On Working Less

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Last week, my friend Andrew Stone wrote a great article over at Church Tech Leaders. Titled Balancing the Boundary, he discussed his journey of reigning in the need/desire of working too much. It’s a well written article and you should go read it. I agree completely with what he said. Go read it. It’s cool, we’ll wait.

My Name is Mike and I’m a Workaholic

The purpose of this article is not to rehash what Andrew said, but to add my thoughts to the topic. He and I have been on parallel journeys in a sense (we even worked some of the same gigs in the late ‘90s; we just didn’t know each other back then), and I too have struggled with working too much. 

I would like to blame my propensity for working to much on the church. But that would be unfair. The truth is, I’ve been working hard since high school. By the time I was in college, I was taking a full load, working 35-40 hours a week for my department (though they only required 15), spending 20 hours a week at the grocery store and a few nights a month at an ambulance squad. I didn’t sleep much those years. 

The Pattern Continues

After college, there was a brief period of maybe a year when I actually had weekends. But then I started doing youth ministry at my church and again I was working, in one form or another, seven days a week. After I got married and we bought a house, I was working all week and remodeling on the weekends. And serving at church. Then I started a business. And I worked harder. 

As I look back on my life, I see a consistent pattern of wanting to be productive all the time. I’ve been digging into the reasons for this, and some of what I’ve found tends to be common among technical artists. 

We Get The Job Done. No. Matter. What.

Most TDs I know are guys who get it done. We take great ownership of any project that is assigned to us and figure out how to make it happen, regardless of the personal cost. Sometimes this is a good thing. But a lot of the time, it can become a real problem. 

We can find ourselves in a place where all we do is work. And when we’re not at work, we’re thinking about work. And if we get bored, we work from home. We never stop. Having done this for a good 20+ years, I’ve noticed something.

I’m kinda tired.

Not tired like, “Oh, I only got 6 hours of sleep last night” tired. I mean tired. Tired like given the choice between going to see one of my favorite bands and taking a nap, I’d choose the nap. Going to a conference or just chilling at home? I’ll stay home. That kind of tired.

This is My Fault, so I Need to Fix it

As Andrew stated, no one at my church (current or previous) asked me to work as much as I did. Bringing work home from my own company was my own choice. Choosing to work on my days off was up to me. So I can fix this. And, truth be told, I am fixing it.

But it feels sort of weird. For the last year or so, I’ve been working hard (which seems ironic to say it that way) at making sure I take at least 24 hours in a row to just sort of chill out. I heard Nancy Beech talk at Gurus a few years back saying we need a Sabbath, and while it doesn’t need to be a traditional day, it should be 24 hours. So my Sabbath tends to run from about 2 PM Sunday until 2 PM Monday. During that time, I really try to not be very productive. Still, it’s weird.

The other day, I spent most of Monday morning in my PJs, reading and playing video games. I normally don’t play video games, but I’ve found it’s rather fun once in a while. It’s amazing how refreshing it is to not have to produce something, just for a while.

By taking time out just to be, my batteries are recharged and I can get back to work with renewed energy and focus. 

I Give You Permission

Sometimes, we feel we need permission to take a day off. So, here you go. I give you permission. Take your day off. Do something completely non tech related. Go for a hike. Watch a movie. Read a book. Lay on the couch and play Real Racing 3 on you iPad (wait, am I projecting?). Do what you want to do. And enjoy it. It will feel weird at first. But go with it. Learn to embrace the goodness of not having to produce something. 

Relax and enjoy. If you’re younger than I am, and there is a fair chance you are, you won’t get to the point where you’re really tired because you will have built rest into the rhythm of your life. Start now. You’ll be a lot better off for it when you reach “old guy” status like me.

Roland