Two Weeks Isn’t Enough

Two Weeks Isn’t Enough

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?

3 Comments Two Weeks Isn’t Enough

  1. Freeda Greene

    For me the problem of rest is primarily psychological. If I believe that I am making a difference when I work but not when I’m not ‘at work’, I’m going to be miserable when I’m not at work no matter how tired my body is, because my self-worth is based on doing ‘work’. Now I’m supposing, Jon, that while you were on vacation, even if you did no church work, since you have a small child, you must have been working (since child care is work, no matter how much you may love your child.) Then if you drove your car or did any errands, etc.; I hope you see my point: we only consider certain actions as work, even though most people spend many hours doing tasks in addition to their paid work. So why should you feel rested on a vacation, because you you really haven’t ceased to work, though you might have decreased your work load. Furthermore, as you mentioned, we like to feel needed, to the extent that our absence would really make a difference: as you noted, this is perceived need, rather than objective need. I think technology has made it easier to overwork, but even if you don’t do any work at home, if you’re thinking about work at home, you’re not going to feel rested. That’s why I say it’s psychological, but also it’s spiritual. If you think God is more pleased when you’re ‘working’ than when you’re not ‘at work’ then it is a spiritual as well as psychological. But certainly God is pleased when you’re being a good father to Eisley, when you’re being a good husband to Anna. So I would say that in order to have rest, you have to really believe that’s it’s not only your ‘meaningful work’ (maybe it would be better to say your primary mode of serving God) that’s pleasing to God. I think people rather boast that their overworked, that they’re stressed, it’s a way of making oneself feel important. You’d be going against the tide by being rested. For me, I suppose rest would mean I’m not concerned about performance, about other people’s expectations, that I’m not self-conscious; physical inactivity is not rest unless accompanied by these mindsets. I appreciate how you always bring up issues to which there are no easy answers, though I’m sure people could come up with the relevant Scripture verses for whatever position they take. Human capacity for self-deception tends to aggrandize our role with relation to God; humility would mean the world won’t cease to exist if I actually rest and I might actually be the better for it. This comment is too long, but I won’t edit it (but you can if you want).

    1. Jon Berglund

      Freeda, that’s so true. It’s easy to forget that keeping a home clean, feeding a child, working on personal finances, and many of the other to-do list items aren’t work. I guess it’s one of the challenges with the modern home-work divide. (Add to that the need to exercise because our “work” is so sedentary.)

      And I agree – rest and humility would go against the tide, and would go much further. Tim Ferris writes about that in The 4 Hour Workweek. We often talk about busy-ness as though it’s something to be proud of, when in fact it’s not.

  2. Pingback: Living and Working Within Our Means - Jon Berglund

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