This past weekend, I spent time with some dear friends at Stanford Sierra camp, an annual tradition for our family.

Between hikes in the redwoods, s’mores, and paddle boating on the lake, I had an interesting conversation with a good friend from Stanford Business School. He’s a senior executive at Salesforce who just attended a 2-day offsite for leaders on mindset and performance psychology taught by a man who trains Olympic athletes.

His biggest takeaway from this high impact training was the importance of renewal.

He’d never considered that as a corporate executive, he needs to treat himself like an athlete.

Athletes don’t ever train 150% all the time.

Top performing athletes need to take time to sleep, rest and renew between intense intervals so that their muscles and bodies can recover.

This was a new insight for my friend, who’s used to pushing himself constantly at work.

Here’s a note and podcast he shared with his team after the offsite:

“Sleep and thus recovery is something I’ve neglected most of my professional life. This podcast hits on the importance of sleep and the impact it has on performance.

Starting each morning energized and thinking clearly to take on the day is the first step. It starts with trying to get between 7-9 hrs of quality sleep each night. It’s counter intuitive to the harrowing stories of “4-5 hours of sleep” we hear often.”

In addition to your body, mind and spirit needing time for rest and renewal, taking space also allows you to drop into a more creative zone.

One thing I’ve discovered is that rest and renewal precede almost every major creative endeavor.

Eat more peanut butter. Lie on the couch more.

In her best-selling book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown shares how she got the idea for the book while lying on her couch eating peanut butter out of the jar with a spoon, binge-watching Downton Abbey. (doesn’t that sound like a lovely afternoon?!)

It’s not a coincidence that the idea for the book came to her while she was in downtime.

Recently, I had a call with a dear friend who’s a healer and acupuncturist. She and I are planning to lead a retreat together in Austin, TX this spring (Yay!…stay tuned for more information).

As we were chatting about how much we love our work, and yet can get tired so easily while spending part time raising two little children, she said; “Vanessa, I can always tell when I’m starting to get burned out – the first signs always happen with my work. I’ll be sitting with a client and I’ll think ‘I don’t really want to be hearing about your symptoms right now, I just want to go lie on the couch and watch Real Housewives, or go play tennis.”

Watching junk tv isn’t always a bad thing or a sign of procrastination.

Sometimes, a desire to zone out in front of the tv is a red flag that we’re depleted and need to carve out more downtime.

As I’ve written about before, I often have a hard time giving myself permission to take a break and do something totally unproductive. And yet, this is the prerequisite for renewal and creativity.

Give yourself permission to slack off.

The next time you feel like doing nothing…I invite you to think about how athletes need to rest between intense training sessions, and give yourself permission to do nothing.

Now, I’d love to hear from you – what’s your secret to building in periods of rest and renewal? Do you find it hard to give yourself permission to slack off and recharge (even if it means watching tv and eating peanut butter?!)

Join the conversation below and let me know! I’d love to get your take on the importance of renewal and downtime.

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