How to Balance your Work and your Rest

Welcome to summer! For all of you CEO’s, executives and business leaders, how’s it going so far? Have you kicked...

Welcome to summer! For all of you CEO’s, executives and business leaders, how’s it going so far? Have you kicked off your shoes and walked barefoot on the lawn or sand? Have you hit the pool with your favorite book or cocktail? Or thrown a baseball outdoors in the cool of the evening with your kids or grandchildren? Have you had your neighbors, friends, or family over to grill out with their teens and dogs? Here’s hoping you have a rock-solid vacation plan in place and if not, there’s still time.

Among my colleagues, I find that most of us either do rest well and have to exert effort to work and be productive; or, like me, do a mental happy dance each time we check an item off our to-do list and are challenged by the subtly daunting task of relaxing. Where do you fall on this continuum?

At the grocery store this weekend, an acquaintance asked if I had been to the beach yet. Sheepishly I said, “A few times.” In the interest of full disclosure, I live two miles away from the beach. Before I go on vacation, I give myself a pep talk about the importance of healthy rest for my body and soul, and how my relationships suffer when there is no time to feed and nurture them. Each morning of my vacation I repeat this internal conversation to remain fully engaged and present, and to help avoid returning to the hamster wheel of activity.

Lately, here at Five Capitals, we’ve been talking about self-awareness. As the legendary poet, singer and activist Maya Angelou once said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” It has been our experience that as we each learn about ourselves as leaders and slowly reveal our natural wiring, both strengths and weaknesses, we simply do better. It is amazing how our brains are capable of translating knowledge into changed behavior. As any student of the on-trend assessment tool, the Enneagram knows, once you grasp the fundamentals of your wiring in both its healthy and unhealthy state, you really do find that you behave differently for the better. Knowledge of oneself is an excellent change agent.

In the spirit of this self-discovery, we would like to offer an interesting concept for you this summer. We call it the Work/Rest Pendulum.

work and rest diagram

Ideally, in our healthiest and most balanced seasons, we implement a life pattern that is like a pendulum that gently swings between work and rest. It flows from optimal, fully charged performance, to quality decompression and recovery time. From that place of productivity, we transition effortlessly into intentional and peaceful rest. This wholesome and restorative rest, in turn, then spurs us to return to productive, passionate work, and back and forth. Does this pattern describe you? Would you like it to?

In contrast, let’s look at a common alternative: We push ourselves too hard, not just temporarily popping into the high-stress zone, but pitching our tent there and setting up camp. This constant striving requires extra assistance from helpers like Red Bull and “carbage” (high carb boxed or bagged junk food). We often kid ourselves into thinking we can sustain this until it is safe to let our foot off the gas. Of course, our brains and bodies cannot maintain this pace forever. We all learned in school that for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Eventually, we collapse with a hard landing onto our softest couch, diving into the mind-numbing unintentional activities of junk food consumption, social media obsessing, and Netflix binging. Ultimately, we snap ourselves out of it, drag our weary, reluctant souls back to work and start the whole cycle over again (hopefully with a new Netflix series). Does this sound more like you? Have you just had an epiphany and realized that this is how you live your life?

When I was first introduced to this concept, it hit me like a ton of bricks. For the Enneagram aficionados among you, I am a Type-3 which is the achiever/performer. Just to give you an indicator of how task-oriented I am, I am a single mom of two teens, two dogs, and two cats with three part-time jobs, three bosses and a new side hustle. I am one of those go-to people for any visionary who wants to hand their latest and greatest idea off to someone who will not stop until they GET IT DONE!

Ever since I learned the Five Capitals Work/Rest Pendulum concept and became aware of my basic leaning towards productivity, I have become vigilant about being self-aware when it comes to staying in balance. I have developed an awareness of the signs that my body manifests when things are getting out of rhythm. These include weight gain, grumpiness, feeling overwhelmed, low job satisfaction, and procrastination. I was willing to fail over and over again until I mastered the skill of identifying when I am off balance and the habits I need to get my pendulum swinging back in line.

For me, the strategies to return to greater balance are a daily time of prayer, consistent healthy eating, quality time with friends and family, daily outdoor exercise, and clear boundaries around the management of my time, talents and resources. It also includes being willing to let tasks that can wait to wait. This leads me to my biggest goal, to set aside one day a week as a break from all obligations and responsibilities related to both work and home. I haven’t mastered this one yet but I’m working on it.

So, is your pace and daily rhythm healthy or unhealthy? Ask yourself if your current intensity level is sustainable over the long haul. In other words, can you keep on keeping on like this and feel both vibrant and fulfilled?

Perhaps the thought of this throws you into a tailspin and if so, how far off the mark are you? Do you need a little tweaking or is a major overhaul in order? How much more would you thrive at work and at home if your pendulum swung with just the right level of work, sustained by the gentle breeze of rest?

We have a video by Brandon Schaefer, Five Capitals’ CEO and Founder, that outlines this concept further. Give it a watch and enjoy:

We have a team of gifted executive coaches eager to help you achieve more self-awareness around these concepts, and to walk you through our best practices to attain the right work/rest equilibrium. Also, if you are intrigued by the Enneagram, several of our Five Capitals coaches are experts in that tool as well. You can find out about our team on our website

Finally, if you are avoiding the beach or pool this summer because, like the fable of the frog in the water that comes to a boil too slowly for it to notice before it is in danger, your weight has slowly crept up, I can help you. That is my sweet spot, pun intended.

Let me know what you think about this concept. You can reach me here:


Holly Cervini

Holly (one of Five Capitals' coaches)

Five Capitals Certified Coach Badge