According to the Gallup World Poll, 72 % of male and 65 % of female respondents feel well rested, the remaining 28 and 35 % respectively do not. How's your work-play-rest balance shaping up lately?

During my recent trip to Chicago I was reminded that one of the contributing factors to our perceived stress and relaxation levels might be our preference for and attitude to managing time. How we view time and the way we tend to manage it has actually been identified as one of the seven cultural indicators Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner have explored during their extensive cross-cultural research, documented in their oeuvre, "Riding the Waves of Culture." They highlight the differences between more primitive and more educated societies, that view time "by simple notions of "before" and "after" moons, seasons, sunrises and sunsets" vs. more complex schedules. (Daily planners, email alerts and PDA's, anyone?)

Accordingly, some view time as a scarce resource, some see it as plentiful; some are more oriented towards the past, others towards the present or future. You know which is which by the people in those cultures who tend to be punctual or more flexible, and those who have a rich history and value tradition compared to more modern, goal-oriented cultures. Let me stress at this point that there's no one best way, I'm simply describing / citing differences in attitudes and preferences.

The point that I think plays into the whole stressed - rested notion is that of sequential vs. synchronic organization of activities, or in other words, do you prefer to do one task at a time or juggle various things at once? Again, we're all juggling to some extent, and we all have certain limits to our attention-span. When left to your own devices, do you prefer starting one thing and finishing it before beginning another? Personal psychology like the MBTI's Judging vs. Perceiving preference also play a role here. It is fair to say, though, that if you have a preference for sequential one-at-a-time organization but live in an environment or work in an office or in a job that requires you to do multiple tasks simultaneously, you will feel  more stressed and as a consequence need more time to wind down before you feel relaxed and your batteries are charged up again.

Would it be nice if we could have things happen one at a time? Alas, life doesn't work that way. Sometimes, your house will be struck by lightning at the same time you're busy planning and studying and training for other things, and then you have to re-plan, reschedule and be flexible. Appointments might be missed, emails not returned as promptly as usual, laundry not laundered - and even though that seems disgraceful and impossible, beating yourself up on top of it all and holding yourself to standards so high you cannot reach them won't help matters much. On the contrary.

So what do you do to recharge? How do you relax, and when do you feel rested? Have any secret remedies you'd like to share? Let 'em rip in the comments section!

Image by pinguino, flickr, Creative Commons license.