Practical Ways to Rest #1

Guys and gals … we’ve done it. We’ve made it to the part of the series where we finally get to learn some ways we can start to pay back our energy debt.

If you missed any of the prior posts in this series (or if you just want a refresher) here are the links you need. Go back and read them all!

Each week over the next three weeks we’ll be exploring one way that we can start to rest for the work we’re going to do instead of from the work we’ve already done.

I’m so excited that we finally made it here! Let’s dive in.

Sabbath

The first and most practical way for us to start paying back our energy debt is simple: actually take one day off every week.

This may sound simple or like you waited all this time and this is the answer I give you. Stay with me here.

We’ve covered it before but I’m going to say it again: we don’t know how to rest. We just don’t. So in order to get this right, to even start to know how to rest, it’s imperative that we start here.

A few weeks ago we talked about how God modeled the idea of a “sabbath” every seventh day. The creation story tells us that God rested on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3) and in Exodus 20:8-11 he even made rest one 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.”

Heading to the New Testament, Jesus talks about the Sabbath as well. We find the following in Mark 2:27:

“Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.’”

While we weren’t made for it (it’s not our purpose), the Sabbath - meaning “to rest” in Hebrew - was made for us because God knew we would need it.

We Have to Stop

If we are ever going to get to a place where burnout doesn’t occur and where it is possible to even start thinking about creating an energy surplus then we have to start here.

We literally have to stop for one day every week.

Just like we have to (or should!) sleep for 8 hours out of every 24, we should be taking 1 day out of every 7 for rest. This day should, as much as possible, be devoted to you doing things that bring you life. No agendas, no obligations, just whatever it is that you find restful.

If you work a regular day job, typically you only work 5 days a week. That leaves 2 days off every week. Pick one and make it your rest day. Schedule this day on your calendar for the whole year. Cross off every one of them with a big “X” or mark it as “Sabbath.” You are more likely to not schedule anything on that day going forward if it already exists on your calendar. One thing I can guarantee you is that if you don’t schedule it, you won’t keep to it and things will creep into that time.

F.O.M.O.

Now, this might mean that you need to move some obligations around or cancel them completely. You may get offers to do things that you really want to do that you’ll have to say “no” to. You’re going to feel like you’re missing out. That’s perfectly natural.

Remember from last week, the first rule of resting was that you can’t schedule anything in advance, not that you couldn’t do anything at all. You just never know how tired you might be until you have the opportunity to rest.

If you say “yes” to something on your scheduled rest day two weeks in advance and then you get to your rest day and you’re exhausted, you’re now in a position where you have to go through with whatever you said “yes” to (because I know you’re a person of your word), regardless of whether that’s the best thing for you and your health.

By waiting until the day of your rest to make decisions about what you’re going to do you’ve put yourself in a position to do things that will provide rest and create energy for you, not suck the energy from you. Ultimately, your health is more important than anything you thought you needed or wanted to do.

We’ve Gotta Start Somewhere

Better rest and more energy. The two go hand-in-hand. Over time, if we stay intentional and consistent in our pursuit of a Sabbath rest we will find ourselves in the place where we have both. We will also be nicer, kinder, and generally better people because we aren’t so tired all the time.

If you’ve never done this before or are in a season where you find yourself not doing this well, this is your first step. It will do you no good to attempt anything else if this one isn’t in place first. I think you’ll find that even just this one small step will create a dramatic improvement in how you feel.

Come back next week as we explore the second way you can start paying pack that energy debt.

P.S. I ran across this blog post today and wanted to share it. John Eldredge is probably my favorite author and in this post he’s talking about Sabbath. What great timing!

Ground Rules for Rest

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 …

  1. 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!

A New Mindset

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.

The Reason for Rest

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.

Hello World

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.

Let’s Go!

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.

What is Rest?

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.