#644 The Optimal Work-to-Rest Ratio

50 to 90 minutes ON + 7 to 20 minutes OFF

In Energy 101, we talked about a lot of ways to give our souls the energy they need to help us live our greatest lives. Eating. Moving. Sleeping. Breathing. Meditating. Stuff like that.

We also talked about oscillating—and the fact that, if we want to sustain high levels of energy, we want to get really good at being ALL IN ON and ALL IN OFF.

100% ON. 100% OFF. Repeat.

Oscillating between intense work and intense recovery. Making nice big waves.

To do that, we need to get really good at creating bright line boundaries between our work and our recovery, lest we fall into the zone of underperformance or burnout. (We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.)

For now, I’d like to talk about the optimal work-to-rest ratio. The authors of Peak Performance shine some light on how to approach this wisely.

Here’s how they put it: “While the exact work-to-rest ratio depends on the demands of the job and individual preferences, the overall theme is clear: alternating between blocks of 50 to 90 minutes of intense work and recovery breaks of 7 to 20 minutes enables people to sustain the physical, cognitive, and emotional energy required for peak performance. This ebb and flow runs counter to the all-too-common constant grind of either perpetually working in an ‘in-between zone’ of moderately hard work or working at the utmost intensity nonstop. Neither of these more traditional approaches is ideal. The former leads to under-performance. The latter leads to physical, cognitive, and emotional fatigue and, eventually, burnout.


Research says that our ideal work-to-rest rhythm is roughly 50 to 90 minutes ON. (And pretty much never longer than 2 hours.) And then 7 to 20 minutes OFF.

Two threats to the ideal rhythm?

1. You can be in a kinda-sorta-almost-really-working mode all day. Think: Flatline that leads to sub-peak performance.
2. You can be in a OMG-I’m-ALL-IN-mode all day every day. Think: Flatine that leads to burnout.

Quick check in: What’s your tendency when you’re wobbly? (Mine, as you might have guessed is #2. Hah. I’m happy to say that’s pretty much a thing of the past as I’ve finally figured out just how important training recovery is!)

Then we have our ideal.

50 to 90 minutes ON.
7 to 20 minutes OFF.

Today’s +1.

If you’re feeling so inspired, how about you take our new optimal work-to-rest ratio out for a spin? 🤓

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