My friend introduced me to this concept recently and I’ve found it really helpful.
Rest days: complete break from work (I call them “no computer” days).
Buffer days: get through the myriad of small things that pile up.
Focus days: move the needle on Big Projects.
Rest days need to happen before they are more a “collapse and don’t get up” day. I have been working on a schedule of 5 days on 1 day off. Until I switched to this I would keep going until I couldn’t, and then would deem that a rest day.
Rest days should include going out into the world. These are the days when I go and see art galleries, or museums etc. Or even just driving to the next town for iced tea. It’s not enough to just not touch the computer. I also need to get away from it.
Buffer days feel unrewarding at the time but make a big difference. Buffer days are what make focus days possible. Before I would feel bad on days when all I did was a bunch of small things, and now I just tell myself “today is a buffer day, getting all this out my head and off my list helps me focus tomorrow”.
Of course not every day should be a buffer day. I try to limit myself to 1 in 5. For reasons I don’t really get, this is often the Monday (regardless of working through the weekend).
This concept forces me to be more organised. E.g. I don’t respond to email every day, but I should on the last day before a rest day.
If I’m not organised enough I’m restricted to mobile and tablet. I see this as a good thing – nothing improves my empathy as a mobile developer than being purely mobile for a period.
I love Momentum (chrome extension) for Focus days especially. I put my “focus” or milestone in the the “what do you want to achieve today” and I’m reminded of it each time I open a new tab. If I have the same thing in there for more than one day, and definitely two, it’s a sign that something is wrong.