Benefits of Sabbath

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Carving out sacred “me” time. And no, I’m not Jewish (at least not to my knowledge).

I’ve always been a staunch opponent of the presenteeism culture in the office. You know what I’m talking about. Staying late for no other reason besides trying to look like you’re doing work in the office — even when you clearly aren’t. In many ways, this has been the exact opposite to my approach to work, which is more along the lines of, “Work smarter, not harder”. In my head efficiency = more free time. The idea of explicitly not allowing myself to do work sounded like a great premise. After all, if a work-week is 40 hours, that leaves 72 waking hours for other activities. I can definitely spare a Sunday.

My own experimentation with sabbath roughly coincided with the start of shelter in place in California. I needed something to break up my days which were beginning to blend in to each other, and frankly, I hate being tethered to notifications (slack, email, etc.). Here are some of the key takeaways I’ve learned, and why I’m planning to keep this newfound (by me) tradition.

Keeps you on track for things you care about (escape the daily grind)

If you’re like me and keep a todo list, it can be easy to keep rolling things over to the next day and letting that determine what you do. By resetting weekly, it gives you the freedom to take a step back and realize when you’ve gotten lost in the weeds. You can toss those things that have dragged on for days and clearly just aren’t high priority. Think of it like closing all those browser tabs that you haven’t seen in months that were just sitting in the background. This gives me an explicit time to glance at my monthly and yearly goals

You learn about your relationship with distraction

YouTube, Facebook, etc. are all powerful distractors. They are where our minds go when they want to escape the painful feeling of doing work. But when there’s no work to be avoided, it more clearly begs the question, “Is this really how I want to be spending my time?” Alternatively, I’ve used Sundays to batch my distraction time. For example, that’s when I usually catch up on new instagram posts, deleting it most of the other times.

Guilt free hobby time

This is the flip side of guilt-free distraction. Rather than talking in terms of activities to eliminate, hobbies we can add to our schedules that refresh us. They are the things that we tell ourselves we want to do, but “don’t have time” for. I find the weekly time frame is just often enough to soothe myself and also open up the door for fitting it into smaller chunks later in the week.

You have time to yourself

I wager that most people reading this have the habit of checking their phone as the first thing they do in the morning. I hate that. You are letting your phone dictate to you what you should be thinking about. Literally, anyone can send you an email, and your mind will burn an hour’s worth of cycles trying to recapture your attention. By picking a day that you reserve for yourself, you get the chance to exercise your capacity to direct your time and energy, to find and pursue the things that are meaningful to you.

Now, I know there are some people whose jobs depend on being able to reliably respond to emails in a prompt manner. But again, that is the point of picking Sunday for a sabbath. Which brings me to my final point…

A chance to literally do nothing

This could probably be its own blog post, but I think sitting doing nothing is almost a skill on its own. People don’t give themselves the opportunity for boredom because it always gets filled immediately with bright screens and endless feeds. But that is not what we are hungry for. By depraving ourselves of quiet time to ourselves, I think we are doing a disservice to individuals and the society as a whole.

Boredom is the key to rumination, creativity, and self-discovery. It’s my secret sauce.