April 22, 2019, by John


I remember working incredibly hard as a high school student in Singapore. As a student in one of the best schools there, it felt like a constant competition. I would wake up at 6am, start our morning assembly at 730am, and then begin lessons at 8. We would often have lessons till 3pm, before we had a break. But this wasn’t the end of school. Instead, we often had extra-curricular activities to do. I played softball. This meant that on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we would have training from 4 till 7 in the evening. By the time I reached home, it was 8pm.

I would then wolf down my dinner, and then head to finish my homework. I cannot remember the number of times I found myself drooling on the table. As a 14 year old, sleep often came after midnight.

Perhaps that’s you today. In your preparation for examinations or coursework, you are out at 8 in the morning, and back at 8 at night. My advice to you? Rest more.

Yes, you didn’t read that wrongly. I said, rest more.

How can I rest when I have a ton of work to study?!

Let me explain why. Since moving to the UK for university, I have begun to see the value of rest. As you can see from my life in Singapore, I rested little and worked hard. But after my first year of university, I resolved to give myself more time to rest.

I started taking one day off a week. For 24 hours, I would not work on essays, exams or emails. I would use this day to do something I love, such as watching a movie, reading, or having a meal with my friends.

It was difficult to do this initially. When you have an essay deadline, exams, and lots of anxiety, it seems stupid to rest.

But as time went by, I realised that regularly taking time out to rest did two things.

Firstly, it gave me something to look forward to. Planning my rest day became something fun. Yes, work is important, but without fun, what is the point of working so hard?

Secondly, it made me more focused during my work. Knowing that I had one day less to study gave me less chance for procrastination. I stopped saying ‘I will do it tomorrow’, because physically, I did not have that time to spare. It also focused my mind on the important things. When we have less time, we start realising – maybe checking our social media feeds every hour is not that important after all.

So today, if you are overwhelmed by work, why not try this?

  1. Take regular breaks during studying.

Instead of saying – I will study 8 hours today, time yourself (hopefully with something other than your phone, so that you can prevent distraction) and break it down into:

  1. Plan a rest day.

Planning a rest day is not about being restrictive. It’s about being intentional about rest. If we don’t book those Marvel Avengers tickets this weekend, the likelihood is that we will end up working again.

It’s quite funny that in 2013, despite working so hard, I emerged as the bottom 20th percentile of my cohort. Thankfully, today, I’m doing a little better than that.

But resting isn’t about getting better results, or being more successful. It’s realising that on our deathbeds, we wouldn’t be regretting that we had missed out on that first-class honours. But regretting that we had missed the chance, to live, laugh and love.

John writes regularly at www.gutenhag.com.

Posted in John