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Why You Need a 'Deloading' Phase in Your Work Life

By Elizabeth T. on Mar 11, 2021 3:51:19 PM

If you’re looking to increase your mental performance, do a digital detox, or uplevel your professional life, you may want to consider implementing a deloading phase.

This term is commonly used within the context of weight lifting and body performance. 

But it’s a powerful formula used for productivity and accelerating training and learning by experts like entrepreneur Tim Ferriss and world-class investor Brad Feld. Tim Ferriss, known for penning the New York Times bestseller, 4 Hour Work Week, invested in companies like Uber, Airbnb and Twitter. Brad Feld is a cofounder of Techstars, an internationally recognized startup accelerator

They use the “deloading” hack to increase their input and maximize their leisure. 

Ferriss explains how he views it as a powerful tool to clear his mind and clarify goals. In body building, deloading refers to reducing the intensity of your workout. The idea is that by decreasing the volume of your workout, you prepare your body for the next round of intense workouts while also reducing the probability of overtaxing your muscles. 

Deloading is done within planned periods or circles; it’s not by accident. It’s simply another part of the workout routine. 

How do world-class performers incorporate the concept of deloading into their work life?

They swear it contributes to increased, highly-sought outputs like creativity and productivity.

Here’s the big secret: block out specific parts of your weekly schedule and make them the priority. Business meetings? Never during your deloading phases. Appointments? Again, not during these special timeframes. 

This is a strategic measure to “strategically take (the) foot off the gas” and decompress. If you’re like anyone else living in the 21st century, you’re likely working at high volumes. Deloading is about unplugging and allowing yourself to putter around. No plan. No schedule. No serious ambitions to get that book you’ve been trying to finish. Deloading means stopping your schedule and allowing yourself to step back and think, feel, and play around. 

Ferriss calls deloading “restorative”, which makes sense given the science behind freetime. 

Downtime gives serious benefits. One experiment conducted at BCG, for example, found that forcing employees to take days, nights, or extended periods of time off actually increased productivity. At work, scheduled downtime is an innovation strategy that’s meant to cultivate creativity. 3M---the company that invented the sticky note---is one of the most innovative companies in history. They’ve been practitioners of employee downtime since 1948. They give employees 15% downtime to pursue their own projects, a practice that Google later copied. Even though Google no longer uses it, the concept of corporate downtime is becoming a feature in reducing workplace stress. Even taking six minutes of reading can reduce stress by 68%, one study found. Midday breaks can rejuvenate willpower and improve judgment and decision making in the afternoon. .


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What does scheduling in a “deloading” phase look like?

Fortunately, it’s rather simple.

It can be done in a few ways. Some people schedule it daily. This can be in the morning or evening. Be sure to find a time where it’s truly going to be uninterrupted; this is not a space where you finally get to run all the errands you forgot to finish during the day. Morning is a great time as you lean into your day. Journal, make tea, and see where your interests take you. 

Other times can be longer periods of time, weekly. Perhaps you want this time to focused on a specific output, like play or creativity. These elements definitely need a longer amount of time to produce the output. Pick a time frame every week. For example, every Friday from 8am-11am, this is the space for dreamy creativity. Use this time to paint, draw, brainstorm ideas for your children’s book, knit socks, or whatever else inspires you. Ferris also cites he has a policy of “screen-free Saturdays”, where he only uses his phone to text with friends. That’s it. 

Ferris also strongly emphasizes that “Deloading” blocks must be scheduled and defended as strongly as–actually, more strongly than–your business commitments. The former can be a force multiplier for the latter, but not vice-versa”. Being hyper vigilant about this practice is what makes it so effective. Much like going to the gym or eating healthy, the results lie in the consistency of the practice.



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Elizabeth T.

Written by Elizabeth T.

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