Stress and Recovery Cycle

This is the second time that I write this text. Naively I deleted the first version, leaving no chance of recovery, which caused me deep frustration. Instead of panicking about this, I took a walk, and a series of deep breaths and here I am writing the second version.

Have you ever felt that you are running out of energy working on a project, while that project is still in the middle of its lifecycle? Or in a stressful work day that drains you completely for the next day? Rest assured that you are not alone. As a matter of fact, it's a common feeling in our industry. The constant deadlines, last minute features, pressing bugs, the list goes on and on. We never run out of subjects to add stress to our daily routine. One thing that we almost never add to our plan is recovery periods.

In high-performance training, it is a common practice to do interval training that consists of high-intensity peaks with small recovery periods. This can be running a 200-meter sprint followed by a 2-minute rest, three sets of 15 repetitions of bench pressing with 45 seconds break, swimming two laps intensively followed by one lap of slow swimming. With time and consistent work, the resting periods can be shortened, and the intensity peaks can be stretched, but the baseline idea is that you have to include and plan for recovery times to achieve peak performance and not drain all your energy continuously.

At Subvisual we have a fixed weekly recovery time on Fridays. This means that we only work on Client Work from Monday to Thursdays, reserving Fridays for another type of work: writing blog posts, rehearsing workshops, learning new technologies, giving internal talks at the office, working on open source, etc. We call this 'Investment Day' because it’s mostly focused on investing in ourselves, but it works positively as a recovery time for the stressing week of client work. It’s a way to start the next week relaxed and fully energized to give our best in our clients' projects.

But this is not enough; you can apply this technique to all aspects of your work and life. If you are planning the roadmap for the next few weeks, account for recovery time for the team members. If you're feeling stressed in your current project, ask for two days off and do some outdoor activity that can bring back your self-center. Are you drained with an ongoing problem? Take a walk around the office, wash your face, and come back to the computer refreshed.

Applying this technique requires some stages of mindfulness and being aware of your current state of mind-body balance, which takes some practice. But I can assure you that a few months ago, I would not write this blog post again after accidentally losing it, at least for some days/weeks. Being aware that I could recover from that stressful moment and getting back to it made all the difference. Not sure if this version is better than the first one, but at least it is a different story to tell.

If you practice another type of techniques or want to discuss anything around productivity and sustainable work pace, leave a comment or send me an email.

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About Roberto Machado

Breathes technology and deeply believes, hence the creation of Subvisual, that it is the medium for a better future. Always has 5 min to listen to you.
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