Some times the very best thing we can do for our work is to not work.
On Saturday, I took the day off in honor of a self-imposed Stop Day. I have only taken a handful of days away from anything related to work since leaving my corporate job and starting up my own business last June. I love my work. It gives me energy and inspires me. I’ve never felt the need or desire to work long hours out of guilt or a belief that working more hours will get me further ahead on some nebulous ladder to the top. I give what a job needs to be done well and starting my own requires a lot of my time to tend to clients, do the work I committed to do, pitch for new business, and research possible future pitches. (See my 3X3X3 article for my system of working.)
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about how stepping away from work helps make us more efficient and creative. Since I am an efficiency hound and constantly trying new ways to boost my creativity, I decided to give it a purposeful whirl.
It was much more difficult than I imagined. Because I do enjoy my work so much, I found myself constantly coming up with new ideas that I could do and people I should connect with. Rather than act on them, I would make a quick note of these for later and then let them go. I put aside any reading that was even remotely related to any work I do. I stayed off my social media channels (for the most part) and didn’t write anything related to assignments I currently have.
After a couple of hours, I did feel a surge of energy and did a free writing exercise whose results even surprised me. A gush of words flowed out on a subject I haven’t thought about in years. I guess they had been trying to break through the surface and saw that they finally had their chance.
By early afternoon, it was time to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. I went to brunch at Lobster Joint with a dear friend and then we took a several hour walk all over lower Manhattan, reveling in the sunshine. I stopped into Crumbs, my favorite cupcake shop, to pick up some goodies for a cocktail party that another friend had spontaneously decided to throw at his apartment that night. I arrived at the party and then stayed many hours later than I had planned.
It was a truly wonderful and relaxing day. And you know what? The sky didn’t fall down and my business didn’t tank just because I took a day off. In fact, despite daylight savings time, I hopped up out of bed and was excited and inspired to get back to my work without the stress of a to-do list. My efficiency was higher. My energy was cranking even without the zip of coffee. I felt really alive.
Stop Day will make a regular appearance on my schedule going forward.