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Outside the Lab Profession


The other day, an image – uncredited and unsourced – crossed my social media dashboard, asking me a simple question: “How much rest is adequate?” It also offered an answer: “Science says: 42 percent.”

A quick search revealed that the claim is from a book by health scientist Emily Nagoski and music professor Amelia Nagoski (1) and is often accompanied by a pie chart that allocates 14 hours of one’s day to “work and kids and stuff,” leaving 10 hours (or approximately 42 percent) for sleep, recreation, and connecting with others. It also explains that the 42 percent rule is not a choice – you can ignore it for short periods but, in the long term, you disregard it at your peril.

Do you get your 42 percent(ish)? I know I often deprioritize rest and recreation in favor of other things – sometimes to the point where even things I should enjoy begin to seem like chores. Burnout is real and the pressures of the world (from pandemic problems to encroaching wars) aren’t making mental health, wellness, and stability easy for anyone.

But who has time to rest? Nagoski continues, “We’re not saying you should take 42 percent of your time to rest; we’re saying if you don’t take the 42 percent, the 42 percent will take you.” Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that many of us still view rest as optional. We have work. We have families. We have responsibilities. We assume that those will take as much time as they need – and rest can have whatever is left over.

If you’re beginning to feel burned out, inventory your days. Are you achieving a balance between rest and responsibility? Could you carve out some extra time for recreation or block off a day on your calendar to focus on things that tend to be overlooked during busier times? That may not always be possible, but it’s always worth keeping in mind. Many doctors want their patients to rest and recover – but forgo the same privileges themselves. In a discipline where 35 percent of practitioners report burnout (2), it’s vital to focus on staying afloat.

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  1. E Nagoski, A Nagoski, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle. Ballantine Books: 2019.
  2. SM Baggett, KL Martin, “Medscape Pathologist Lifestyle, Happiness & Burnout Report 2022” (2022). Available at:
About the Author
Michael Schubert

While obtaining degrees in biology from the University of Alberta and biochemistry from Penn State College of Medicine, I worked as a freelance science and medical writer. I was able to hone my skills in research, presentation and scientific writing by assembling grants and journal articles, speaking at international conferences, and consulting on topics ranging from medical education to comic book science. As much as I’ve enjoyed designing new bacteria and plausible superheroes, though, I’m more pleased than ever to be at Texere, using my writing and editing skills to create great content for a professional audience.

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