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How to Take a Day Off

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I don’t think my father took days off. He must have, but I don’t think I ever witnessed it. I cannot picture him getting up and doing anything besides some kind of work.

When I would drag myself to the couch at 8am on a Saturday to watch cartoons, he was apparently in the middle of his day, already having built or fixed something.

He would permit himself to read books or watch TV later in the day. But I think the idea of taking a proper day off — where he didn’t build, organize, or otherwise try to advance his lot in life at all — was kind of foreign to him.

I don’t have half the work ethic he did, but recently I noticed I do the same thing: I see my weekends, my days “off,” as additional space for getting a bit more done, even if it’s only the kinds of work I enjoy.

A few weeks ago I found myself taking a true Day Off, in which I deliberately spent the day doing things that have absolutely nothing to do with improving, or even maintaining, my position in life. I had decided spontaneously the evening before: no work, no goals, no attempt to gain anything.

I ended up spending a lot of time outside, and visiting with four separate groups of loved ones, never rushing between them and never thinking much, at any point, about the rest of the day. I spent the morning with my girlfriend, lunch with a friend, the afternoon out walking with my mother, dinner with my sister’s family, and the evening with a book.

I went to bed feeling intensely grateful that my lot in life was such that I could have a day like that, and I slept very well.

If that wasn’t a perfect day then there are none. The biggest difference between that day and a normal weekend day, I realize now, was that I paid little attention to the advance of time. I suspended all aspirations to shaping the future. The only goal was to enjoy the setting and characters of every moment I found myself in, which is refreshingly easy when you’re not trying to get anywhere else.

The next day I went back to work, but I didn’t feel my usual resistance to it, and I got a lot done. The unhurried quality of my Proper Day Off seemed to carry into the following workday. It gave me a distinct feeling of being fine where I was, of not needing to be past what I was currently working on.

The Lost Art of the Day Off

It now seems absurd to let a week go by without a Proper Day Off, and I have quickly become an ambassador for the mostly-lost idea of protecting an entire day from one’s own toil. A lot of us never actually do, whether or not we realize it. We habitually give ourselves jobs on the weekend, and if we accidentally get nothing done, we feel guilty.

Stepping deliberately out of “getting ahead” mode reminds you that you already are “ahead” in all sorts of ways. What’s the point of getting ahead if we never have the experience of being ahead?

Before going on we should clarify what a Proper Day Off actually is. A day off what exactly?

It’s a day off of all the things we do for money, acclaim, position, or out of social obligation; off of treating time like a commodity to be invested or traded for future benefits.

A Proper Day Off isn’t an invitation for laziness, or the shirking of responsibilities. In fact, a Proper Day Off is a day for exploring a certain other class of responsibilities: being a relaxed and present friend, parent, son or daughter, or stranger.

It’s also a time for being a grateful member of civilization. A Proper Day Off is particularly suited to experiencing the highlights of human development: enjoying art, music and public spaces, particularly if we spend the other six days mostly butting heads with the worst parts: inhuman corporations, corrupt governments, vapid celebrity culture, and a news media that delivers only bad news.

6 Principles of a Proper Day Off

A few general rules, to keep your Day Off uncompromised:

1) No work, no “getting ahead”

If getting ahead has any use, it’s so that you can be ahead. A Proper Day Off is reserved for this experience of being ahead — appreciating the fruits of your labor (and that of others) — rather than for laboring even more.

Essentially this means, “Today, do things for now, not for later.” That means no errands, no utilitarian purchases, and definitely no major purchases. In fact, what are you doing in Home Depot at all? Go to the park. And although recreational shopping is a favorite pastime for many people, it is completely inappropriate on a Proper Day Off. Consumer shopping has too many emotional ties to the working world. Refraining from “getting ahead” doesn’t mean a Day Off is best spent getting needlessly behind, by liquidating your hours of labor (and therefore your precious time on this earth) for a low-brow shopper’s high.

Visiting an antique shop, or a farmers market, or a garage sale, is quite suitable for a Day Off — visiting a department store, or (God forbid) a Wal-Mart, is not. 

2) Don’t spend the day at home

Although a case can be made for spending the odd day in your pyjamas watching old movies, it makes for a poor Proper Day Off — it’s too predictable and familiar, and most of us are going to feel regret creep into a day like that by late afternoon.

Generally most of a Proper Day Off will happen outside your home. It would be a shame not to spend a least a bit of it in a park, any time of year, even if you’re just passing through it to meet someone.

Try not to spend much of it in your car either. Make use of your feet, or your bike if possible. Cars fill us with the sensation of needing to be somewhere else.

3) Involve loved ones

Either take a companion with you on your Proper Day Off, or plan a visit or two. Maybe you had no takers for your museum visit in the morning, but you could certainly find someone to meet you for lunch or coffee at some point.

A well-tempered companion is best, though, even just for part of the day — a partner, a friend, or an offspring. Other people keep us from creeping away to “later” in our minds, and help us appreciate what we might not have noticed alone.

After all, quality time with loved ones is just about the best way a person can spend their time in this life. It’s what we miss when we’re away, what we would dream about in prison, and what we will still find important once we near our deathbeds.

4) Plan loosely, but don’t make an itinerary

It’s only practical to have a mental list of places you might go. Freedom requires decisiveness. Know beforehand what area of town to head to, where to stop first, whether to go to the flea market or the waterfront.

It is also helpful to figure out which friends and loved ones you’ll be meeting. Planning lunch ahead is perfectly reasonable, or you could just meet up and wander until you find a good spot. Maybe you want to pack a picnic.

One other general rule: Do more than one thing. An entire day spent at the convention center will hardly give you the freewheeling spirit of a Proper Day Off. Get an earlyish start, so that the day has room for variety, but don’t look at the clock much.

Gravitate towards free or inexpensive activities. Money, for most of us, is closely related to time and work, two spheres of concern we want to leave alone for the day.

5) Minimize electronic device usage

…or at least only use them only for getting around (i.e. maps) or co-ordinating meetings with your friends. We get more than enough screen time the rest of the week.

Being constantly connected to news and email gives us an unhealthy hyper-awareness of time, which is exactly what we’re taking a break from on a Proper Day Off. We often use the clock evaluate “how we’re doing” on a given day. On a Proper Day Off, only check the clock when necessary for utilitarian purposes. And remember: whatever time it is, it’s okay.

Don’t be too much of a luddite though. You don’t need to make it into anti-technology day. But if passive electronic entertainment (i.e. Movies or TV) is going to be a part of it, make it the last thing you do, and if you can, do it with someone else.

6) Enjoy the fruits of civilization

We become so cynical about the ills of civilization that we take its virtues for granted. For all our complaints, the truth is we live surrounded by wonderful amenities and cultural institutions, many of which exist solely for human enjoyment and well-being. A Proper Day Off is a perfect time to make use of your community’s parks, museums, galleries, markets, public spaces, performance venues and heritage buildings.

Consult a local events calendar to see what’s happening. If you live in a city of any size, you might be surprised at how much is going on every day — free music, art exhibitions, book and poetry readings, gatherings, meetups, contests and tastings.

We work so that we can improve the settings in which we live our lives, both the public and private kind. So let’s not forget to enjoy these settings while we have them, and put the working part aside entirely while we do.

***

Photo by Joe del Tufo
sally March 22, 2015 at 11:48 pm

Hi David,
Thank you for this, I think you’re right that a Proper Day Off is a rare thing for many of us.

Last year I made a commitment that every weekend I would do at least One Fun Thing. I had been wasting too many weekends with routine housework, study and child transport. Adding at least One Fun Thing each weekend has been great for the quality of my weekends and helps me make sure they don’t slip by without fun.

I’m not sure I’m in a position to have a Proper Day Off every week, but I really should be able to manage one monthly. Easter is coming up and I have at least two Proper Days Off available then, when I will bear your advice in mind :)

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:39 am

You can scale things to match your current obligations — Proper Afternoon Off, or even an evening. But I think if we really can’t manage a single day without work a week then it speaks to something out of whack, with our culture or with our personal schedules, or maybe both.

thejuntotimes March 23, 2015 at 2:40 am

Nice principles. I think one day off in every seven is probably a fairly healthy amount. To be honest, on my days off I like to spend the first half of the day chilling in pajamas meditating and getting a stellar home made breakfast, before heading out to meet a friend for a walk, or to head to the library / bookshop.

Great point on ‘Enjoy the Fruits of Civilisation’. I originally moved to the city I live in because of these Fruits but all too often forget to enjoy them.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:45 am

I have been doing more “tourist in my own town” things, and I think that kind of mentality is necessary for making full use of local amenities. We tend to feel like we’ve seen it all, and because of that feeling we never bother to see the sights like a tourist might.

Anne March 23, 2015 at 3:21 am

Great article. Even God rested on the 7th day (: One of the challenges of retirement has been differentiating the days : it’s easy to fall into doing a similar mix of chores and other tasks every day. Good point about getting away from home. I’d never articulated that, but it does help. If I stay at home on my “free” days I’m more likely to waste time surfing online or be too aware of tasks to be done. So today is afternoon tea with a friend and a cinema relay of a production of “Hamlet”, and on Friday, London (England, not Ontario!) for the day to see an exhibition and go to a lecture (and 4 hours of quality reading time on the train to and from). Yay!

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:47 am

Sounds lovely! Tea and Shakespeare!

Greg March 23, 2015 at 3:23 am

You are describing, in part, the idea behind the Jewish Shabbat.
AJ Heschel wrote a book called “The Sabbath” in which he talks about that day, not one of following rules and constraints, but one of pushing the outside world out of the picture for a day, nothing is built, nothing is constructed, it is just a time to live.

It is a short, good book to read: http://www.amazon.com/The-Sabbath-Abraham-Joshua-Heschel/dp/0374529752

kiwano March 23, 2015 at 7:57 am

…and the Christians, in addition to shifting it forward by a day, came up with the brilliant refinement of getting drunk first thing in the morning (though many sects have completely abandoned this practice, and the rest have scaled it back–except perhaps the Rastafarians, though they’ve changed their poison). An inebriant that is believed by its user to impair their ability for work can be a remarkable aid for taking a proper day off.

I certainly don’t want to suggest that you need to get f—ed up in order to enjoy a day off, but if you’re wound tightly enough that you can’t take a day off without assistance, there’s some value to be had in being able to say to yourself “I can’t work on that project right now, I’m too drunk/high to do an acceptable job” and bring yourself back to a place for enjoyment.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:50 am

Those Christians are so clever!

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:49 am

There are a lot of religious traditions that we could learn a lot from, and the Sabbath is a good one. Alain de Botton’s Religion for Atheists (in the sidebar) explores a lot of them.

Sandra Pawula March 23, 2015 at 3:30 am

What perfect timing as I am planning to take a few proper days off. I would not have thought of #2 as I enjoy being at home. But then one must deal with the possible temptations there and as you suggest the possibility of regret.

It sounds like you had a lovely time! I’m glad you’re the new advocate for proper days off!

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:52 am

I suppose it depends how you tend to use your time at home, but I think an important part of the day off is to get away from the familiar, at least a bit. Of course, I work from home, so my home is a little too familiar sometimes.

Mike March 23, 2015 at 4:02 am

Hi David – what is your view on taking a sick day from work when not sick? Does this fit with your view of taking a day off? Is it an act of bad faith to pull a “sickie”? Or is it entirely legitimate to take a sick day every now and then when you are feeling tired and need a day of rest?

I’m battling with this at the moment. I am utterly exhausted from 2 weeks of training, which involved needing to study at the library at nights. This meant less time spent with my 9 month old son. I want to steal one day this week from my employer so I can spend time with my boy, and take some time to recover from study before I go back to work. Is this defensible?

Mike.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:58 am

I think it is totally legitimate to take a day off because of general run-down-ness, particularly if your employer is dominating your off-hours too. The problem is that your employer might not agree that it’s a good reason, which means you have to be deceptive and make a sick-voice on the phone, which is never fun. I always felt so guilty when I called in sick, even though almost always really was sick.

Cascade March 23, 2015 at 5:41 am

I never realized I needed this. Thanks.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 8:58 am

Enjoy your day.

BrownVagabonder March 23, 2015 at 6:18 am

My father is the same as yours – he has never taken a proper day off. He had a quadruple-bypass surgery a few months ago and a week after the surgery he was already out of bed, doing paperwork, calling people, and working. He loves it. He loves being active. For him, inactivity would be akin to death. In order to ensure that I have a bit of balance in my life, I meditate, do yoga, and journal, but these are all activities as well. Just slower, more mindful activities. I have been taught that to take time off is to be lazy – I don’t think I know how to take a proper day off. Thanks for the six points – I am going to use these points this weekend to take at least one proper day off. :)

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:08 am

A lot of us are descendants of the Protestant work ethic and were taught, explicitly or implicitly, that idleness leaves you vulnerable to the Devil’s influence, and so work is the only salvation. Even those who don’t believe in the religious teaching may still grow up thinking there is something shameful or harmful about time spent in leisure or otherwise not working. This has to be really stressful on our systems, always being chased into action by our guilt or fear. I guess part of a Proper Day Off is taking a stand against that fear, proving to ourselves that we won’t die if we don’t work.

thisbliss April 1, 2015 at 2:22 pm

Interesting. This must tie into the garden of eden teaching – humans being forced to toil to meet needs not necessary in the present moment. I cant understand why in this day and age we still have this hangover. We are sleepwalking through history submerged in this dream (nightmare?) of progress. Sure early man had to work hard to eek out a living but we dont nowadays. Just consider the amount of leisure time animals take for themselves! Its like ever since we acquired language and the ability of knowledge we have gone hell for leather in order to ‘get ahead’ as you say and return to that animal leisure state of being. But we’re now so far ahead we’ve forgotten what we’re striving for, forgotten to revert back to that natural state of being. Great article btw. Thanks

Mrs. Frugalwoods March 23, 2015 at 6:40 am

I am definitely guilty of not taking my weekends “off.” I’m usually running errands and working down my to-do list with great fervor. But, I’ve at least started taking longer, more leisurely breaks on the weekends for walks, hikes, books, etc. There’s so much to get done every week, but, if I front-load my chores, I can then enjoy more unstructured time on the weekends.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:12 am

And I didn’t quite argue this, but I think dedicated time off leads to us getting more done overall. My workdays are more productive when I have been totally away from not just my work but the whole feeling of needing to be productive, even for a day.

Vilx- March 23, 2015 at 6:53 am

Arghh… why does it always seem that someone else’s problems are preferable to one’s own? :D Do you have an article about that, David?

For me, taking a day off is easy. It’s the days “on” which are hard to do. :P

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:15 am

Yes: http://www.raptitude.com/2013/07/other-people-see-your-problems-more-clearly-than-you-do/

I think it’s important to clarify that procrastinators aren’t necessarily on the other end of this problem. I am a procrastinator, and I have trouble getting solid workdays in. In fact that’s part of the reason I let my work spill into the weekends. Days taken “off” out of a reluctance to work aren’t Proper Days Off, because the nag of needing to get things done is still present.

Timothy March 23, 2015 at 8:07 am

Great piece but almost amusing that this seems to be a “new idea” just stumbled upon. I suppose for those of us who still attend church in this post-Christian country, this is old news and sage advice from the ancients, but I guess this may seem new and novel to someone not practicing any sort of religion. Taking a day off from one’s own toil has been around at least 5000+ years.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:17 am

Yes, I thought the reference to the Sabbath was pretty obvious — that’s why I called it the “the mostly-lost idea of protecting an entire day from one’s own toil.” It isn’t widely observed anymore, even among practicing Christians.

Free to Pursue March 23, 2015 at 8:45 am

Sounds like you are (re?)discovering your personal sabbath (per Greg, Kiwano and Timothy’s comments above). Another aspect of Religion for Atheists perhaps?

Unfortunately for us, consumerism is our new religion (the perpetual acquire the means to acquire an identity cycle). In this new religion, proper days off are a sin to be avoided. The consequences could be the loss of status and ultimately the loss of self. We are what we do and what we buy. If we’re not at work, we need to be buying the things we don’t have the time to buy on “work days”.

Back to the post: It reads as though you have a wonderful day off. That’s lovely. And there will be many more by the looks of it.

My husband and I had a discussion around this topic recently. Bottom line: I told him your post is officially “required reading”.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:23 am

The strange thing is that the Protestant Work Ethic has long been a driving force behind American industriousness, and has helped to undermine the religious idea of taking time off of toil.

We do indeed tend to associate time off with recreational spending, which is essentially like undoing our work. It only ties us further to the necessity of perpetual work. That’s why I’m a big advocate of the free and inexpensive activities.

Bonnie James March 23, 2015 at 8:51 am

Well done! I don’t equate this with religious day of the week as that comes with a schedule. So that is part of the week. A proper day off is something we give ourselves way to seldom. Especially since I have a home office. I do it very well when we are at our summer place where I just sit and look at the water and clouds. Need to do it here more often the rest of the year.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:27 am

As a fellow home-officer-worker, I find the “getting out of the house” part extremely important. Changing scenery in some way, at any rate, is good for our minds.

Matt March 23, 2015 at 8:51 am

God himself rested on the seventh day. I’ve always found that when I follow his guidance in that regard and do the same for myself, I have a much more productive week.

David Cain March 23, 2015 at 9:27 am

It’s good advice, whether we’re omnipotent or not!

Seo March 23, 2015 at 11:22 am

One of the things that stuck out at me reading the Dalai Lama’s autobiography was his regret that he could not take more Proper Days off. More specifically, he wanted more retreats, but I think the concepts are quite similar. I’m not particularly religious but I do think there is a lot of value in getting away from daily life for a sustained period of time. Taking one day out each week would definitely be a place for me to start!

Although I use a majority of my weekend to play catch-up with the work week, I make sure to include one Thing That Makes Me Think. It’s a bit like memento mori (and often times it is), but it’s oriented towards a useful thought for the upcoming week.

Brandon Curtis March 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm

This is a tough one. I have a hard time deciding whether building, coordinating, organizing, teaching, and learning have *become* my leisure or *displaced* it. Either way, I do motivate myself by framing just about everything as ‘productive/getting ahead’. I enjoy giving my mind the opportunity to wander while cycling or hiking or riding mass transit, but a big part of the enjoyability is the flood of ideas that come when I’m not focusing on anything in particular (and I always have a pocket full of notecards ready to copy them down).

I work hard because I want to improve the standing of myself and the people I care about, so that we have more time and attention available for the pursuits that really matter: sustainability, education, advocacy and outreach, science and innovation, community building. I’ve used this mission to justify my single-mindedness for many years, but it’s a red flag when I read something like this and think “oh, this isn’t about me—this applies to someone else.”

Ludmila March 23, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for sharing this! For me, Weekends have been so quickly and by the time you realize what´s going on, it´s already monday morning.
It´s so difficult not to get involved with house works, cleaning, laundry,
grocery shopping etc.
Should get out as soon as I wake up on a saturday morning.
Love your articles!

Samuel March 23, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Another great piece. My wife and I took a Year Off last year. I sat down to do the math for most folks taking 3 weeks off a year from their jobs (which was me until I quit), they’ll have to work over 17 years to have as much time off as I just had.. mind blown!

As someone who works from home now though I find the concept of a day off to be incredibly important, but actually more more difficult than when I was at work. I felt like the trade I had at work was that I’d give them 5 days, and take two for myself. Now I’m trying to make that deal with myself (even just for one day off), but as my own boss sometimes I can be harder than my old company!

Tara Schiller March 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm

I love this post. There’s something delicious about taking a day off to indulge in what life has to offer. It’s funny, but last night my 3 year old watched an episode of Sesame Street, and the characters were all sitting on the steps outside their apartment, singing songs together at night, and I thought, “We don’t do that anymore. We don’t just sit and visit with neighbors.” And I found myself suddenly realizing how disconnected we are from each other.

Thanks for sharing this today.

Daniel Speer March 23, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Excellent read!

Trevor March 23, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Now that you have lived life both in and out of the 9-5 grind, would you still recommend a weekly day off for someone who spends their free time working on something that might eventually free them from said grind?

I’ve recently made a serious push to devoting time to my various passion projects, which I hope will someday grant me the freedom to choose how I spend my week (not working for someone else). Doing so, however, has required me to adopt a rigorous schedule so I can ensure that I have time every day to work on the things I actually want to do. Obviously, the complete freedom of the weekend allows me to get the most work in and make the most progress. I’ve considered giving myself a total day off, but I do fear giving up a large portion of my weekend that could be “invested” into this freedom project of mine.

David Cain March 24, 2015 at 8:45 am

I’m not sure… when I had a full-time job I was always working on my blog on the weekends, because there wasn’t much extra time to write.

It really depends on your situation — I found the grind so deadening and self-defeating that I wanted to get away from it as quickly as possible. But I think proper days off still would have been manageable if I was smart about it. I did have plenty of days where I got nothing done, it just wasn’t intentional. I think I would have gotten more out of them (and more productivity out of my non-days off) if I had made them deliberate proper days off.

Trevor March 24, 2015 at 11:31 am

Thanks, David. I do have those unintentional days “off”, in which I don’t get much done, but I’m also not relaxed. I guess I’m overdue for a proper day off.

I’ve recently realized that I’ve forgotten how to completely relax and let everything go. Whenever I consider something like a proper day off, I’m somehow convinced its the voice of Resistance or laziness or something, and that I’m just making an excuse to not do work. I’ve had big procrastination and motivation issues in the past and want to avoid slipping back into that kind of mentality.

Add to all this my desire to pull myself out of the grind and the awareness of the fleeting nature of time, and suddenly it’s a madhouse in my head!

Tim March 23, 2015 at 5:01 pm

Thanks for your post David, this is an excellent piece of advice. I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and you have made me have an ‘Aha moment’.

The past year I have really improved my ability to tackle errands and activities that I feel I should do to improve my position by keeping a master list (all personal, no work items). This has been really effective for me at getting things done.

I head into each weekend with the aim of clearing my list, using both days but taking irregular times outs for activities such as spending time with my girlfriend, going for a walk or partaking in a sport.

I get addicted to crossing items of my list and the idea that my list is all clear by the end of the weekend and then I can truly mentally have some relaxing time. However the list is never clear as I keep adding to it or its too large. Also only about 10% of my list is urgent, so there isn’t even a need for me to keep challenging myself to clear it each weekend. Then I come to Sunday night, feeling both irritated that my list is not fully clear and that I have not taken enough time off.

So I have figured by your post that I need to get rid of this mindset of clearing my list and to accept its near impossible. So this weekend I am going to allocate one day for tackling errands and the other day for time off. I also strongly agree with spending time outdoors etc on the day off, I feel it really does clear your head.

Cheers

David Cain March 24, 2015 at 8:46 am

That sounds like a good compromise. And you might find that the day off makes you get more done on your days “on.”

Elisa Winter March 23, 2015 at 6:37 pm

You almost lost me at, “… a proper day off isn’t an invitation to laziness…” Listen, love, sometimes a proper day off MUST be an invitation to laziness. Must. It must be quiet, slow and lazy, and have naps, and have lying on the carpeting in front of the fireplace and staring at the flames for a good long while. Having bowls of cereal that are not washed until tomorrow for meals. Or meal. Do you know how long it took me to be able to be okay with this? Let’s just say long. I have no guilt about my lazy days now. To be sure, there are not too many of them, but I don’t have to be sick in bed to have one anymore. Quiet, slow, lazy, nappy days are the best days. For me, anyway.

David Cain March 24, 2015 at 8:53 am

I guess it depends on your relationship to laziness, and your history with it. If you had always been type A and had trouble letting things slide a bit, then allowing yourself to be lazy sometimes is probably a welcome improvement.

Many of us are the other way. I have spent far too much time letting things slide, letting dishes and to-do’s pile up, and I don’t need to experience any more of that. I am a level 50 expert at being idle :)

Elisa Winter March 25, 2015 at 5:46 am

Ah! So you’re not a mother! And you’re not married to a Type A. I don’t even know what type I am any more after 18 years of marriage to a Type A, 14 years of motherhood (how does anyone ever have more than one child!?) to a Type A child. The MOTHER Proper Day off is a bit of a different beast. Let’s explore that one some day… I can help write that one. I can say that our Family Proper Day off is going to the Metropolitan Opera this coming Saturday afternoon. Blessings, dearie!

Chris March 24, 2015 at 12:26 pm

Great post David! I found it so hard to give myself permission to take a day off that I had to schedule something I started calling “No Screen Sunday”. It takes #5 (minimizing electronic usage) to the max.

On the first Sunday of every month I force myself to disconnect from technology for the ENTIRE day. In place, I go on a bike ride, read an actual book, take a nap, practice yoga, sit in the park, or even have a meaningful conversation with someone. One of the best things I’ve ever done!

Jan Armbrust March 25, 2015 at 4:38 pm

I have been taking one day per week off in the way you describe for a number of years now and can fully endorse its benefits. I am more relaxed, more efficient and less stressed on the other six days. Something akin to this which I thought I would share is another decision I made that has had the same benefits. If there is something ongoing (and therefore potentially quite draining) in one’s life, like a personal challenge or the suffering of a friend or family member, I have founding restricting myself to one day a week to give thought and attention to whatever it is creates the same improved well being (excluding an emergency that demands immediate attention).

claudia March 25, 2015 at 10:38 pm

David – you did mention ‘protestant workethic’ a few times in the comments, and i might add that coming from a “mixed-marriage” (aka dad catholic / mum protestant) i’ve experienced both ‘work ethics’… and noticed that the protestant part of the family was rather big on dreary silence and hard work and the catholic part of family was rather boisterous, worked much AND also had leisure to enjoy holidays, good food and vino.
which resulted in me enjoying peaceful silence AND knowing how to ‘let ones soul dangle’ (die seele baumeln lassen) – (dolce far niente)…
i aim to get all errands done during the week. including some housework … so the weekend has a truly more ‘free’ feel to it and is not cluttered up with more things to do.

usually i manage to keep at least one day completely free of any engagements/plans/appointments/to-do-lists –

if it weren’t for that one day with true rest and leisure … i wouldn’t know how to keep me marbles until the next ‘day OFF’n’OUT’

in the states, most people are on a dire vacation-diet anyway – barely being away from work longer than a few days or a week or two.
in europe at least we had 4-6 weeks … and during those vacations, one could truly VACATE … allowing the body to switch pace to slow/er, and detangle the mind …

here my ‘sanity saving measure’ is and has been, to quietly hold onto, and create, a weekly day OFF. Often i don’t even answer the phone …
I can strongly encourage everyone to that sort of ‘sanity saving measure’ …. day off … afternoon off … evening off … whatever it takes to remind yourself that we are human beings and not human doings.

and thank you for writing about it — thus bringing more awareness to this topic.

Randy Hendrix March 26, 2015 at 7:57 am

“What’s the point of getting ahead if we never have the experience of being ahead?”
That is one GREAT question!

Yukie March 29, 2015 at 5:30 am

Hi David,

Truthfully, this idea to take a Proper Day off is brand new for me. I also realize that after becoming an adult, I have never thought of doing that. However, because the article you write is very unique and compelling, it appears that I will highly consider trying this ritual.

Actually, there is still one thing that makes me doubtful to practice it. I closely know a married IT manager in a bank who has to work overtime every weekday and work again every Saturday and Sunday, since the bank presently runs a lot of projects. As far as I’ve heard, he has to undergo this situation for about a year. Afterward, I also know a busy businessman whose business hasn’t been auto-run and he still has to monitor its activity every weekend. Next, I have known that there are many poor people who live by selling groceries on weekend too, as it is the peak moment when a lot of customers come. You also expressed that the days you still have a full-time job, you were always working on your blog on the weekends, because there wasn’t much extra time to write. My question is, how can people enjoy their ‘being ahead’ in those situations?

Hence, I think that taking a Proper Day Off cannot be merely chosen by all people. They must have certain situations in their lives that can enable them to take a day off without feeling any sense of guilt and irresponsibility. In other words, they have to earn that ability to practice this ritual. Even so, people still must read this article if they want to be able to practice it. Otherwise, the thought of making effort to change their routines so as to make a Proper Day Off their new habit, will never cross their mind. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me, and I hope your life becomes increasingly meaningful and enjoyable. Glad to know you!

Michael March 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm

I don’t feel that way about driving at all. In fact any ‘Proper Day Off’ for me would involve taking a drive somewhere away from the city with the windows down, some good music, and an open road. I wouldn’t want to spend the whole day in the car (well.. Depending on the car) but a nice drive is right up there for me.

Greg H April 14, 2015 at 1:11 pm

Great post. I am wondering, though, why you included a picture of the GREAT band Dr Dog? Are you a fan? Was it related to the post, as in, go see a concert on a proper day off?

Just thought I’d check, as I am quite a fan of Dr Dog and see them as one of the most original songwriting groups working today.

Keep up the great posts, love the site!

David Cain April 14, 2015 at 1:41 pm

I was trying to find a picture vaguely related to what you might do on a proper day off, so an outdoor concert seemed to fit. It looks like fun is being had. I did not know the band, but I will definitely check them out.

yoh June 22, 2015 at 10:59 am

You basically describe a day very much akin to the Jewish concept of the sabbath, where the source of the “day off” is of course social and external to ourselves as it is a Godly decree. In essence one is expected to set aside the regular chores of the week and devote oneself to prayer in thr morning, be with family, refrain from work and touching money, making deals and conducting commerce, using the car, and many other choices many observant Jews take upon themselves every week.

I find it interesting that secular culture has come full circle to this. :-)

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