I know, I know. “I don’t have time to rest or schedule any down time” you insist. “I’ve got too much to do!” You are TOO BUSY to take a break. Type A Attila the Hun personalities can raise your hands now. You know who you are. And you need to change. If not for your own sake, then for the sake of those who have to live and work with you. Here’s why, first for the writer and then for everyone else (you know, normal people who aren’t busily cranking out the next Great American Novel):
For the writer, overwork or a stressed-out mind often manifests itself in The Dreaded Writer’s Block. So listen up. Hitting the block wall may be your mind’s way of saying, “Give it a rest. Take a break. Recharge. Disconnect. Let the creative juices have a chance to rejuvenate.” They will return if you resist the urge to run them ragged. Promise.
For non-writers in a culture that worships workaholics and Attila the Hun types and doles out brownie points based on exhaustion and 24/7 work skeds, lighten up. That’s right. Get a grip. That old adage about, “I’d rather burn out than rust out”? Well, whoop-de-doo. Because you know what? Either way, you’re out. So listen up again.
I once worked for a guy who insisted he wasn’t Simon Lagree. Let’s call him “Simon Lagree.” I’m all for hard work and putting in an honest day’s labor for an honest paycheck. But if you open Webster’s to the entry on “slave driver,” it has “Simon’s” picture next to it. Get it? The guy was so driven, he drove everyone else into the ground. His idea of “work ethic” was 20-hour days, seven days a week. He fumed at people who hesitated or objected, doling out the “lazy” label like honey at a bumblebee convention. It seemed to escape Simon that even God rested on the seventh day.
The result? Morale tanked. Relational bridges went up in smoke. Stressed-out, frazzled staff who couldn’t quite pull off that walk on water thing quit. Simon’s inability to relax and rest up every now and then alienated more people than morning breath. Sure, he got some things done here and there, but he ground up people in the process – and got a bad reputation, too. He eventually turned himself into an island that no one wanted to visit, let alone work for.
Looking back, I’ve wondered if Simon’s occasional accomplishments might have been legion if he’d learned to strike a healthy balance between work and rest. I’ve also wondered if Simon’s flinty rough edges and “relational challenges” may have been softened by an occasional swim. A picnic. A walk on the beach. An afternoon fishing. A morning of Mozart.
I know, I know again. Taking time off sounds irresponsible. We may even feel guilty about taking time off to recharge the ‘ole batteries. Of course we need to be responsible. Pay the bills on time. We have mortgages, dance recitals, football practices and clients to jungle. Meals to cook. Calendars to keep. People to see. Places to go. Things to do. It all depends on us, right? Working non-stop and refusing to take a break or schedule in a regular day of rest earns us a gigantean merit badge in the Who’s More Exhausted/Committed/Successful/Awesome/fill in the blank category, right?
Because here’s the deal: no one is as effective as they could be if they’re constantly running on fumes. No one is productive when they’re perennially exhausted.
I know it sounds irresponsible. Especially for you Attila the Hun types. But you’d be surprised at how productive you can be following a season of rest. How much and when are up to you. And that Muse that’s skipped town and refuses to be found? You may also be surprised how quickly she comes skipping back once you’ve mastered the fine art of rest.
Here are some “Rest Tips”:
- “Rest” means different things to different people. Figure out what it means to you. Be diligent about scheduling some regular rest into your schedule. I recommend taking one day off a week and unplugging. If you can’t do that, try every 10 days or every other week, or maybe a morning or afternoon a week.
- “Rest” is unique. What’s restful to you may not ring the same bell for someone else. The main idea is to disconnect. Break away from the grind. Power down.
- “Rest” is whatever lets you take a breath and return to work refreshed and recharged. Find it.
- Be intentional about resting your mind, soul, spirit, and body. Put rest on the calendar. Schedule it in. Seriously. If you don’t, you’ll probably be “too busy” to make it happen.
- Speaking of which, only you can make your rest day happen. Do it.
- A regular day or half a day of rest may seem irresponsible at first. Don’t listen to that lie. You’re doing yourself a favor, stocking up your store of energy by working at resting. When you return, you can hit work twice as hard and be much more productive having taken some time off to recharge.
- A well-rested person is happier, healthier, and easier to work with and for. S/he is also far more productive in the long-run than that stressed-out, crabby, cranky curmudgeon who hasn’t learned the value of rest – until they wind up in the hospital with a heart attack.
- Watch a movie
- Go out to dinner (best with a friend)
- Listen to music
- Read something that’s not work-related. In other words, just for the fun of it.
- Turn off the TV
- Step away from the computer
- Put down the mobile device. Turn it off. Yes. O-f-f. You won’t die. Promise.
- Fly a kite
- Take a bicycle ride
- Go outside
- Wash the car. Wash the dog. Wash the dishes, kids, windows…
- Sleep late and/or take a nap. It’s okay. The world will keep turning will you’re catching some extra zzzzs.
- Pick some flowers
- Bake some cookies (even better if you share)
- Walk on the beach
- Visit a neighbor
- Find your neighbor
- Go window-shopping
- Take the dog out for a walk
- Make ice cream
- Eat ice cream
- Hit the tennis court, basketball court, gridiron, soccer field, ice rink, track, or whatever “field of dreams” appeals
- Go fishing
- Watch I Love Lucy
One other thing. If at all possible, get somewhere quiet. Eliminate or reduce external noise and distractions. Quiet the internal chatter and treat your heart and mind to some solitude. If that means locking yourself in the bathroom, hiking the Himalayas, swapping babysitting with another parent, asking the grandparents to take over once in awhile, or booking the next flight to the dark side of moon, do it. Find someplace secluded or nearly secluded. The attic. A beach. The garage. Forest. Lake. Dark side of the moon. Lose the ipad and the smart phone. Forget Facebook (It’ll be there when you get back. Promise.)
Rest. Disconnect. Be intentional. Deliberate. Don’t look at rest as an irresponsible waste of time. You’d be amazed at what a little peace and quiet can do for your soul – and how it can boost your creativity. Some of the most productive people I know are those who’ve learned to work at rest.
How ‘bout you?
Photo credit: Hammock. Public domain.