Back in April I wrote the blog post “Day of Rest” about my intention to take a day off from “things that feel like work” once a week. Since I’m studying Judaism and have joined a synagogue with MJ the logical selection for the day was Saturday.
The following are some take-aways I’ve had since starting this.
It doesn’t work when I’m traveling
When I’m traveling it usually means that my working day is significantly longer than 8 hours when you take into account commuting, socializing and dinners out. I also rarely have access to the solid internet connection I have at home or the computing power there. In all this means I’m stuck with a laptop, a sub-optimal internet connection and limited time for actually working on it. While I do try to plan accordingly, I still highly value any down time I get and often find that moments I can sneak online even on Saturdays to get work done are important. Additionally, it’s quite common for me to be presenting or otherwise engaged in conference activities on the weekends I travel for work.
Sometimes it’s hard to avoid scheduling work on Saturday
I’m a systems administrator, and although I now work on a larger team there are times when we have to schedule work on weekends, sometimes that lands on Saturday. There are also times like in a couple weeks that I’m working to do final prep a workshop with an out of town colleague and our available window for that is between a business trip with return from on Friday and the workshop on Sunday. Local conferences and events sometimes land on Saturdays too.
I had to define for myself what is work and what is not
This was perhaps the hardest thing of all. Jewish teachings have lists and rulings and such that give guidelines, but it didn’t really work for me so I really played it all by ear. My strategy was “if it feels like work I won’t do it” and that seemed to serve me well. I quickly had to put all OpenStack and Ubuntu work into the off-limits category, as much as I enjoy it all, it was work. I tend to stay away from dishes and laundry, and things like cleaning up storage. I will sometimes bank on Saturday just because of logistical limitations, and we do shopping sometimes but I try to avoid things like grocery shopping and lean toward the more fun types of shopping (or at least which takes us somewhere interesting).
There is a lot I want to do in my life that is not work
I live in an amazing city and there are so many things I want to see and do! Saturdays have become my go to day for visiting museums and spending leisurely lunches with MJ. There’s also a lot I want to learn, so I’ve started using Saturday to catch up on reading personal and news blogs, magazines and books. This Saturday I also took some time to play with my electronics kit.
I was a bit worried that my work would suffer if I wasn’t hovering over my keyboard all day to work with those weekend community members, but it turns out that people understand more than I thought they would. After a few months in some of my communities it became accepted that I’m away on Saturdays and will be back in full swing on Sunday to help out. Today I even get messages from colleagues I work with that end with “but look at this tomorrow, I know it’s your day off!”
It gets easier
The first few weeks I did this it was really hard to let go. I made a lot of exceptions (“well I have to do Ubuntu Weekly News prep on Saturday morning”) and doing something as drastic as not checking email all day seemed completely unnecessary (“not all of my email is work”). But as I started cutting back in some areas, it naturally became easier to cut back in others. I never intended to stop checking email and obsessing over social media on Saturdays, but this Saturday I decided to do just that and found a comforting liberation in not checking my phone all the time, and every moment I reached for it I was able to become mindful of what I was doing and keep myself in the physical present instead of checking my phone.
I work a lot because I truly enjoy what I do, but even I needed a break. I’ve noticed that not only do I enjoy my day off, but it brings me back to my work projects energized and excited to get on with work. I also get the satisfaction of having visited a museum for an exhibit I really wanted to see or finally finishing a book I’ve been enjoying because now these things aren’t just scattered among the “more important” work items. I had honestly feared that taking a day off would mean the lost of productivity, but it’s actually had the opposite effect since I’m more productive on the other 6 days and I’m happier and better rested in general.