Lockdown life might be shifting a bit in the UK, but many people will still be doing most or all of life at home. We have been reflecting on how to differentiate between work and home life when it all takes place in one place. This builds on the thinking we’ve been doing in recent years about what healthier life rhythms look like. It comes after long periods of being too busy, filling evenings and weekends and running ourselves into the ground until a holiday, which would take us up to neutral but never quite into the positive. We have come to believe strongly in the notion of a day off. Not just a day without undertaking paid employment. A proper day off from all forms of work, including emails, messages, tasks around the house and errands to run outside, It will come as no surprise that often those days involved: good food, coffee shops, gardening, and of course, escape from the city to the coast.
Some of these elements are not possible now in lockdown life; others take place differently. But with work and home all occupying the same four walls, it feels more important than ever to have a proper day off. And these principles – which will apply beyond lockdown life – are helping us to do so. Many of them we learned from other people. Some of them we do pretty well, others remain more of a challenge. We are, as always, a work in progress.
Set a time frame. When does your time of rest start and end? Ours begins on Friday night and ends on waking on Sunday. We have found – and I’ve heard others discuss this too – that starting in the evening means that you wake on Saturday morning already feeling that work has been left behind. A different length of time might be possible for you, but either way setting the time frame means that you don’t just blur from work to rest and back out of it again before you’ve really taken a breath.
Prepare. it was a revolutionary idea to me that rest isn’t something you just collapse into; it’s so much more effective if you actually get ready for it. This isn’t a new idea; its roots are in ancient sabbath traditions, and came to me via John Mark Comer’s excellent book, Garden City. For us this looks like: clean and tidy the house as soon as we finish work on a Friday. It may not sound appealing, but it means that we enjoy our home as much as possible on our day off (more important than ever in lockdown life). At our most organised, we will ensure the dishwasher is empty, so it can fill up (rather than the kitchen counters) throughout our day off. We deal with post, answer final emails and messages. Then if we want (and I usually do), the phones go off*.
Save things. Counter to the prevalent messages of have what you want, whenever you want it, we have found real joy in a rhythm of restraint throughout the working week and then enjoying abundance during our day off. The nice chocolates or glass of wine that tastes all the better because you waited for it, and can savour it. Particularly in the first few weeks of lockdown when we couldn’t leave the house and were getting limited essentials in, we really saved what treats we had for the weekend, and enjoyed them all the more for it.
Mark the moment as different. We have found this so helpful when all of life is within these four walls. We have a set of candles that we light at the start of our day of rest (and never use on any other day). This little ritual, and keeping this candles just for this moment of ceasing and celebrating, helps us to begin this time that is different to the rest of the week.
Identify and do what nourishes you. I used to think more about what rest was not (emails, job, food shopping…) than about what it is. We have been learning to identify the things that actively nourish and restore us. Some of these are consistent: tasty, treaty food. Good books and films. Being outside for an extended time, not just the 20 minutes grabbed on a lunch break. Some of these change. Sometimes gardening is just a fun delight; sometimes it feels like a set of tasks to be worked through. When it’s the latter, we don’t do it on our day off, but try to find other times. This might mean less gardening gets done, but we’ve found it’s better for us overall.
Be disciplined. We usually associate time off with indulgence, but there might some areas where you need to resist this. Maybe the to-do list (trust that everything on it can wait, because you prepared, or maybe it isn’t that urgent after all). Perhaps the news. Social media. These things are designed to draw you back, but if they won’t nourish you, then leave them for another day.
Be honest. This may be another area of loss and grief that needs to be acknowledged in this season. Maybe, like me, you miss the sea. You wonder when you’ll see it again, and breathe that deep, joyful breath that only happens at the coast. It’s ok to name that. That’s part of what this season of life is like.
What about you?
* technically the phones go on flight mode. I don’t quite know why I don’t just turn it off. I could argue it’s so that it’s ‘there in case of emergencies’, or ‘it might never turn on again given it’s six years old and the battery is fickle’. But I wonder if this is one last stronghold of the working week that holds on through the day off. I’m not checking messages. But I could….