To live a full life, you need to recover, relax, and renew. Here is a breakdown of ‘must-have’ time periods for recharging your physical, mental, and emotional batteries.
Relax and Renew Every Year
Take 21 consecutive days once every year (or two) to get away from it all. Go away to another country, the farther away the better. If you live in North America, go to Europe or Asia.
This is a critical rest period that allows you to “step away from the board,” to use the chess players’ lingo. The idea comes from long and arduous chess tournaments, when the players spend 4-6 hours behind the board.
At some point, usually near the endgame, the chess masters decide to take a break – to eat something, smoke a cigarette, or whatever. But the trick that any real chess master will tell you is that for a great chunk of that time, maybe for the entire break, he doesn’t think about the game.
He stops visualizing and calculating and just enjoys his break. When he comes back to the board, it looks fresh and new. And this is when brand new ideas hit the master. He has taken the time to relax and recover, and his mind rewards him with new insight about the position on the board.
Learn from the chess master. Get away from your work and just enjoy your break. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t even check your email, if you can. Tell people that you’re going to the rainforest, and there’s no internet there.
I have found 21 days to be optimal for this once-a-year break. After three weeks, I tend to start missing home. Less than that, and I wish I could stay longer. 21 days works.
Relax and Renew Every Month
Take a long weekend off – 3 days. Make it Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, or whatever sequence you wish. But make sure this is your real time off, not time to catch up on work.
Drive to the mountains, rent a cabin; fish, read, write, do whatever you want. Journaling is a great activity that I love and always do on my vacations, even if it’s just a travelog.
But again, make sure people can’t reach you. Also, this is a great opportunity to be alone. Just to enjoy the silence and reconnect to yourself (or to your ‘self’).
If you can do more than three days – every month – that’s great. But make sure it’s at least three. Two days are just too conventional. To take a weekend off is great, but to add that extra day is to step beyond convention.
Relax and Renew Every Day
Set a limit on your work day. This has been a challenge for me, because with my ADD I tend to stay at my desk relatively late – till about 8pm. It’s because I enjoy my work, but I still force myself to stop at a certain point.
So, between 8pm and 10pm is my time to consciously relax and do what I want. I usually watch a movie or something else in video format.
But make sure to relax every single day. Don’t keep going until you drop and then pick up where you left off the next morning and just go through the cycle again. That leads to burnout.
So, take an hour or two, just by yourself, of with your spouse and children, to sit down and just enjoy the time together. As a family, you could play a board game or even a video game.
But whether you’re by yourself or not, just make sure there is a time period every day when you’re not working, when you’re not exerting any effort. When you just are.
Relax and Renew Every Hour
Yes, every work hour that you put in should be divided into two parts – the 50 minutes of concentrated effort and a 10-minute break.
I never work without my kitchen timer. As I am writing this, my timer is doing its countdown and, when it beeps, which as after 50 minutes of work, I stop. I reset the timer to 10 minutes, and I relax.
I can just close my eyes and breathe. Or even lie down if I feel like it. No work, no distraction, no checking my phone or email. Just conscious relaxation for 10 minutes.
Then, another 50 minutes of work. I could do between 1 and 3 hours like that at a time, depending on how I plan my day and what want to get done.
But relax every hour. You will notice that this is not a waste of time at all; neither is it a distraction. It is simply the kind of rest that your body needs to keep going.
The 50-10 rule will make you more productive, and you won’t be as tired at the end of the day. You will be tired, but not exhausted, and there is a big difference.
“How Will I Find the Time?”
I knew you’d ask. So, my answer is, make it your goal to eventually arrive at this kind of a rhythm of work/renewal.
Once you set this as a goal, begin with your hours. Then progress to your days. Then, try to take 3 days off at the end of a certain month. Just set it as a goal. Soon enough, you’ll be taking 21 days off.
Yes, you can find the time, because you don’t have to find the time. The time is there. It’s available to you. Just make yourself available to it.
Till next time,