Jordan Koschei Digital product designer

Small Sabbaths

The idea of Sabbath — a time set apart for rest and (in the observant believer’s case) worship — is essential to the Christian faith. And it’s not just Christians who believe in the value of restorative, rejuvenative rest — Sabbath is found everywhere, both in other religions and in the secular world (weekends, anybody?).

We humans are wired to need a day off. No matter how much our culture promotes go-go-go, we need some time set aside for rest and contemplation. It’s not just okay to preserve a day for yourself, without thinking of your day job/freelance work/side hustle – it’s necessary.

But I think we need more than just the one “official” Sabbath day per week. Each day needs its own smaller Sabbath — some time to ground ourselves, get lost in our own heads, and clear the board for whatever comes next.

I’ve been trying to be more disciplined about taking time to myself at the beginning of each day. I need true rest, away from high-attention outside inputs — no TV, no podcasts, no smartphone. Just time to be alone, contemplating. Giving my mind space to wander, to mull over old ideas and come up with new ones. To make connections I wouldn’t have made under the dull throbbing influence of the many activity feeds.

I always aim to work from a posture of rest — that is, not rushing and scrambling and feeling on the back-foot, but working diligently with the understanding that my work is not what defines me. But the only way I can hope to do that is by allowing myself time in the presence of things that are energizing, not enervating.

For me, that means some time each morning with no news media (enervating, and depressing). No podcasts (enervating, and a good way to avoid doing your own thinking). No Netflix (if you feel more tired after an hour of watching it, that counts as enervating). Yes to reading, and thinking, and praying. Yes to listening to music. Yes to making something for its own sake, rather than because it’ll get plaudits or likes or shares.

I’m coming to relish these small Sabbaths each day. I’m not yet consistent with them, and sometimes I forget or run out of time. But in a society that’s obsessed with productivity and efficiency and “life hacks” (what an awful phrase), it’s worth taking the time to just be a person.

Do you know what’s gross? There’s probably someone out there who’s going to read this, or a similar article, and think, “Cool! I can use this to be more energized and efficient at work.” But that’s defeating the purpose. Sabbath isn’t designed to be pragmatic. It’s designed to be Sabbath.

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