Welcome back everyone! So far we’ve covered our problem with rest, what rest actually is, the reason why we should rest, and just last week we went over a change in how we think that can help us change how we rest. If you’ve missed any of those posts, head to those links and check them out before continuing here.
Imagine that I gave you a new tool. It’s shiny and new. Not too heavy, not too light. It’s perfectly balanced when you hold it in your hand. It’s got a couple of knobs that look like they might adjust something. There’s one thing near the end that looks like it might cut or … maybe it’s meant to punch through something? I leave you no instructions on how to use it. I just put it in your hand and tell you that it will change your life. I’ll be back in a week to see how you’ve gotten along with it.
What do you think would happen to that tool?
If we’re being honest, I think the majority of us would just put the tool down, fully intending to look at it and see what it does, but we would just forget about it until I came back to check in on it.
Of the extreme minority that actually do decide to pick it up and test it out, (most likely less than 10% of the people) there would be three camps:
- Those that attempt to figure it out and just wind up breaking it because they don’t know what they’re doing
- Those that attempt to figure it out and no matter how hard they try they just can’t.
- Those that actually do figure it out.
So for about 97% of the people that I would give the tool to it would be of no use whatsoever. They’d forget about it, not be able to figure out how to get it to work, or just wind up breaking it.
Now how different would that group of people be if, when I left the tool, I also left an instruction book? You could read about the tool, figure out what it was made to do, and how to use it. What do you think the success rate would be then?
I’d wager it would be the exact opposite as before. I’d bet that somewhere in the 90% range would know exactly what to do with that tool and would use it correctly.
That’s where I find myself today.
Last week I said that we would talk about some practical ways that we can start to pay back that energy debt that we’re all living in and, over time, build up an energy surplus so that we can start resting for the work we’re going to do instead of from the work we’ve just done.
We’re gonna get there, I promise.
As I was writing that post this week, I realized that it would be irresponsible of me to just start naming ways that we could rest better without any context about what we should do while we’re resting. It would be like handing you this awesome new tool without any instructions. It looks awesome but you don’t know what you’re supposed to do with it. Oh you could try to figure it out but chances are, when I came to check in on you, you wouldn’t have even used that tool. Or it would be destroyed. That’s not your fault. You just tried to use the tool. It’s my fault because I didn’t tell you how to use it.
So before we jump into the ways that we can pay back our energy debt, I just wanted to take a bit to chat with you about some ground rules you should set up as you start to think about your rest times.
- Your rest shouldn’t have an agenda. This wasn’t my idea. The more that I learn about rest, the more I’m learning that this true. It comes from Sean McCabe. He’s a designer and business owner who’s been taking sabbaticals (something we’ll get into later) for years. He’s built the idea of sabbaticals into his business and has a goal to get every business to allow employees to take them.
His #1 rule for any restful time is this:
You can’t plan ahead of time what you’re going to do during your rest time.
Planning things for your rest time defeats the purpose of it being restful. Let’s be honest, you don’t know how much you need rest until you get the chance to rest. In the middle of the go, go, go there is no telling how tired we might be when we finally get to our time off. If you fill up your rest time with stuff before you even get there (no matter how restful or nice it may sound) then you’re creating obligations you now have to follow through with regardless of whether or not your body feels like it.
Here’s a truthful saying:
Obligation isn’t restful.
Sean’s post about freedom from obligation says it so much better than I can. You should read it.
- You have to guard your time. Whether your taking off a day, a week, or a year, it’s up to you to make sure that nothing interferes with your rest. You are responsible for knowing when your time off is, and then making sure that nothing ends up on your calendar during that time.
This has two “haves”:
- You have to put this time on your calendar where you’ll see it. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t happen. You can take that to the bank.
- You have to start thinking of this time as sacred. As much as humanly possible, nothing and no one interferes with it. I mean, if you’re watching college football on your rest day and your child needs you to change their diaper, get up and change their diaper man! You can’t just ignore your family.
Speaking of which …
- If you have a family, find ways to rest together. Rest doesn’t have to be an isolated activity. There are times where that’s necessary, for sure, and it’s even healthy to take some time for yourself every once in a while. But you have a family for a reason. Bring them along on the journey. Show and teach your children about proper ways to schedule their time to include rest. Then maybe when they’re older they won’t have the same problems we do!
Okay, now we’ve covered the basic rules for our rest time and my conscience is clear that I am not giving you a tool that you won’t be able to use. Next week we’ll get into the first and most important way that we can start to pay back that energy debt. See you then!
All true change starts with changing how you think. Of course, thinking alone won’t do it, you have to put action to the thoughts. Without action all your really have are dreams. But it all starts with changing your thoughts. I believe you can make major changes in your life just by changing the way you think.
Today I want to see if I can adjust your way of thinking a little; to see if I can get you to see things from a different perspective. This little shift has the ability to transform the way you think (and act) when it comes to rest.
Change Your Mind
We talked before about your energy and how, when you work from a place of zero energy you are creating energy debt. This energy debt then must be paid back in your time off, often with interest. Now, as we all know, we’re not great at resting so instead of taking the time to rest and catch back up, we just keep going and going and never make it back to even. Eventually this will lead to burnout and probably a myriad of other health related issues that we know nothing about.
What would happen if we changed the way we thought about rest? What if, instead of working from a place of zero or negative energy, we worked from a place where we had a surplus? What would change in your life if, at the end of a long week, you still had energy left?
It’s time to shift our focus. It’s time to change our mindset.
From? Or So That?
The idea that I want to put in front of you today is this:
Instead of resting from our work, we should rest so that we can work.
When we rest after we’ve worked, we are borrowing energy we don’t have in order to get stuff done. When done this way, the rest we get is an attempt to get us back to zero (which never actually happens). This is all so that we can turn around and borrow negative energy again.
On the other hand, when you rest before you work, you build up a surplus (or positive amount) of energy that you can then use in your work. There’s no negative energy balance or borrowing energy you promise to pay back later.
If energy is currency and borrowing energy we don’t have leads us to energy debt, then the same can be true of energy savings and living from a surplus. If you save up energy first, then the work you do will use the energy that you already have stored up.
Just like the financial debt you pay collects interest, savings accounts do too. It might be less interest, but it’s still interest, right? If you have energy saved up, and you live off of that saved energy, there’s a chance you might have some energy left over that will gather interest. Then as you continue your rest and work cycles moving forward, you will continually be building up more and more stored energy. This allows you to sometimes work a little harder, do a little more, and still end up with a positive energy balance in the end.
By living from a surplus, we gather more. It’s the law of compound interest and it works in more areas of your life than just your finances.
I hope this little change in how you think can spark some big changes in how you rest. Now that we’ve covered our problem with rest, what rest is, our reason for rest, and this change in mindset, we’re ready to tackle some ideas about how we can shift our actions to allow us to pay back the energy debt we owe and start to work from a surplus. I’m looking forward to talking about that next week.
A few weeks ago we started a discussion about rest. If you missed any of those posts you can find them here:
As a software developer, I know there are times when we just work on a project, and then there are crunch times when we get ready to launch something where we work 80 hour weeks and don’t sleep much until it’s done. It’s the nature of the beast. There is so much to do and so little time to do it all in. You guys understand this, right? The first 80% of a project happens super fast and like it is no problem at all and the last 20% takes everything you’ve got and you want to throw the whole project out and start over again because every time you fix something and you think you’re almost done something else breaks that is critical to the completion of the project.
I apologize for that amazing run-on sentence. Forgive me.
Anyway, during those times, finding time to rest is hard. But man, is it ever important. How you’ve rested before, how you rest during, and how you’re going to rest afterward are of utmost importance when it comes to how successful you are with the project and how you feel coming out the other side.
I remember a few years ago we did a big launch for a project and by the time it was over almost everyone on our team was sick or would get sick. That was an illustration in how not to do it.
Resting, taking time off, “Sabbath”, whatever you want to call it is incredibly important. So important that even God rested. Check out Genesis 2:2-3:
“By the seventh day, God completed His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, for on it He rested from His work of creation.”
God is the only being that has an infinite amount of energy. You and I do not. He didn’t rest because He needed to. He rested because He knew we needed to and, in His grace, gave us an example. He knew that without someone telling us that we needed to rest and without someone showing us how it’s done, we would never do it. He knew we would literally need to be commanded to do it. I believe that’s why we find it near the very top of the Ten Commandments:
“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
— Exodus 20: 8-11 (NIV)
He Can Do More
I’ve heard this concept in when it comes to tithing: When you submit your finances to God and honor Him with the first 10% of your income, God can do more through you with your 90% then you can do alone with the whole 100%.
I believe this to be true and have seen it play out in my life. I also believe this is true of our time, work, and rest. If we will honor God and follow His commands for taking a day off, He can and will do more with our 6 days of work then we would be able to do with a full 7.
So we rest because God rested. We rest as a matter of obedience. If leaders go first, then God went first and showed us that rest is important enough to command us to do it. Take a day off once a week. Do something fun. Don’t feel guilty about it. I’ll see you back here next week.
This is my website. There are many like it but this one is mine.
I couldn’t be happier to have you here. Thanks for stopping by.
I’ve had many failed attempts at having my own website over the years. Maybe a quick history lesson would be okay?
Blast from the Past
I’d wanted my own site forever. I mean, I’ve been writing code since I was a kid and doing it professionally since 1997 … I should have my own site, right? So back in 2011 I started a pretty nondescript Wordpress blog that was so unremarkable that the Wayback Machine can’t even remember what it actually looked like.
By the time 2013 rolled around, that site was horribly stale (because I stopped updating it) and I had an interview for a new job. I couldn’t let my potential new employer see a super old non-updated website, right? So I put up a new shiny static page that did nothing remarkable. And it has pretty much stayed that way ever since. Oh, I’ve gave it a fresh coat of paint in 2017 and updated the technology behind it as an experiment using new technologies that I was learning in 2018. But pretty much it’s just been a plain ol’ website for the past 6 years. Until today.
Welcome to the New
In August of 2018 I started blogging again, once a week, every week. I started on Medium because I didn’t have any place else to put my writing and I wanted to start actually publishing something regularly. Medium has been awesome and I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing today without having first started there.
As great as it has been on Medium, there were some things that were just missing that I wanted to take advantage of.
First, and most important, I wanted to have a home. Medium is someone else’s home that happens to allow me to be a guest. As nice as it is, being a guest in someone else’s house can only last for so long before all the niceties wear off, right? That’s what started to happen and I feel like I’ve kind of overstayed my welcome. I’ll be back from time to time on there (just like you visit your relatives) but I’m happy to finally have a real home again.
Second, publishing on Medium is great for full-fledged articles, but it doesn’t lend itself to short form content such as quotes, or tweets, or just simple lists that I might want to share with my audience. Having my own home allows me to post pretty much whatever I want in whatever format I want. I’ve found myself wanting to do more of that lately. This gives me that chance.
Third, and last, I think the personal web log (or blog) has taken a hit in recent years. Everyone was leaving because social media was a super fast way to publish your thoughts to a lot of people. Over time (to me anyway) social media has become more noise than anything else and I’m looking forward to a slower pace in a style all my own. 240 characters or more. Any size images I want. And (thank the Lord 🙌) no comments I have to avoid. I think the personal website is about to make a comeback and I want to be there when it does.
Today I am super excited to launch my newest site! It’s not super polished or anything particularly fancy or special. There are things that probably will need to change. There are other updates coming. But we’ll get there.
My friend Joshua Blankenship posted a quote from author Austin Kleon on his site not too long ago that inspired me. It said:
”It doesn’t matter if it’s good right now, it just needs to exist.”
He was talking about writing but the premise remains the same for websites. Mine feels unfinished and that it’s lacking some finishing touches. But that’s okay. Those things are coming. What matters is that I launch something. Today I have.
This is my website. There are many like it but this one is mine. It’s my new home and I love it.
I’m super excited to have all of you here with me. It might be my writing but it’s our journey.
Let’s keep going.
First, let’s start with a confession:
I am not very good at this whole rest thing. I’m just not. I want to be, and part of writing this series, I think, is me preaching to me. I know I need rest (well, better rest). I think part of me hopes that by writing this I will take notes and try to implement some of this stuff myself.
As proof that I am not very good at this whole rest thing, I can tell you that I didn’t go to bed until 1:00 AM this morning.
Seems kind of ironic considering that we’re all here to talk about rest, right? Hey … I did just tell you that I don’t have this down, didn’t I? 😂 It’s a good thing I have Friday’s off.
Our daughter went to prom last night, and we had to take her to the location and pick her up when it was over. So … it was a late night. By the time we got home and got in bed, it was super late.
What’s great is this is a prime example of what I was talking about last week. It’s been a long week and I already knew I needed rest but yet we had this thing we had to do that was a non-negotiable. Knowing that this event was coming you would think that I would have prepared in advance. But I didn’t. I just went with things as they came to me and today I am paying the price. My energy debt is enormously high and I’m struggling to pay it back.
Lesson learned, right? Here’s hoping.
What is Rest?
So what is rest?
Rest is simply the act of being refreshed. It’s relaxing. It’s recovering strength.
Rest can look different to different people. And it’s not necessarily doing nothing.
There are a lot of you out there who feel like you can’t sit still. That feel guilty if you aren’t doing something. And then you’re told that you have to rest. And that rest should look like doing nothing. I don’t think that’s quite right.
For some people, doing nothing is restful. Watching Netflix all day long somehow makes you refreshed. But for others of you, that would drive you berserk and be the farthest thing from restful to you.
For you, I think it’s important that I make a distinction. Rest isn’t the absence of movement or the ceasing of doing. Rest can be doing … with the right mindset.
For example, I don’t think it’s restful to cut the grass. It’s a chore and chores are not restful. But if you love cutting the grass and you can think of no better way to spend a Saturday afternoon then with some special 1-on-1 time with your lawnmower then by all means, mow the lawn.
Rest can be doing. The distinction is the heart behind the doing. It should be doing something that brings you joy and refreshment. If it’s burdensome and you hate doing it but you have to do it anyway, that isn’t rest. If you come alive at the thought of doing it … that’s rest.
If I could make some suggestions? Try to completely cut off from the things you do for work. I’m a developer by day, so I try to not do that as my restful activities, even if it’s for a personal fun project. I don’t always succeed, and there are some times that I end up coding something was really fun and restful. But a lot of times I know the frustrations that come with doing what I do and having those inevitably pop up in my rest time isn’t so much fun.
Also, I’ve heard that if you work with your mind you should rest with your hands and vice-versa. I’m not really great at putting this one into practice, but reports from others suggest this is true.
At the end of the day, as long as you are doing things that you love “getting to” do and not those things that you “have to” do, you should be okay. Do what you love and that makes you come alive. Find those things that truly make you more energized when you’re done and do a lot of that. The goal is to come out on the other side with more energy.
I’ve been thinking a lot about rest lately.
Mostly I think it’s because I’ve been really tired. More tired than usual, I would say. I’ve been trying to figure out why that is. I mean, I am super busy but … aren’t we all?
I’ve got a full-time job, a family, extracurricular activities that I do with and for the kids, and a side-hustle I’m trying to get off the ground. But is any of that special? I mean, we are all doing so many things to try to move ahead, aren’t we?
In an attempt to figure out what is going on with me, I feel like I stumbled upon something that is pretty revelational. You may or may not have heard this before. I’d be willing to bet that the concept I’m about to share is not new.
It is important though. So over the next few weeks I’m going to be talking about one fundamental problem I see and some ways I think we can take back what has been stolen from us. I may also throw a few other related issues in there along the way … you know, just for fun. We’ll have to see where this leads. Anyway, here we go.
We’ve gotten rest all wrong.
I mean, we really have gotten rest all wrong. There are many little problems that I see but the main fundamental problem we have is that we don’t understand even the idea of rest. When it comes to the rest, we have no idea what we’re talking about.
Here’s what I mean: We think that rest is something that comes after we’ve worked hard. We think rest is something that has to be earned. But that’s the wrong way to think about it. It’s a mentality toward rest that is unbalanced, and I’d be willing to bet it’s one of the main causes of the majority of burnout in our lives.
Our culture (at least in America) teaches us to work hard and then play (or rest) hard. That’s backward. I’m all for working hard, but by working hard as of first importance we create an energy deficit. By the time we’ve finished working hard the need to rest is so bad that it’s basically impossible to catch up. As those of you that have tried “catching up“ can testify, is a losing battle.
A good biblical financial lesson works well here.
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
— Proverbs 22:7
We borrow energy we don’t have to do the things we need to do. Each and every moment of each and every day we are creating energy debt. As any of us who have had debt know, we have to pay it back at some point. Usually with interest. Now, interest is sneaky. Most lenders are upfront about it, but because we want whatever it is that we’re financing right now, we’re willing to pay extra for it over time.
We do the same with our energy. We want to finish this project or go to this thing. We tell ourselves that we need to work harder and more and not stop. So we put ourselves into energy bondage. We trap ourselves in a cycle of debt. We have to then figure out how to pay back the loan on the energy we’ve borrowed. For most of us, all we can afford is the minimum payments. We go and go and go and somehow think that a week at Disney in the summer is going to get us through the remainder of the year. We kill it all week long and think a 36-hour Netflix binge is going to give us the rest we need to make it through another week. Sadly, it doesn’t and we just slip further and further behind on our energy payments.
The result? Burnout.
A study done by Project: Time Off found that more than half of American workers they studied left vacation time unused in 2015 because their heavy workload made them feel they didn’t have time to take off. And a CareerBuilder survey found that 61% of people — 3 in 5 — say they are burned out in their jobs.
— Scary Mommy blog (This Is Why So Many Of Us Are Suffering From Burnout)
We don’t know how to rest, friends. We’ve lost the skills necessary. Or … maybe more realistically, we’ve let them be stolen from us. It’s time we took them back.
Next week we’ll talk about what rest is (and isn’t) and maybe start laying out some possible solutions to our unrest. I hope to see you then!