Sometimes I have the tendency to work all the time. I don’t necessarily want to work constantly, it’s just a default I go to when I have some empty space in my life. If I don’t have anything going on, I think to myself, “Well, I might as well get something accomplished.”
This tendency to work all the time can get on my wife’s nerves. Naturally, sometimes she just wants to rest and relax, and she’d like me to rest and relax also. But for some reason, it can be difficult for me.
Part of the reason for my resistance is I don’t like wasting time. I always feel like I should be accomplishing something or deepening a relationship with someone. If I’m vegging out watching television, sometimes I feel like I’m not moving my life forward in a meaningful way.
An Experiment with Wasting Time
One weekend, as an experiment, I resolved to not do ANY work. I didn’t do any work on my projects, I didn’t write any blogs, and I didn’t check my email. I just… rested and relaxed. I went for a walk, I read a book, and I watched a lot of Netflix.
It was nice to relax, but if I’m honest, there was a part of me that still felt like I was wasting time. I got a little antsy and restless. There were times where I wanted to pull out my laptop and get something accomplished.
I resisted the urge. In the end, it was good for me to take a complete break. I ended the weekend feeling relaxed and refreshed.
2 Things I Learned
Here are two unexpected things I learned from my weekend of “wasting time”:
- Creativity takes space. There were times over the weekend where I came up with a new idea, right out of the blue. I wasn’t thinking about work or a writing project, but an idea popped into my head and I quickly wrote it down on a notecard. Sometimes when I’m working, working, working, there’s no space to process what I’ve been learning. I’m not as creative when I’m operating at (or above) max capacity. I need to clear some space in my life in order to think and work creatively.
- We do best when we alternate work and rest. I accomplished A LOT on Monday. When Monday morning came around, I was ready to go. I cranked on my work, and accomplished more in the first few hours on Monday morning than I usually do all day long. Because I completely unplugged over the weekend, I was well-rested and ready to go when the week started. I think human beings do best when we alternate work and rest. Just like building muscle requires a balance of stress and rest, mental work is the same way. When we take a break, we come back refreshed and are more effective in our work.
Discussion: If you have a tendency to work, work, work, experiment with unplugging and taking a break. You could try it for a weekend, like I did, or maybe just one day out of the weekend. There’s something important about the religious tradition of taking a Sabbath rest. Experiment with it, and see how it impacts your productivity.