Excuses, Excuses

Excuses Excuses Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

This was supposed to be a mid-year recap but I honestly don’t have much to share. I haven’t really made progress on any of the goals that I set for myself at the beginning of the year. It’s not that I don’t want to. Far from it. I wouldn’t have made the goals I did if I didn’t want to achieve them. I really do want them to come to fruition.

So what happened? Well … we had just bought a house last year and that means that our expenses have increased so it’s been really hard to find the money to pay off our debts. We have been so busy with the theatre and superhero things that I haven’t had the time to just sit down and write my book. Along with the busyness comes late nights and that makes it really hard to get up in the morning to workout, which leads to rushed meals and just eating whatever I can rather than planning out good meals to eat. The list goes on …

Blah, Blah, Blah

I have a lot of excuses, don’t I? Let’s be honest, we all do. I’d wager that for a lot of us, whenever we fail, that is our go-to thing to do.

It’s someone else’s fault. It’s the circumstances of our lives. We didn’t succeed because of this, that, or the other thing.

Excuses are just a way of shifting the focus of attention for something undesirable onto someone or something else.

We jump to excuses immediately because we don’t like the feeling of failure. We don’t like it when we let other people (or even ourselves) down. We find it easier on our own hearts to put the blame somewhere other than where it needs to be.

Why? Because then we won’t be the one that’s in trouble. Excuses are easy. Excuses make us feel better about ourselves.

Excuses are poison.

What is the Truth?

Here’s the thing about excuses: excuses are almost always not the truth.

The truth is that although I want to succeed with my goals, I haven’t made the time or put forth the effort it would take to make them happen. They are hard goals and they require sacrifices I have been unwilling to make up until this point.

The truth is that I haven’t made my goals a priority. I haven’t put my goals on my calendar with a deadline. I haven’t placed them in front of me so that I can see them on a regular basis.

The truth is that my lack of success, my failure, is my responsibility. It’s not my circumstances. It’s not the people around me. It’s mine. It is my job to make sure my goals get met. It is my job to make the necessary arrangements in time, money, and effort to make them a reality.

So What Now?

Now I’m left with a decision. When I’ve removed the excuses and owned up to the fact that I own the responsibility for my actions (or inactions), all that’s left for me to do is to make a decision. I can either decide that the things I thought were important to me are no longer important and I can let them go, or I can decide that these things really are important, that I really want to accomplish them, and that it’s time to get to work. That’s it. It’s the only thing left.

I want to choose to get to work. Like I said earlier, I wouldn’t have set the goals if they weren’t important.

This means that if I want to get out of debt then I need to determine how much debt I have and what I can do to pay it all back. I’ve got to figure out where I can cut back on my lifestyle. I’ve got to determine where I need to make more money.

If I want to really write a book then I’ve got to stop playing around with watching TV or whatever it is that I do with all my time. I need to start writing … even if that means dedicating a whole day on a weekend (while still sticking to my rest schedule, of course). I need to put the time on my calendar and get to work.

No matter what it is that I want, the fact that I don’t have it is no one else’s fault but my own. The same is true for you. It’s time we all owned up to that. It’s time for us to start getting busy toward our goals.

It’s time to get to work. Anything else is just an excuse.

Rest: A Wrap Up

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

— Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Introduction

So often we live without hope.

We think something that has been one way our entire life means that we are destined to carry on that tradition until we die. There is this idea that once we experience a certain pattern of behavior or circumstances that it (or we) can never change. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and all that.

The truth is we’re believing a lie. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our lives can change. We can change. It is possible to no longer have to follow the ways of old. To break patterns that we’ve held and lived with for so long.

One such pattern is how we rest. Or don’t rest, as it were. We all live with an energy debt that we can’t seem to pay back. We’ve lived this way for years. Our debt keeps growing and growing every day and yet, we don’t seem to do anything about it. Like the Energizer™ bunny of old we just keep going, and going, and going. We know it’s not good for us. We know we need to stop. But we don’t. We can’t. Or, at least, we don’t think we can.

What the World Tells Us

Look around you. Is there anything in your world that is telling you that it’s okay for you to rest? All around us shouts the messages of “work harder” and “hustle.” Cities are alive twenty four hours a day. We even have a city with the nickname “The City That Never Sleeps.” Our society tells us that if we only have one job, if we don’t have something on the side then we’re doing it wrong. We have TV shows we can binge watch anytime we want to. We have devices that have almost been permanently grafted into our hands. We don’t even know what it’s like to be bored anymore.

We’ve got to stop looking to the world as our example. There is a different way of life. There is a way to find rest … for our bodies and for our souls.

If you can look past the haze of society you can see that what’s real is that we can find rest. The reality is that we can stop and catch our breath. It won’t be easy or convenient. If you’ve been living according to the ways of this world then I can guarantee you that it won’t feel natural at first. That’s okay. What’s important right now is knowing that it is possible to pay back the energy debt that we’ve incurred over the years; that you can put a plan in place to make that happen.

Setting Expectations

As you well know, paying back a debt takes time. You won’t do it all in one day. It’s going to take you a while to catch up. One weekend away will not pay back your debt. One week of vacation will not give you a surplus to live from right away.

What will work is consistent, intentionally chosen rest over a long period of time. Debt is hard to pay off but if you are consistent in not adding any new debt and in paying on time you will eventually pay it off … even if you only make the minimum payment. So it is with your energy debt. If you consistently give yourself rest when you need it, even when it interferes with what you’d rather be doing, you will see the benefits of a life no longer shackled by that debt down the road.

Previously on …

So what did we learn during this series? Here’s a quick refresher:

  • Our problem is that we don’t know how to rest. We are finite creatures who only have a certain amount of energy before we need to rest and we constantly push that boundary. Doing more than we should. Going longer than we should. In doing so, over time, we have created an energy debt that seems insurmountable.
  • Rest is the act of being refreshed. Of recovering. Of gaining energy. Rest is not(or doesn’t have to be) just sitting still. The trick is to finding (and doing) the things that you love doing and that give you energy. The hard part is staying away from all the things that are on your list that you have to get done. Rest is “I get to” not “I have to.”
  • God knew we would need to rest so He went first and showed us the way. So now we rest because God rested. He knew we wouldn’t do it of our own volition, so He commanded that we do it. So now we rest as an act of obedience.
  • Out of all of that, a new thought arises. What if we’ve gotten rest backwards? Is it possible that all this time we’ve worked from a place of energy deficiency, but it’s actually possible to have an energy surplus? What if we followed patterns of rest that allowed us to rest for the work we are going to do and not from the work we just did? We can build up a surplus of rest. It is possible.
  • There are some ground rules to our rest. The first being that you can’t plan anything before you rest. You also need to schedule your rest – put it on your calendar now. If you don’t, you won’t. Lastly, if you have a spouse and/or kids, bring them along for the ride too. You can do things by yourself, and that’s important, but don’t leave out your family from enjoying rest with you.
  • There are four ways that we can use to pay back our energy debt and eventually start to live from a surplus. In order of importance those are sleep, sabbath, vacation, and sabbatical. One can build upon the other. Without good sleep, taking a sabbatical won’t really help you. It’ll be nice to have some time away, but you’re not getting the most benefit from the sabbatical. Unless you’re burned out and need time off as a drastic measure to allow yourself to properly function, you should focus on making sure you’re getting the proper rest in the order above. Start with making sure you’re sleeping well (7-9 hours per night) and move on from there.

Conclusion

As we wrap up this series, my desire is that you would see for yourself, to know in your heart, that there is hope. I want you to believe that rest is possible. I want you to believe that we don’t have to live from a burned out state anymore.

A few last tidbits:

  • There are many ways in which we can rest. I named four, but there are probably others. Take the time to find the ways that work for you.
  • Make rest a priority. You have the time. You may not think that you do … but you do. It’s worth setting other things aside in order to make this work. You can’t keep going on the way that you have. Something has to give.
  • Be intentional. Do this rest thing on purpose. Once you’ve set aside the time to rest then actually rest. You’ll thank yourself later.
  • Have hope, my friends. We can pay back the energy debt we owe and live from an energy surplus. We can rest for the work we’re going to do as opposed to resting from the work we just did.

Thanks for coming along on this ride with me. I learned a lot writing this series and I hope you learned a lot in reading it. I’m in this with you. You are my allies. Together we can find the rest we need. All of our lives will be better for it.

Burnout (a.k.a. 'Drastic Measures')

“If you’re wondering whether you’re burned out, you already are.”

— Sean McCabe

Four days.

It’s nearing the end of June and I’ve only taken 4 vacation days so far this year.

My math isn’t exact, but as of this writing we’ve had approximately 120 working days so far this year. Out of those 120 days I’ve taken a couple sick days (because my allergies are horrible in the spring here in South Carolina), we’ve had something like 3 paid holidays where I work, and I’ve taken just 4 vacation days.

To top it all off, those vacation days weren’t even strung together. I took 2 days are the very beginning of the year, 1 day a couple months later (for something … I can’t even remember), and a couple of afternoons for various things I needed to do or be at.

I have yet to string together any significant amount of time for rest from work for almost 6 full months.

I’m starting to feel it.

I’m not saying all of this in any way to boast. I’m also not some type of martyr. I’m just not very smart. I’m still learning. In fact, I’m writing this series of posts on rest not just to help you, but to help me.

Remember when I said that I was hesitant to mention vacation time as a practical way to rest? It’s because I have a hard time taking vacation time and using it to rest.

I’ve come to realize that I have a scarcity mindset when it come to vacation time. I want to save it and care for it and not use it. I feel like there will be something that will happen that will require my use of it for something other than rest. I’ll need time off from work for this or that thing and if I take my vacation time and use it for rest then what will I use when I actually need to take off for some other unexpected event? When it comes to vacation time, I live in the land of “What If?”

Suffice it to say that I don’t do vacation well and it’s leading me to burnout.

What is burnout?

“Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress,” says this article by Help Guide.

It’s my opinion (and I’m not a doctor) but the importance here isn’t so much on the “excessive” as it is the “prolonged.” A constant stressor or stressors over an extended period of time without a break (or rest) is the main cause of the problem. Yes, an excessive amount of weight can quicken the pace, but it’s been my experience that it’s the slow, long, drawn out kind of stress that leads to the biggest burnouts. You just don’t notice it creeping up on you until it’s too late.

Pretty much anyone can hold a weight, even a heavy one, for a short period of time. But they won’t be able to hold it forever. Even the lightest of weights will eventually need to be put down in order to give the muscles a chance to rest.

It’s the same with life. We can all handle some form or fashion of stress, of weight put upon our shoulders. At some point though, we all have to be able to put down that weight for a time in order to rest and recuperate. The purpose of this rest is a temporarily relief of the burden of stress in order to come back stronger and be able to handle more stress the next time around.

Some ways you can know you’re on the road to burnout:

  • You are exhausted all the time. You feel like it takes all of the energy you have just to get out of bed in the morning.
  • You have a loss of motivation. The things that once brought you joy no longer make you happy.
  • You start skipping out of work. Coming in late and leaving early on a more regular basis.
  • You start withdrawing from your responsibilities everywhere.
  • You notice a change in your eating or sleeping habits.
  • You constantly feel like a failure and defeated.

For me, I can tell when I’m starting to hit the burnout wall because I start to feel like not going in to work. I love my job and I feel like I’m doing good work the majority of the time. When I start thinking “I really don’t want to go in to work tomorrow,” that’s a clear sign to me that I’m getting close to the burnout stage.

An item of note: A lot of these symptoms of burnout sound a lot like symptoms of depression, don’t they? I don’t think that’s a coincidence. One of the things that can lead to a full-blown bout of depression is burnout. Burnout is no joke and should be taken seriously.

Why is burnout a problem?

Like depression, burnout and the symptoms it displays are a problem because it affects your whole life. You can’t compartmentalize it. The stressor might be only coming from one place but it affects everyone and everything around you.

You might be stressed at work but when your kids do something that annoys you, you lash out in anger that you just can’t seem to control. Your family life might be the source of your stress, but it affects you in such a strong emotional way that you just can’t get out of bed … which affects your work performance (and maybe your paycheck).

What can you do to recover?

So if you identified with some of the symptoms above and are starting to feel like you might be burned out, what can you do? I have some thoughts.

  • Identify the stressors: Take a long hard look at your life and determine what it is right now that is causing the majority of your stress. What is it that you absolutely need a break from?
  • Gimme a break: You need to take time off as soon as possible. You can’t keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. You need to get away from whatever is the primary culprit to your burnout. It could be work, family, extracurricular activities, or something else perhaps. Whatever the case, it’s imperative that you take a break from whatever it is that’s causing the majority of your stress. And you need to do it now.
  • You can start small: If you’re only starting to feel like you might be getting burned out, maybe just start with a small time away. If it’s work or family, maybe a short weekend away where you only do the things you love to do is enough to get you started back on the road to recovery. If it’s an extracurricular activity or something else, perhaps it’s time to take a month off. Just a short break to get things back in order.
  • Go big: On the other hand, if you are in full out burnout mode then you need to take more drastic measures. It’s time to go all in on rest. You need time away from your stressor as soon as possible. If you can, make this a real, large, extended time. Two weeks at least. You’re probably going to use that vacation time, but it’ll be well worth it.
  • This isn’t just an escape: Family or relational stress is tough and it’s real. The thing is, you just can’t up and leave your family for a month as an escape from the stress. But you can identify what it is about your family that is causing your stress, take time away from everything else, and work on that problem. Maybe it’s a week away with your significant other where you talk through all the things. Maybe everyone in your family is all on edge and you all just need a way to work some fun into your lives again. The big deal here is that you can’t just run away from your problems. You need to face them. No matter how much time you take away, if the problem isn’t handled, then you’re just going to come back to the same problem. Which isn’t going to relieve your stress long-term. What we’re looking for is long-term recovery.

Note: Generally speaking, you can follow the plan I’ve laid out in the other posts as a way to catch up and pay back your energy debt. In case of burnout, those rules really don’t apply. You have to do any and everything that you possibly can to find rest and recovery as quickly as possible.

What can you do to prevent it?

I’m reminded of a couple of quotes here:

The best defense is a good offense.

… and …

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

They might sound cliché but they are 100% true. Once you’ve done everything you can to recover from the initial burnout you’ve got to put some guard rails in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again. So what can you do?

  • Take time off regularly: You’ve got to make rest a priority going forward. Sleep. Sabbath. Vacation. Sabbaticals. These are all the building blocks of a life without burnout. Use them as often as possible.
  • Have a check in: Set up a regularly scheduled check in with yourself to see how you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be every day or even every week. But set aside some time once a month or so just to make sure that you’re still in a good spot. Identify any early stressors and do what you can to handle them before they become a problem.
  • Talk to a counselor: They are trained to handle situations like this and can help you decide the best course of action going forward. They can help you make the best decisions and can keep you on the right path moving forward.

Now breathe.

Whew! Thanks for hanging in there with me on this one. Burnout is serious and it’s important that we take our time and do it justice. It’s important to identify if you’re burned out, take the necessary (even hard) steps it takes to recover, and then put up those guard rails to keep yourself (and everyone around you) healthy.

I’ll be back next week to wrap up this series on rest. Don’t miss out on the exciting conclusion!

Practical Ways to Rest - The Bonus Episode

Thanks for coming back! As I mentioned last week, we’re going to cover a special bonus way to rest today. If you missed any of the other posts in this series, please start by catching up with the links below. You could probably read this post on it’s own, but it will make so much more sense in the context of all the other ones.

For some of us, an essential ingredient is missing from our rest recipe. Our toolbox of rest is missing one key item that inhibits us from getting the rest we truly need.

The one thing we’re missing, is sleep.

The Problem With Sleep

There are probably as many reasons that people don’t sleep as there are people. I’m sure that everyone has a reason.

For some, it’s probably something like F.O.M.O. What will they miss if they go to bed now? I know that’s a big deal when it comes to sporting events that go late into the night. For others, maybe it’s habitual and they stay up binge watching things and they don’t realize how late it is.

Maybe it’s those little ones that keep us up at night. Or maybe something really good (or really bad) has happened in our lives and we can’t sleep because at this moment all we can do is lie in bed and think about that thing.

There are people who work second jobs, or side hustles and they stay up late trying to get things done. Then there are others who just legitimately have difficulty falling asleep.

Caffeine plays a legitimate role in our inability to sleep as well. We consume caffeine at an incredible rate and if taken too close to when we need to be sleeping, could be the cause of us staring at the ceiling, wondering why our brains won’t shut off.

Another culprit is the proliferation of electronic devices we use late into the night. The blue light from our phones and TV’s can delay the release of the wonderful, sleep-inducing chemical melatonin. When we don’t get right amount of melatonin, we don’t get the right amount (or quality) of sleep. Other research is starting to suggest that the proliferation of “blue light” is affecting our sight.

There are probably many other reasons I can’t even think of but whatever the case, we tend to not sleep, or to not sleep well.

The Most Important Time of the Day

Why is this important? Our lack of sleep is hurting us and ultimately, is adding to our energy debt that we so desperately want to pay off.

We’ve heard all of our lives that we are supposed to sleep for 6-8 hours each day. Do we really need that much sleep? According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation, the answer is yes.

The researchers studied over 300 scientific publications regarding sleep and created a chart, spelling out for us the optimal sleep times for people of all different ages. For the average adult, 7-9 hours of sleep is recommended.

There has been other research done that suggests that our bodies function best in 90 minute sleep cycles. In these “sleep cycles” we go through all the stages of sleep and we wake up on the other side more refreshed and energized. This suggests that if we sleep for 6 or 7.5 hours we would wake up and have more energy than if we wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle after the typical 8 hours of sleep.

On top of all of this, there are the health problems that occur when you don’t sleep well. As well as a myriad of health benefits that go along with a good nights sleep. One of the most important of these is that your body heals itself while you are asleep.

When you lift weights during a workout you actually tear your muscle fibers. It’s only during sleep, when your muscles are resting, that the body is able to come in and heal those tears, repair the muscle, and help it to grow back bigger and stronger.

If you want your body to function properly, be able to heal itself, and come back stronger, then you need to sleep. It is essential for you to have the best quality of life.

A New Routine

So what can we do? Is there any hope for us?

I believe there is, but it’s going to take some work on our part. It might not be easy and it probably won’t be convenient. It’s worth it though. Your rest and your energy debt will thank you.

If you don’t already have a nighttime routine, it’s time to create one. If you have one already, let’s change it up to actually work for you. Creating habits around bedtime will eventually make it so that you don’t even have to think about what it is that you need to do or when you need to do it. It will just come naturally to you. Not at first, mind you, but it will come.

What does this routine look like?

  • Say Goodnight to Caffeine: For starters, no more caffeine at least 3 hours before you go to bed. Research suggests that it takes 6 hours for half the caffeine you consume to be eliminated from your body. You have to stop stimulating your body so that it can create the natural chemicals it needs to rest.
  • Shut Down: Begin shutting down phones, TV’s, and other devices at least an hour before bed. This gives you time for the blue light issues we talked about earlier to work themselves out.
  • Rearrange your schedule: You probably won’t be able to stay up so late anymore. Determine the best time for you to wake up and work backwards from there. If you need 7.5 hours of sleep and you need to get up at 6am, then you know that you have to be asleep no later than 10:30pm. If you’re shutting down your electronics an hour before bed, that means that you’re new bedtime routine starts at 9:30. If you’re used to going to bed at midnight or later, this is going to be a big change.
  • Read a book: Consider spending some time reading a book before bed. It will give you something to do that isn’t looking at a screen and it will help you wind down. There is something about reading that makes me sleepy at any time of the day. When I read before I go to bed, it’s pretty much lights out for me.
  • Lavender: It’s been shown that lavender is a calming scent and can aid in sleep. If you’re really struggling, maybe consider a diffuser or some other way to incorporate lavender into your nighttime routine.
  • Know Yourself: It’s important that you know your tendencies and what it takes for you to sleep. There are some people that can fall asleep really easily (raises hand) but there are others that just naturally have a harder time. If that’s you, your nighttime routine might need to start earlier than others. Form habits around the things that you know work for you when it comes to falling asleep and make them a part of your routine.

Our lack of sleep is probably the #1 cause of our lack of rest and the highest contributor to our energy debt. From an “amount of time resting” perspective, this should truly come before Sabbaths. Without sleep the other things we’ve talked about really don’t matter. If we aren’t sleeping, we will continue to create a deficit in our energy needs … even while taking a sabbatical.

But here’s the good news, you have a choice. You don’t have to be a victim of poor sleep. Changing your routine can help lead to better, more restful sleep overall.

One note for us all: If you’ve changed your routine and you still find yourself struggling with sleep, don’t be afraid to seek out a doctor. There could be a legitimate medical condition that is affecting your ability to rest.

Next week we’re going to talk about one of the biggest problems we could face when it comes to having a large energy debt and how it can throw this entire series of posts out the window. Caveats abound! See you then.

Practical Ways to Rest #3

It’s great to see you all today! We’ve reached the third way in which we can pay back our energy debt. I think you’ll see from today’s topic that this will be the one that has the most potential to take us over the hump from energy debt into energy surplus.

As always, if you are new here (welcome!) or have missed any of the other posts in this series, you can catch up quickly with this handy dandy list!

Today, let’s talk about the idea of sabbaticals.

Sabbaticals

One of the best ways we can pay back the energy debt we owe is by taking a sabbatical. You’ve probably all heard the term but, simply put, a sabbatical is a period of leave. This is typically used in an academic context where a teacher will take a sabbatical every seventh year in order to write, travel, or study … something to further their career. It is an extended career absence.

Taking off a whole year would be an amazing way to get back on the right side of our own personal energy crisis. It’s probably the best way. If you are self-employed or your company already has a policy in place for something like this I would highly encourage you to take advantage of it.

The majority of us, however, cannot take off a whole year and (a) get paid for it or (b) expect our position at our jobs to still be around when we get back. So what do we do? The answer is mini-sabbaticals.

Seventh Week Sabbaticals

First, for anyone who controls their own work schedule or has influence into their schedule I recommend to you a Seventh Week Sabbatical.

The idea here is that you work for 6 weeks and take every seventh week off. Just make it a part of your calendar and work cycle. You still take holidays and weekends like normal, but every seventh week you rest.

Doing this means that during the course of a year you get 7 weeks off! That might seem like a lot in our society. Remember how the average person only gets 2 weeks of vacation every year? Take a second and think about how much more rested you would be if you did this. Think about how much better your 6 weeks of work would be if you were rested and ready for it before it even started.

I encourage you to really and truly think through how you could implement a seventh-week sabbatical. Do the hard work and figure out how to do the 7 weeks of work in 6 weeks so that you can take that seventh week off. I promise you’ll thank me later.

Weekend Sabbaticals

For anyone who doesn’t control their own work schedule (this is the majority of us who work for someone else) I want to throw out the idea of Weekend Sabbaticals.

Once a month (every 4 weeks) you would take the entire weekend (2 full days) off. That means that for an entire weekend there are no house chores, no honey-do lists, nothing - unless you want to do it and it’s restful for you.

We all have so much to do that doesn’t get done throughout the week so our only option is to tackle it all when we’re not “at work”. We blast through the weekend and before we know it we’re back at Monday again never having stopped for a second.

A “Weekend Sabbatical” gives us the opportunity, once a month, to stop and catch our breath before moving on. I’d recommend putting this at the end of the month right before the next one starts, but obviously, do what works best for your schedule.

You may be thinking, “That’s it? That’s all the time I get?” Just think about it. How much more rested will you be if you implemented this today? A whole weekend without the necessity to do anything except those things that you want to do? That would feel like a miracle occurred in your life. Over time, as you build these up, you will definitely see a difference in your energy levels.

Who’s in Control?

Everyone fits into one of two categories. Either you control your work schedule or you don’t. Either way, now is the time to schedule your sabbatical, whatever flavor it looks like. Open up your calendar right now, find the next time when you’re mini-sabbatical should be and put it on your calendar. Then set it to repeat.

Again, the idea for these come from Sean McCabe and his great sabbatical blog, but I’m a firm believer in them and I am working on figuring out a way to fit them into my own life. I would say that I’m probably becoming a “sabbatical evangelist,” if I’m being honest.

I already have a seventh week sabbatical on my calendar for the writing side of my life. Every seventh week I just take off from the obligation of writing anything. I still post here but that writing is usually done beforehand so that I don’t have an obligation to get it done.

Also, since I work a regular job, I am working on figuring out how to put weekend sabbaticals in place for my family and I. They aren’t as easy to schedule right this second because of prior obligations. Obligations are not restful, remember? But I’m getting it on the calendar. We actually just had our first one last weekend and it was glorious.

The Best Bang for Your Buck

As you can hopefully see, sabbaticals offer us the best chance to pay back the energy debt we owe and turn it into an energy surplus.

No matter which sabbatical is right for you and your situation, put it on your calendar today. You’ll figure out the “how” later. Right now you can commit to doing one of them (or both - depending on how deep that energy debt goes). Once you’ve committed, the “how” will figure itself out. This is where I’m at and I invite you along for the journey.

Editorial Note: There were only supposed to be 3 practical ways to rest that I was going to cover in this series. The more I thought about it, there really is at least 4 ways. So I decided to add a bonus way for you. Come back next week and find out about a way to rest that should probably come even before Sabbaths. See you then!

Practical Ways to Rest #2

Welcome back!

If you missed any of the prior posts in this series, here are the links you need. Go back and read them all!

Last week we covered the first and most important way in which we can begin to rest … by actually taking a Sabbath day. This week we’ll progress a little further down the rabbit hole into another, more extended way.

Remember, the goal of all of this is for us to be able to start to live from a surplus of energy instead of trying to manufacture energy and live from a deficit.

Sabbaths are great and necessary if we’re ever going to get to that energy surplus. Like I said last week, that is the first place you should start. Think of this as a progression. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t jump into this or next weeks topic and start taking action if you aren’t currently taking a Sabbath. And you shouldn’t stop taking a Sabbath once you start any of these other things.

That brings us to today’s topic.

Vacation

The second way in which you can start to find rest (and pay back that energy debt) is by taking a vacation. Vacations give us the ability to have an extended time away from our responsibilities - more than just one day on a Sabbath.

Sabbaths are “Man, it feels great to rest today. Oh my goodness I’m back at work tomorrow.” Vacations, on the other hand, are “Man, it feels great to rest today. Oh wow, I get to do this again tomorrow. That’s awesome.”

Vacations provide us with the opportunity to really dig into restful activities for a longer period of time - if we are willing to do so.

Vacation Hesitation

Honestly though, I’m almost hesitant to mention vacations as a source of restfulness for 3 reasons:

  1. Vacations are almost never restful. During vacations we tend to go on trips to places like theme parks, or we visit places we’ve never been. We want to see and do all the things. Which, in and of itself, isn’t bad. It’s just not restful. We go and go and never really take the time to rest while we’re there. Vacations are almost always scheduled down to the minute and generally feel more rushed than relaxing.
  2. Vacations are horribly time-limited. Most people only get 2 weeks of vacation a year. For those of us that work for someone else we might take one week off in the summer to go somewhere with our family. Then the remaining week is probably split up into a day here or there as we have need of extra time for something. At least, that’s been my experience. One week off a year doesn’t really cut it in the rest department. You can’t pay back an energy debt for 50 weeks of work like that.
  3. We almost never take them. Something about vacation and work just doesn’t mesh together. We have so much work to do that many of us just feel like we can’t take time off at all. The proliferation of new “unlimited vacation” policies at companies are only making it worse. Many people don’t want to take time off because they feel like they would be looked down upon or that they are abusing the policy.

It Can Be Great

But despite these drawbacks, it’s great that this time exists. For those of us that don’t control our work schedule, vacation time is the only other rest we can get during the year. So we should make sure to use these days to the fullest.

The trick with vacations, like Sabbaths, is to actually take them. If you want to pay back your energy debt you need to take all of your vacation time. Seriously. Take all the time you are given. It’s given to you. It’s yours. Take it!

I remember a few years ago when our team at work had a giant project that we were trying to launch. That year our whole team (which was around 15 people or so) only took half of our vacation time. That means that, on average, each of us only took a total of one week off that year. That’s not healthy and it showed. Once we launched our project, pretty much everyone on the team got sick - in which case we were forced to take time off.

The lesson - take all the time you have. It’s good for your health.

Also, don’t feel bad about taking time off that you’ve earned. If you’ve done a good job at work and you’re getting all your stuff done then no one should have a problem with that.

Tips & Tricks

Some quick tips for vacation time:

  • Schedule it. You have to intentionally schedule and take the time you are given. Look at the calendar ahead and literally plan it now. It can change later if things come up but the chances of you taking it increase exponentially if you schedule it.
  • Treat it like a Sabbath. If you’re looking to catch up on your energy debt then treat it like you would a Sabbath. Don’t plan anything and only do things that actually bring you rest.
  • Go slow. If you do decide to head to a theme park or visit a new city with the family, don’t plan on seeing everything. Slow down. Soak in the sights and sounds around you. Don’t spend all of your time rushing around just to get a picture in front of some building or with some character. “We rode Space Mountain, then we went and had a Dole Whip and laid on the beach” is so much more restful than “I spent 75% of my vacation in lines so that we could ride every ride in the park.” The key here is energy debt reduction and energy savings, not how much you can see in one day.
  • End it early. Taking a week-long vacation to someplace that isn’t your home is awesome. Arriving home at 11:00 PM on Sunday night and having to be back at work at 8:00 AM on Monday morning isn’t. Come home a day or two early and it will give you time to transition back to whatever “normal” life is. This will give you time to have your “vacation from the vacation.” Who knows? This might be your most restful time of all!

The End

At the end of the day, vacations are a great way to extend the idea of Sabbath into a multi-day event. However, we actually have to take them and use them for restful activities if we plan on reducing our energy debt. How you handle the time off you have has everything to do with how restful it is for you.

I’ll be back next week with the third and final way we can get rid of the pesky energy debt and really start saving some up for the future. See you then!