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Claim Your Day of Rest for Improved Health and Productivity

Claim Your Day of Rest for Improved Health and Productivity


    My parents were firm believers in honoring the Sabbath. Coming from the Christian tradition, this meant that we observed a day of rest on Sundays. On this day, no household chores (aside from cooking and washing the dishes) could take place. No knitting or mowing the lawn. And absolutely no shopping.

    Now, the shopping part was not much of a choice during my childhood, because I lived in Sweden, where the stores were closed on Sundays.

    However, as I grew older – and stores started being open on Sundays – these rules started to annoy me a bit. What’s so bad about going shopping on a Sunday? What if I need to do homework?

    When I left for college, I rebelled against the day of rest. I sat in the library every Sunday from the time it opened until it closed at midnight (yes, I was a really fun college student…).

    While I supported my husband through graduate school, I would often babysit on Sundays. It was a great way to get some extra cash, but not very restful.

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    And when I entered the management level in the corporate world, weekends didn’t really exist anymore. I used to joke about the fact that “it doesn’t really matter what day it is, because I’m always working.”

    You Need a Day of Rest to Avoid Burnout

    Guess what? I burned out.

    I had several of the symptoms that Royale Scuderi describes in her excellent article, Warning: You Have Entered the Burnout Zone:

    • A pervasive sense of failure and self-doubt
    • Loss of motivation and interest in my job
    • Lack of a sense of satisfaction and any feelings of accomplishment
    • Extreme exhaustion and lack of energy, feeling completely drained
    • Increase in conflicts both in the workplace and at home

    I realized I could not continue the way I was going. But what to do? I had a demanding job with an expectation of always being “on.” (I.e. checking email, answering the phone, etc.)

    I thought about my parents. They were very busy people, but they always seemed to have an abundance of energy. And they loved their jobs. What did they have that I didn’t?

    A day of rest… A built-in day to relax, be in the moment, and nurture relationships. A day of preventative health care.

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    Remember How to Rest

    It amazes me how much we forget and then remember as it relates to our health and general wellbeing. We have so much to learn from our parents, our grandparents, and other people who came before us.

    I love LJ Earnest’s article, Productivity Lessons From Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy”. (And not just because I am a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan.) One of the productivity lessons from this article is called “Truly Rest Regularly.” Like my parents, the people of that time had it figured out. Only minimal work was done on Sundays. The day was set aside for resting and reading.

    In an interview with 96-year-old Bill in a regional magazine, the author writes:

    “Bill said he used to just dream of Sundays. They would take the day off from farm work and go to church while his mom or Aunt Bess would stay home and cook. After church, they would pack a big picnic and head off to find a good spot by the creek. After eating well, they took off their shoes to play in the creek or just lie down on the grass and enjoy it.”

    We were pretty good at resting when we were kids. Spending long summer days at the pool, playing Monopoly for hours on rainy days, or snuggling up with a pile of good books. Remember those days and try to incorporate that resttime back in your life.

    Schedule a Day of Rest

    When I finally realized that my parents were onto something, I made a commitment to observe a day of rest. Sundays made sense for me, but obviously different days will work for different people.

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    The first few months I started with what I call a “digital sabbath.” I let the computer rest for a whole day. This eliminated a good chunk of work and enabled me to rest.

    But eventually, I wanted to take it to the next level. So I made a simple rule:

    Don’t do anything that feels like work.

    Doing laundry feels like work. Cooking doesn’t. Turning on my computer feels like work. Watching Lost on Netflix doesn’t. Reconciling credit card statements feels like work. Reading a novel doesn’t.

    This rule will manifest itself differently for every person. (Isn’t it wonderful that we are all unique?)

    Sunday is now my favorite day of the week. It is the day when I can read in bed until my stomach starts to growl. It is the day when I don’t have to spend time in front of a screen. It’s a day to spend time with family and friends – or alone.

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    And when Monday rolls around, I’m not panicking, because I know Sunday is just six days away. And I’m ready to tackle whatever work comes my way in a productive and healthy manner.

    So what are you waiting for? Claim your day of rest today and make it your own.

    Do you have rest time built into your schedule? If so, what does it look like? If not, what’s stopping you?

    (Photo credit: Young Lady in Hammock via Shutterstock)

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      Last Updated on December 2, 2018

      How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

      How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

      Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

      The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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      The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

      Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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      Review Your Past Flow

      Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

      Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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      Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

      Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

      Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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      Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

      Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

      We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

      Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

        Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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