became star performers and trying to identify the common denominators among the stars. It turned out that the top scientists all engaged in athletic pursuits, such as playing tennis, swimming, hiking, skiing, and surfing, alongside their many work obligations, whereas their less acclaimed colleagues didn’t participate in sports. As Pang describes, “the most successful scientists saw their work and leisure as connected and mutually supportive, and expressed fewer anxieties about time pressure. For the top performers, swimming or hiking didn’t compete with their time in their laboratory, and they didn’t feel that the time they spent on deliberate rest was stolen from more productive things.”
My friend Yael who recommended Rest was kind enough to connect me to Alex Pang, and I had the privilege of speaking with him recently. I asked him how he incorporates the principles he writes about in his own life. He shared, “I do all the things I talk about in the book… especially when I have a big writing project going on or something that requires a lot of serious thinking that happens best in long uninterrupted stretches. I’ve become more diligent about exercising. My bodily clock demands taking a nap in the afternoon and for years I resisted it. Now I just go with it and life is much better.” The result? He’s written three books in the time it took to write his first one (!) [Note: I also recommend his follow-up book Shorter: Work Better, Smarter, and Less – Here’s How]. And despite the fact that Pang has a very cool day job helping companies implement four-day work-weeks, he reports, “I’m working considerably less than the world tells me I should.”
Reader, I was convinced.
The good news: after more than two decades of W2 employment, I was finally in a position to be able to design my own schedule.
The bad news: it’s hard to unlearn a career’s worth of professional training overnight.
I started my career in consulting, where responsiveness, ‘zero-defect’ analysis, and long hours are rewarded. Throw in an MBA and several other demanding jobs, including nearly a decade leading a global team in a Fortune 500 company, and I found myself struggling to incorporate deliberate rest into my day without feeling guilty. After all, I had just started my own business. Was this really the right time to unsubscribe from hustle culture?
YES! It was. Rest makes a very compelling argument for deliberate rest, and I didn’t want to perpetuate the conditions that led me to get exhausted (and then sick). Moreover, I care deeply about building a sustainable (in all senses of the word) business, and it’s clear that being deliberate about rest will help me optimize my creativity and productivity for the long haul. I just needed to figure out how to do it in a way that worked for me.
As I considered how to incorporate deliberate rest into my life, I remembered that I am an Upholder (according to Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies Framework), and a key strategy for me when it comes to habit change is the strategy of scheduling. Meaning, if something is on the calendar, it will happen. But what to put on the calendar?
Earlier this year, professional poker player turned author and decision-making expertinterviewed me for her newsletter, (a pinch-me moment, for sure). During our conversation, Annie mentioned that she had been spending a lot of time on the tennis court, taking lessons to improve her tennis rating. I was envious; I loved playing tennis in my twenties, but I had barely picked up a racket since I graduated from business school fifteen years ago.
Taking a cue from Annie and the successful scientists, I signed up for tennis classes at my local tennis center (which just so happens to be a stunning, national award-winning facility). My class meets every Wednesday morning for 90 minutes. Do I sometimes wish I didn’t have tennis because it would really be better if I could just finish this _______ [insert: article, email, presentation, newsletter]? Yes. After class, am I always glad I stepped away from my computer, got out in the glorious fall weather, and played tennis with a group of friendly strangers? Also yes.
As I reflected on this experience, several insights emerged:
Know your why. I was convinced of the benefits of deliberate rest by Pang’s book, but to really adopt it, I had to get clear on why it was important for me personally at this particular moment: 1) I want to foster more creativity in my life. I loved the process of writing my book and want to do more writing…which is one of the reasons I started this newsletter. 2) As an entrepreneur, I want to structure my work life in a way that offers an alternative to the hustle culture I subscribed to and participated in during the first several decades of my career. I want to optimize my life inside of work and also stay healthier, feel better rested, and have more time to enjoy life outside of work too (since rest promises to do both). I find it helpful to keep the big picture in mind as I embark on this journey.
Know your tendency. I love personality assessments, and Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework has been helpful to me over the years, especially in combination with habit change strategies. Even though I’m an Upholder, I find accountability to be a useful motivator; since we got a pandemic Peloton, I have become a solo exerciser, so the idea of a group class was appealing to me. The strategy of convenience was also key. These days, I’m spending a lot more time driving my kids around, so the class needed to be within walking distance. If you don’t know your tendency, take the quiz and determine which strategy or combination of strategies work best for you.
Know it’s a practice. Admittedly, I’m still in the honeymoon phase of deliberate rest. San Francisco really shows off in the Fall; the fog has mostly burned off by the time my class starts, and it’s not raining yet. I’m sure there will be days when the air is too smoky to play or I catch the latest cold from the germ vectors that are my children. And when that happens, I won’t throw up my hands and say “so much for deliberate rest!” Instead, I’ll recognize that deliberate rest is a practice, and I’ll try to take a restorative daytime nap instead of playing tennis. Then I’ll get back on the court the following week.
In this section of the newsletter, I’ll recommend a book, product, or experience I’m currently swooning over. Not because I want to encourage more consumption, but because as I mentioned, I tend to deliberate over decisions - even seemingly small purchases. When I find something that checks all the boxes for me, I want to share it widely! [Note: I’ll always disclose if I’m using an affiliate link, but this really isn’t about making money - it’s about sharing my latest obsessions with the world.]
In keeping with the theme of deliberate rest, I’m currently loving these earplugs from Loop. I’m quite noise sensitive, especially when I’m trying to sleep. I’ve used foam earplugs for years, but I’ve gotten sick of losing one in the middle of the night and also don’t love that they’re disposable. Enter Loop’s stylish earplugs, which are washable and come with multiple size ear tips as well as a cute carrying case for storage and travel.
Loop sells various types of earplugs and offers a quiz to help you find your type (I love that one use case is simply, “parenting” - these people get it!).
Spread the Word
Thanks for reading the first issue of Practically Deliberate! If you liked it, please consider sharing it with a friend or two. Thank you for being here and joining me in my adventures in being Practically Deliberate.
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