Today’s my last day of vacation, and although I’ve had a solid 2 weeks off, I still don’t feel recharged. At least not as much as I hoped.
I had hoped that coming back to work would feel exciting. It doesn’t. And not because of the team, or the people I serve. But because of the reality that as much time “away” as I had – I didn’t have much “soul time.” (I don’t know what that means – I just made it up. But hopefully you get what I mean.)
Vacations are a funny thing. Most of us work our behinds off 50 weeks a year, with our 2 week vacation in front of us like a carrot before a horse. According to CBS, Americans only take half of their vacation time. We’re so driven, we utterly fail at resting – I totally fail at resting.
Part of the problem lies in doing work you love, or care about, or feel called to, or are good at. When you get a deep sense of satisfaction from your work, you don’t feel like you can leave it for a little while. When I worked at Barnes & Noble one summer, I really didn’t care if I missed work (in fact, I was happy to miss it). I didn’t add any unique value to the organization; I was just one cog in a big wheel, easily replaceable. However, when I worked for Children’s Hunger Fund, I felt needed – that there was something unique which I added that nobody else could fill. When I finally left my job, I realized how much of that need was perceived and not real.
This is a massive challenge for high performers and their employers. We hire the best, but the best often grind themselves into dust. Hulu, for example, offers employees unlimited time off, but those employees aren’t very likely to take it. The Huffington Post has an interesting article on unlimited vacation policies, basically stating that ambiguous vacation policies (i.e. unstructured time off) can leave people confused about what they really should do. But I don’t think the problem is the unlimited time off policies (I’m really in favor of them). It seems to me, the problem lies in the kind of work we do. Let me explain.
The farmer’s work is constrained by natural limits – sunlight, winter, soil conditions, etc. He’s forced to rest because nature resists tireless work. Nature is, by definition, self-sustaining.
But the modern worker is the opposite of self-sustaining. The modern worker pretends like she has no limits. She has artificial light to work at night. She has central heating to stay warm in the winter. She has internet on the airplane. She has a bluetooth headset in her car. She has her email in her pocket and her hard drive in the cloud. She is boundary-less.
The modern worker has no need for a Sabbath because she has her vacations and her retirement. Of course, she really doesn’t have either of those, but she is always looking forward to them.
You see, I’ve had a vacation, but I’ve not really rested. Like many vacationers or retirees, I’m deeply unsatisfied. It turns out, not-working is not the solution to over-working; the solution to over-working is, it’s becoming clear, a rhythm of work and rest.
Six days you shall work, but on the seventh day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.Exodus 34:21
But it’s not only resting one day out of seven; it’s also about resting daily. We all know what sort of awful people we become when we don’t get enough sleep; we become monsters. As modern workers without concepts like sunset and winter, we need to compensate for the lack of natural boundaries. We have alarm clocks instead of cock-crows, but we don’t have the lights in our home automatically dim and our computers shut off when the sun goes down. When we leave the office, our phones don’t automatically block all work calls.
But they could.
In addition to reclaiming my sabbaths, I want to commit to creating healthy work boundaries in my home. I’m not really sure what that looks like yet, but here are some ideas I’m playing with:
- Putting my phone on Do Not Disturb when I leave the office,
- Charging my phone in the other room at night,
- Not accessing my email or handling work calls when the sun is down (even if I can’t sleep),
- Not using my laptop for work in my bedroom when working from home (only working in the living room on those days).
I’m not sure I can pull those all off, but even if I just do one or two of them, I’ll be much better off (and so will my family).
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.Hebrews 4:9-10
What are some ways you rest or could rest?