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The Secret Missing Ingredient to Truly Refreshing Breaks? Mastery Experiences

Jessica Stillman
4 min readJun 11, 2024


Let me run a scenario by you and see if it’s familiar: You’ve just been through an incredibly busy time at work and you feel yourself teetering on the edge of burnout.

“Fine, I’ll treat myself to some rest,” you think, and proceed to spend the whole weekend lying on the couch reading or scrolling through Netflix. Come Monday, however, you discover you feel just as exhausted and unmotivated as you did two days before.

What went wrong?

While common sense suggests that the best way to recover is through low-key activities like reading, sleeping, and watching TV, as Adam Grant explained on his podcast Worklife, research reveals something counterintuitive. There are definitely times when what you need is utter sloth, but to truly recharge, you’re going to need to mix in some “mastery experiences.”

Lazing around isn’t as refreshing as you’d expect

To explain the science, Grant invites Sabine Sonnetag, an organizational psychologist at the University of Mannheim in Germany, on to the podcast. Grant describes her as “one of the world’s foremost experts on time off and recovery.” And what she recommends will likely surprise a whole lot of busy adults.