This series addresses that age-old challenging of balancing professional work with a personal life. Ryan Adams (Twitter, LinkedIn) is the Managing Director of Public Services for the City of Athens, Texas.
How it Begins
It starts easily enough. Big breakfast, a cup of coffee, and the whole day lies ahead of you. The clock hits 10am, then 11, and then noon but I’m still good to go. I blink and its 3pm – maybe I feel my heart speed up a bit. As I pace around the house nervously, little nuggets of anxiety creep into my thoughts – “I brought that work home and haven’t touched it” or “I’m not sure if I can make that deadline without staying in the office until after dark every night this week”. A little melancholy sets in as I do the math necessary to determine just how many hours I have before I have to crawl into bed and accept that my weekend, my respite from the job, is over.
We all enter the weekend with grand intentions of making the most of the roughly 48 hours we have until the demands of the workweek exert their hold on our schedules once more. Some of us proclaim we’re going clear a mountain of household projects off our ledger while others, fearing the siren call of the sofa, lean toward a weekend wanderlust spend entirely away from home. Unfortunately a few drag the computer bag home in defeat – knowing that the weekend may provide the hours necessary to get a leg up (or catch up) on work. When it comes down to it – we want to make the most of our weekend. We strive to be productive, whatever that might mean.
However – most of us won’t be productive. Family obligations, distractions, and our own bouts of laziness will intervene. One might even enter into a catatonic state of recovery from the shellshock of a particularly difficult week at the office. Either way, Sunday is the day we realize our failed efforts to optimize the precious weekend hours given to us. And in our self-pity, we waste an opportunity to use our Sundays for their true purpose.
Sundays are meant to be restorative. Government work is stressful, the demands are intense, the pressure is real, and your body, mind, and spirit cannot bear those burdens unendingly. You need one day to wipe the slate clean of the previous week’s encumbrances and shake off the rust that’s built up over the previous 6 days. Call it a reboot. Call it a recharge. Either way, treat yourself to a detox of the soul by taking back your Sunday.
Take Back Your Sunday
No Office Work. This is the toughest rule to stick to because you feel the pressure to get work done the most on Sundays. Resist that impulse. If a project is that important, you should knock it out on Saturday, otherwise it can wait until Monday. You won’t achieve full restoration of the soul if work is not eliminated as an option on Sundays. In other words, no touching of the laptop.
Read For Pleasure. Let your mind and imagination be captured by something that is so far removed from your everyday life that you forget what it is you might be worried about in the first place. Escapism is the chief objective here. A humble recommendation: if you normally head straight for the nonfiction section of your bookstore, try a walk through the fiction aisles. Cheap novels give a bad name to a genre that can teach a lot about the human experience. While nonfiction can always teach you facts, fiction will teach you truth. Try starting here.
Catch Up On Current Events. During the week, there is often only enough time to read the headlines and maybe a short article or two. Spend your Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee, in a comfortable chair and read a long column from your favorite periodical like The Atlantic or The New Yorker. Take a dive beneath the surface of contemporary culture and events and understand the world on a more visceral level.
Review Your Calendar And Plan Your Work For The Next Week. This would seem to violate the first suggestion on this list but hear me out. The odds of you completely eschewing work on Sunday will be greatly enhanced if you get a game plan going on the week ahead. Look at your calendar, prioritize your actions, and plan out your first few days. Check out this article by the Art of Manliness for a solid primer on effective weekly planning.
Clean. Clean and organize your house, your home office, your man-cave, your craft room, your garage, etc. Cleaning is a way of restoring your environment along with your mind, body, and spirit. Waking up on Monday, you’ll view the week as a fresh start more easily if you’re not staring at the previous week’s clutter across your house. Plus, cleaning and organizing gives you a greater sense of personal control, boosting your confidence in your own ability to be master of your environment.
Write. People don’t write anymore. We send texts or emails but we have lost our love of putting words to paper. Letter writing and journaling are on their way to being lost to the ages. But think of the benefits. Writing is tedious, yes, but it is also a purposeful and reflective task to find the right combination of words to dutifully express your thoughts. Writing teaches you to speak with a voice you perhaps didn’t know you had. Take a page from John Kralik’s book (literally) and start with simple thank you cards.
Devote Time To Passions. Find something that challenges you – it doesn’t matter whether you enjoy the activity or you just enjoy the challenge. It can be a simple hobby or a lifelong pursuit. Learn a language, train yourself in a craft, create something, or find some area in which you can seek mastery or fulfillment. Work at it, make steady improvements and gain confidence from your achievement. The objective isn’t to complete something or reach some end objective, the goal is to thrive by virtue of the journey.
Get Outside And In The Sun. The positive health effects of the outdoors are innumerable. Sunlight increases your supply of Vitamin D, improves sleep quality and reduces stress. So sit out in your lawn chair and read a book. Play fetch with your dog. Lie in the grass and stare at the clouds. Get some sun.
Drive To New Neighborhoods In Town. As local govies, we often try to be experts in all things “city” but we often fail to study the city in which we live and/or work. Explore your city on the ground level. Discover new neighborhoods, experiment with unfamiliar restaurants, and test drive an unproven shortcut. With no traffic and no crowds, Sundays are the best day to get lost in your own backyard.
Invest In Breakfast. When it comes to Sunday breakfast, it’s not about the quantity of food, nor is it about what variety of things you can treat yourself to. Investing in breakfast means taking the time to bake biscuits from scratch, learning the art of the perfect pancake, and understanding how to achieve the perfect amount of crisp in your bacon. Its’ about laboring to make something with your own two hands for the benefit of others. Don’t have others in your household? No problem – invite some friends over. No one turns down a big Sunday breakfast. Speaking of friends…
Be Social. Open your doors to your friends and neighbors – they very likely won’t have much going on – even if it’s to do nothing but talk, hang out in the backyard, or watch football. While you have friends over, why not…
Drink and Smoke. I admit that the church crowd may not be 100% onboard with this one, but I stand by it. Engaging in some minor vices will only advance the idea that a day devoted to relaxation and restoration shouldn’t be completely puritan. And hey, why not put those chemicals to good work and…
Talk ideas. You may have heard this proverb: “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.” Surround yourself with inventive minds and explore new thoughts and new possibilities. Kick around the app idea you had, discuss the best way to season a steak, or argue about whether or not a musical based on The Godfather would be a runaway success. Free your mind from the ordinary.