Permission to Recover... Granted!

03/17/2015 08:33 am ET | Updated May 17, 2015


I don't know about you, but I grew up with the image of the hard-working career person as someone who only sleeps five hours a night, starts work at 5 in the morning, and continues late into the evening--someone who's always working, even during "recreational" time: golfing, fishing, socializing at the bar, attending conferences. It seemed like a contest of who could have the most packed schedule, my favorite example being going to a trade show and never actually seeing the show because back-to-back meetings were scheduled for the entire time.

So, for a long time I felt a little bit like a failure. I need at least eight hours of sleep, preferably nine. And with so many kids for so many years, I guiltily carved out time for them (while often keeping one eye on my computer or, more recently, my phone). And if I went to a trade show, I would actually walk the floor, aisle by aisle. And if I golfed (which I do a bit) or fished (which I enjoy), I'd do it either alone or with my kids. Honestly, the last thing I want to do when I am out on a golf course or in a fishing boat is talk about work, or "network."

Sometimes, when I'm being cynical, I think our culture's obsession with work is really a fear of being alone--fear of the loneliness that comes from not, at every moment, being connected to someone else. That's what I think when I walk down a city street and see people on their phones.

Sometimes, when I'm thinking historically, I realize that we are still products of our puritanical, Calvinistic suffer-and-work-or-else-you-are-worthless roots.

Regardless of where it comes from or why we all suffer a little bit from our ambitiousness, I do think things are changing. But like all things that change, we have to have the courage to change ourselves and to talk about it with others. So here I go:

It's OK to not be busy all the time! (She says as she writes a blog on her day "off").

It's OK and, in fact, necessary to build time into your schedule and your life to recover. Everyone has his or her own rhythm, and it's your job to find what works best for you. It's as much about turning off the voices in your head that call you a slacker for chillaxing as it is about turning off your phone on a weekend.

Any good athlete knows you can't perform your best without managing your body's rhythms of rest and recovery after times of exertion. It's the same for all the rest of us worker bees.

But here is what I really want to say: It's in those resting moments that we grow the most, that we learn the most, and that we actually become the most valuable to others and our work. It's why all the best ideas happen in the shower--because we're not really thinking, we're feeling, being, and just enjoying the experience of hot water cleansing our skin.

I can't tell you how many times I have seen those "workaholics" who never step outside of their work mode actually make themselves less productive/useful because they lose touch with what's really happening with the rest of the world. I've often joked that shopping is "market research," but it's true. When you live a full life and open yourself up to new experiences and give yourself permission to recover and relax, everything and everyone benefits.

So take your vacation days. Take your weekends off. Let yourself be bored. Walk somewhere without talking to anyone. Go fishing. Play golf alone. Pay attention to everything and nothing. Don't give a sh*# about what anyone else thinks. Think for yourself. Refuse to suffer unnecessarily. You don't need my permission. You don't need anyone else's permission. Only you can give yourself permission to recover.

But if you are waiting for permission from someone else, consider it granted!

For more from Maria Rodale, visit