A fellow business owner and I meet once a week to talk shop and keep each other accountable for goals. It’s a great habit, and it’s encouraged us both to push ourselves in ways that we didn’t think we’d be able to achieve before. One day, Ellen (owner of Mann-Handled Vintage) told me once that she wanted to take a “Technology Sabbath,” and I said, “Hey, that’s a great idea…for you. Let me know how that works out.” After all, as a video game journalist, I’m constantly plugged in; the idea of taking a day away from technology just wasn’t appealing. In a way, it still isn’t appealing. Even so, a few weeks back we both agreed to take 24 hours away from tech on October 19th. I don’t know what I was thinking, but the time is fast approaching. And, as much as I’m dreading it, I’m looking forward to it, too.
Sabbath’s aren’t unfamiliar concepts to me; I was raised Seventh-Day Adventist, a particular denomination that still adheres to the concept of Sabbath-keeping in a similar manner as the Jews. But as a child, generally Sabbaths were something to dread: a sundown-to-sundown period where I became incapable of hanging out with friends, going to parties, playing sports, or much of anything outside of going to church and waiting for the sun to set on Saturday night. Of course, these were the issues of a child who was unfamiliar with what a real week of work involved, one who didn’t really understand the value of a “mental health day” because most days were relatively care/stress free. I was lucky to not have to work so hard during the week that the end of the week felt like a blessing. Most adults, on the other hand, can understand the value of a day off.
I feel like I’ve been working fairly hard since getting back into writing for HTML and launching Intelligame, and I’ve played through the pain on more than a couple of occasions. It takes dedication and consistency to create habits, but I’m noticing that I’m creating both some bad habits alongside the good ones. I’m writing regularly and becoming more focused when I finally open my webpage and start on the keys, but that start time generally drifts somewhere past 11pm. Most nights I’m not in bed before 3 or 4 in the morning, and I’m pretty terrible at sleeping past around 10, making me pretty sleep-deprived. I also don’t get outside as much as I’d like since I prefer early morning walks over afternoon ones (I grow increasingly anti-social in my age), and my eating habits are…well, they’re not great. It’s one thing to recognize a problem, but it’s something entirely different to do something about it.
The benefit of breaking a routine is that it forces change, forces adaptation. Breaking routine keeps the mind and the muscles fresh, ready for new situations even if they’re just going to be exposed to the old ones again. Breaking routine also gives the constantly-used muscles a chance to breathe and regain their energy, whether they’re mental muscles or physical ones.
Ellen and I haven’t worked out concrete rules about how we’re going to adhere to our 24-hour electronic reprieves. There are some things that are definitely out the window: TVs, computers, gaming (I’m not thrilled about this one, of course), cell phones for much other than phone calls. There’s some gray area we haven’t locked down: can we play music through an electronic device? I’m going to try to avoid it, though I don’t know what she’ll choose. It’s not about becoming single-day Luddites; it’s about taking a day to minimize distractions and instantaneous input, to gain clarity. A day to rest the mind, or rather, part of the mind.
Perhaps I’m bad at this because I can’t help thinking of the day in terms of how it’ll allow me to focus on work of a different kind: open brainstorming while going for a walk, or sketching notes for a comic book project, that kind of thing. But even doing that would be a huge rest, a break from my ever-growing inbox backlog and increasing game review pile. Sure, all that work will be there when I come back on Tuesday, but for 24 hours I can say that I’m not supposed to be taking care of those problems.
There’s likely a reason that the ancient Jews adhered to Sabbath-keeping, a reason that we’re all too conscious of in the modern era: we really don’t want to stop working. As tired as we may be, as much as we may complain about how we “really just want a day off,” we can’t deal with the idea of spending time away from the work that we feel defines a pretty significant part of ourselves. Will the business really fall apart if you step away for a day? Will the stocks plummet? Will your number one client abandon you because you weren’t at your email at 7pm? Probably not, but it feels like they will. Work makes us feel important, significant, and sometimes the fear of eternal punishment is necessary to get us to step away from our desks. It shouldn’t require that to convince us to take care of ourselves and allow some time to recharge.
So, come Monday, you’ll see a post from me pop up on the internet because I’ll have written it the day before; I’ll be away from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and the entirety of the Internet for 24 hours. I’m going to read, I’m going to take a walk of reasonable length and get coffee (weather permitting), I’m going to get groceries, and I’m going to sit at a table sorting cards and making decks for an old card game for possibly hours. Maybe I’ll even nap. The possibilities are endless.
See you on the other side.