I started this year rested. I was recharged. I was ready for a big year. This was because I took the time to slow down, rest, and reflect over the holiday break leading into the new year. I learned how important this is.
We are constantly tempted to do more, watch more TV, and the worst offender is out smart phone. Our phones and social media remind us all day that we’re missing out the newest TV show, restaurant, recipe, band, or exercise fad.
At the very beginning of this last break, I intentionally sat down and took some moments to be still. I put my phone down, turned the TV off, and just sat with my thoughts. These moments weren’t terribly long, sometimes 5 or 10 minutes. Sometimes they would last 30 or 45 minutes.
Most of the year, as a father of young children, there aren’t enough of these moments, so we need to take them when we can.
Entering this past holiday break, my wife and I both sensed the need to slow down. My wife has incredible intuition, and so when she starts to sense something, I’ve learned to listen. She sensed the need for making time for rest and simplifying our schedule. I agreed.
Our normal week is often hectic. There’s a lot of rushing. Rushing to and from work. Rushing to drop off and pick up the kids in time. Rushing to get chores done and keep a house in a semi-orderly state.
This year, we purposefully spread out the holiday family gatherings. In previous years, we had family gathering smashed right up against another. We cherish the time we get to spend with our family more than anything else, but in past years it was rushed. Historically we went from an extra rushed week at work straight into back to back to back holiday gatherings.
Fortunately, most of our family is local and we can see them whenever we want. We started the break with this new approach for the holidays and built the rest of our break around that. Spreading out these gatherings allowed us to savor them each a little bit more.
The second thing we intentionally did was to not over schedule with other activities. We made plans once a day and kept one or two days free from any activities at all. We prioritized our activities on friends and family that were in visiting from out of town.
Then we let the rest of the break play out organically. It was amazing.
We rested. We slept 7 or more hours every night. We took moments throughout the day to sit down, drink coffee, and read. We tackled projects we usually were too busy to do.
I cleaned and organized the basement and office. I filed paperwork that piled up over the year. I took some trips to Goodwill and identified many other things to give away in the future.
During this time we noticed something beautiful happen in our boys. They had long stretches of time for unstructured play. This brought out some amazing creativity. They were able to focus and explore. My oldest played with one items for hours on end. Our youngest learned to build his own wooden train tracks. They created new games together and bonded through the process.
I exercised almost everyday. I lifted, ran, did yoga, and was able to work on my mobility and flexibility.
I practiced the piano everyday. This is something I’ve wanted to learn for a long time. The momentum from playing it everyday on break has carried into the new year.
The best part about the break though were not the things I achieved or checked-off the to do list. It was what happened in the space when we slowed down.
- I said yes to my son when he asked if I wanted to color or play.
- I sat and talked with my wife.
- I planned how to handle some upcoming personal challenges our family faced.
- I noticed the pile of paperwork needing filed and just sat down completed the task.
- I read two books.
- I listened to my body and rest, exercise, and rest again.
This pace was beautiful and needed.
What I noticed from this break was that I need to build a habit of creating regular space in our lives. I want and need to work hard, but allow myself to slow down to recharge. After a week and a half of purposefully slowing down and taking these moments throughout the day, I noticed many benefits. These moments of reprieve from the pace of parenthood enable me to have more energy, enthusiasm, and confidence I spend my time and energy in the right places.
Our modern life is full of endless choices for things to do. They fight for your attention, time, and money.
The goals I have in 2018 are my most ambitious goals ever, which is piled on top of looming personal and professional challenges.
I know to achieve those goals and maintain fulfillment throughout, I need moments of reprieve from doing.
These moments provide three primary things: rest, reflection, and space for imagination. Our best ideas come when we let our minds wonder.
So my new goal is to regularly give myself space on a consistent basis. I’m exploring that schedule to look something like this:
- Daily: An hour or so in the evenings after work with the family. I need space to cook dinner, play with the kids, and sometimes to just sit and read.
- Weekly: Part of a weekend day to not have anything schedule or any expectations of myself. Maybe this time is spent on a hike, reading, writing, or just resting and daydreaming.
- Monthly: Both one day of vacation or holiday where I don’t have plans and a weekend where we under-schedule ourselves as a family. At least one full day without plans if not two to play, explore, and rest.
- Quarterly: Extra long weekend or a full week with travel. Maybe it’s a long weekend in a cabin, a week at the beach or lake with the family, or a backpacking trip.
- Yearly: Similar to this year, a week plus when the kids are out of school to slow down and unwind. Here is the best time to reflect and review the prior year as we begin to cultivate hope for the new year.
There is a fine line between trying to do too much and becoming apathetic and not challenging yourself. Don’t misread this as a call to do less in life or have more time to watch TV. These moments are often not fun. Self-reflection can be gut wrenching. When we face our own faults in the mirror it will leave you longing for growth and stronger discipline.
Sometimes life dictates that we don’t get the opportunity for these breaks for an extended period of time. Sometimes our spouse or children get sick and require us to take care of them while we continue to run the household. Sometimes our work throws us a monkey wrench or opportunity that needs a temporary surge in time and energy. Get after it in these times and do your work. Then, when life eases a bit, look for moments of reprieve.
Usually under normal circumstances, we can afford a few moments to pause, put our feet up, and let life breathe. We probably will have to turn the TV off, put the phone down, or prune some unnecessary activities to make a little space. Sometimes we may need to say no to an extra project at work or push off a social engagement to create these moments. But the fruit or the investment is worth it.
We often won’t be able to plan them or predict when we’ll need these moments. It is better to take them when you can because we don’t know what curve ball life will throw at us the next day.
Creating space by slowing down allows me to do the following things that I have now deemed critical:
- Make sure that I’m not just busy for busyness sake but I’m spending my time and energy on the most important things,
- Rest enough to generate energy and enthusiasm to accomplish these important things, and
- Have enough free space to allow my most creative thoughts and ideas come to life.
- Do you feel like you are moving too fast all the time?
- Are you giving yourself enough time to recharge and reflect?
- Do you give yourself enough space to be creative and think?
If you need, create some space in your life to slow down. And then get back after it again.