A month ago, I committed myself to testing out a new personal resolution: I would no longer work on Saturdays.
I defined work quite broadly for this purpose. It encompassed anything electronic (e.g. email, Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds) as well as conducting interviews and, of course, writing. And because I'm more of an abstainer than a moderator, I gave these things up for the entire day, not just for a few hours.
I promised that after one month, I'd touch base to let you know how my attempt to celebrate a secular sabbath was going and whether I thought it was really doable. And I'm pleased to report that it was not only doable, it also gave me a huge happiness boost, in ways that I both did and did not expect.
That's not to say it was easy. There was not a Saturday that I wasn't tempted to do at least a bit of work. But there also wasn't a Saturday that I wasn't glad that I had decided not to.
So here are five things I gained from taking Saturdays off:
1. I relaxed. My main goal in taking Saturdays off was to bring a few of my favorite things (cue Julie Andrews) back into my life: specifically, reading The New Yorker and going to yoga. Of those two -- and somewhat surprisingly -- yoga ended up getting relatively more air time than did The New Yorker (which is only surprising because I don't need to leave the house to read The New Yorker.) But I think something about assigning myself Saturday as "yoga day" motivated me to go down to the yoga studio and sign up for a 10-class pass. And once I did that, going to yoga was not just pleasurable...but automatic. And now it's part of my (new and improved!) Saturday routine.
2. I was more focused with my children. If you've ever attended a parenting seminar, one of the first things they'll tell you is that if you really want to have quality time with your kids, you need to stop multi-tasking. Back when I worked full-time -- in an office -- I was actually pretty good about switching off work when I was with the kids. Once I became a part-time, work-from-home parent, however, all that went right out the window. But in the last month or so, I've actually sat down and focused on my kids for hours at a clip without feeling the need to simultaneously (fill in the blank): do dishes/check my email/scan the newspaper/etc.
One day, my son and I actually took out the chemistry set that he'd gotten for Hanukkah (which, to be honest, I'd sort of filed away mentally under "great educational gift that will probably never see the light of day" ), and -- gasp -- actually used it. And the more I focused on the kids and didn't try to get 12 other things done simultaneously, the more relaxed I was with them.
3. I re-connected with old friends. One of the big changes that has come with taking Saturdays off is that I'm now back in touch with old friends. Close female friendships are a big predictor of long-term survival and success. Back when I was still living in the States, I used to call my friends during my daily 45 minute commute home from work in the car. (I know, I know. I could probably be arrested for this now.) But it was a reliable, daily interval when I knew that I could make those calls. Now that I don't commute, I've lost that window. Compound that with a time change that's anywhere from five to eight hours, and over time, I just started calling my friends less and less. Until now. Now that I've given myself leave not to use spare time on Saturdays to jump on the computer, I can usually find 30 minutes somewhere in the day to call a friend back in America. And it's been really great to re-connect.
4. I went shopping. For myself. Yes, I realize that this isn't such a great admission for most people, but I am not a natural shopper. And so, even when I desperately need something, a pair of new boots, perhaps ...a bra... heck, even some new socks -- I will always opt to get some work done, rather than go out and shop. No more. Because I've now given myself permission to shop on Saturdays. In the past month, I've purchased some running shoes, a new jacket, some earrings, even a colorful scarf to brighten up this dreary London winter.
5. I'm more productive. Finally, taking Saturdays off has also helped my productivity. I would often drag myself to the computer on Saturday -- not really wanting to wade through my inbox but feeling like I ought to "because I had the time." Now, in contrast, I think about Saturdays as "my time" -- a chance to re-charge those proverbial batteries. And then, when I do sit down on Sunday morning to tackle that cluttered in-box, I actually have more energy.
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