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Take One Day Off Just For Yourself

December 14, 2011

I don’t know if it’s because I am getting older, but the days just seem to slip away before my eyes.

I am trying to practice all the things that the experts say to slow it down, like being present in the now, getting up an hour earlier, taking a few minutes every day for quiet meditation, and fully appreciating everything around me.

But still, the days rush away as I am caught up in the swirl of work, home responsibilities, events, obligations, and more or less taking care of everything that needs to get done. And to be honest, when I do find a few minutes at the end of the day, I’m tired.

It’s the tyranny of what’s next.

Maybe I’ve gotten too distractible, or hyper-responsible. Time is so precious, yet I am constantly chasing it like some elusive rare bird that I am trying to catch and put in a cage for safe keeping. There are things that I long for, but hardly ever find the time and mental space to do. Like writing more, reflecting, thinking big thoughts, and reading Harvard Business Review. I’ve got the past six issues piled up in my office, among a stack of other books, and it’s starting to scare me. And sometimes I complain to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great if I could just have an open-ended chunk of time to sit at Starbucks and just read, or think, or write poetry, like all those other slugs and unemployed people I see there all the time?”

I imagine what that could be like: No interruptions. No deadlines. No pressure to get to the next meeting in an hour.

It sounds so incredibly selfish.

The thing is, unless we carve out time to refresh and renew our souls, we will not be able to offer that best part of ourselves to others. Even Jesus escaped once in a while to the mountains and forests to get away from the clammy crowds so he could read the newspaper in peace, or whatever.

Time is the greatest gift, I realize, and no one can give that to me but myself. So next year, I am planning to take one day – at least one day – of vacation time and give it to myself, to do whatever the heck I feel like doing. I will plan the perfect day.

And here’s my special gift for you this Christmas: I am giving you permission to take a day off, too, just for yourself. You can start to plan your perfect day:

  • Drive to the mountains and take a hike
  • Write a letter to yourself
  • Sleep in
  • Be off the hook
  • Catch up on some reading
  • Imagine your future. It’s going to be great.

 

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23 Comments leave one →
  1. December 14, 2011 10:22 am

    When you do this, it will feel incredibly selfish. You will worry that other people will think you’re crazy. And then you’ll decide that this — this — is the only thing keeping you sane.

  2. December 14, 2011 10:38 am

    I LOVE this post, Bradley! Love. It!

    Just the other day I started to become bitter about how my schedule is so full, and it’s not even my fault. Piano recitals…hockey games…volleyball games…basketball…oh, and there’s work. It’s just so much, and I just scream in frustration over wanting quiet and stillness to rest. He’s challenging me to See that I can rest in the busy–that He is there and speaking to me amidst the noise. But still, it’s frustrating. So…I did just what you suggested and it was rather impromptu. I’m taking two days off in a row beginning with tomorrow, and I get a week off between Christmas and New Year’s–but the family will be home, too, and we’ll be busy. I wonder what I’ll do with two days to myself and it starts to stress me out. But, knowing I won’t rest perfectly, I’ll let the first day be the day to get some things done–Christmas shop by myself, maybe bake cookies, maybe clean the house without distraction and just blaring sweet joyful music…and the second day, your tips were fantastic–maybe I’ll just chill out, but maybe I’ll also imagine my future, write a letter to myself, and read.

    Bravo! Bravo!

    • December 14, 2011 8:46 pm

      That’s great, Amy. Especially with the holidays, the crush gets worse. I do hope you have a great couple days off. I know what you mean about having one day to get some errands out of the way, and then you are free and clear on that second day. So maybe the secret is two days off, instead of one?

      Let me know how it goes for you! 🙂

  3. Phil permalink
    December 14, 2011 11:28 am

    Head into God’s beautiful outdoors and wet a line. Always clears my head of the clutter.

    • December 14, 2011 8:50 pm

      Me too, Phil. You are the best role model ever for that, the way you make time for yourself to get out into the mountains and rivers every year. I don’t always get around to it, and then regret it later!

  4. December 14, 2011 11:29 am

    Do allow yourself that day but without the expectation that it will be “perfect”; that way, it will unfold as it was meant to and you will be able to respond to it in the fullness of your spirit.

    • December 14, 2011 8:51 pm

      EXCELLENT advice, Maureen. The idea of making the time off too “perfect” can introduce another layer of pressure. I actually thought of that after I wrote it… 🙂

  5. December 14, 2011 12:18 pm

    Well my brother, if you say so.

    I’ve been up to my eyeballs at work and honestly, a day off sounds pretty good. Funny thing is, I’ve been working on tiling my kitchen. So my ‘off time’ has been dedicated to that. But, thank the Lord, that’s done. And Soon, Christmas will be done with work. So, thanks to your encouragement, I am announcing, through the world-wide reach of STC, that I’m taking Dec. 29, just for myself.

    • December 14, 2011 8:52 pm

      All right, David — We’ll be watching and waiting! Have a restful, renewing, joyful day. I know you will.

  6. December 14, 2011 12:57 pm

    this is the perfect ending to day spent in the sun, under a tree in my mother’s garden.

    yes, time is elusive but that is what makes it worthwhile and mysterious and difficult and all those good things…

    how often will your one day be happening brad? is one day enough?

    • December 14, 2011 8:53 pm

      No, I said AT LEAST one day. But I was afraid to write “One day every three months.” Although it should really be one day each month, don’t you think? I will be more intentional about it, and starting with one day is a step in the right direction. Thanks for the encouragement, Claire. Your day in the garden sounds just about right.

  7. December 14, 2011 2:17 pm

    It is quite true that the older you get, the faster time flies by. No matter what the circumstances of any given day, whether chaos or calm, I look to God at the end of the day and say, “Another day done; another day closer to Home.” May God bless you, Bradley, and all your readers with peaceful days, filled with His joy.

  8. December 14, 2011 5:26 pm

    This one really speaks to my heart, Brad. Time seems to be racing by here too. I think I’ll accept this invitation to slow down.

  9. December 14, 2011 7:47 pm

    Hoping you find that peace in whatever circumstance you find yourself …

  10. December 14, 2011 7:47 pm

    forget that. i want cash.

    • December 14, 2011 8:54 pm

      Funny thing, Nance, but my company gives the option to cash out on vacation days rather than using them. I did that a couple times, but forget that – I need the day off! 🙂

    • December 16, 2011 11:22 pm

      I love that Nance! Brutally honest. No other way. 🙂

  11. December 14, 2011 11:18 pm

    The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. So what may seem to our legalistic, accomplishment-driven society as selfish is really just you enjoying the God-given benefits and pleasures of rest.
    The one piece of totally-unasked-for advice that I will give you is to not put too much importance on that day off. I tried to do that one time – have a day off for myself. Then the phone rang (a few times), my wife needed something, this crisis presented itself – and I ended the day about 10 times more frustrated. I look back now and laugh, but I really had my pants in a wad at the time.

    • December 15, 2011 7:06 am

      I AGREE Loren. Add to that the thought of sleeping in just an hour or so…the next thing you know the mother-in-law calls out of the blue and ruins that plan!

      I love the idea, but as several have said, keep expectations low and you win!

  12. December 16, 2011 11:29 pm

    I have this love hate relationship with going into Starbucks. As you know, I’m addicted (hence the love) but I also look at all those relaxed folks around me sitting in jeans and writing poetry and I think I must be doing something wrong! Call it hyper-responsibility or insecurity or whatever. Yes, I need a day off! Thanks for giving me the nudge.

  13. December 19, 2011 2:49 pm

    Living Lectio Divina.

  14. Mark Hylas permalink
    May 21, 2012 7:20 pm

    First time reading this and I cannot tell you how good it felt to hear someone else express the same way that I feel. 🙂 . The only item I can add to this is that you mentioned taking a day off next year like it would just be a single day for the year. I feel if your job can allow for it then doing this once every three months is the ideal remedy for staying sane. Just my opinion. Today is Monday and I took off from work because I was sick and I was more relieved from not working than suffering from this cold. I walked around for a little bit, thought ALLOT to myself and not just like a robot like I normally do at work. Then I started googling why do I feel guilty for missing a day of work even when I was genuinely ill. Your story came up and it felt good to know that we all deserve time away from everything and it is healthy to be selfish once in a while. Thank you Shrinking the Camel and God Bless.

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