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Take a regular day of rest

Making room in life for a sabbath is a good practice for anyone, even if you're not religious. Learn more in this video and transcript.

4 min read


Person lying in a field illustrating a day of reset


A regular day of rest — a sabbath — is an important leadership practice because it enables you to fill up your tank so you can serve others. And taking a sabbath helps put your brain in task-negative mode, which leads to greater productivity and creativity.

In this video, I provide six tips for how to take a sabbath — not the least of which is to do it regularly. Although it may seem indulgent or even impractical to do so, regular deliberate periods of extended rest are an essential discipline for leaders.

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Are you burnt out? Feeling more stressed and overwhelmed than usual? You probably need a break — not a squeeze-in-a-five-minute-walk-around-the-block break, but a day of real rest. In other words, you need to take a sabbath.

Although sabbaths may be associated with certain religions or spirituality, everyone — whether or not you’re a person of faith — needs to sabbath to set yourself up to lead effectively.

As a leader, you are constantly working in the service of others — customers, employees, shareholders or other stakeholders. And with everything that we’ve all been through in the past two years, everyone’s mental, emotional, and relational well-being is at an all time low.

So, as leaders, you need to be able to fill up and build up those around you — but you can’t do that if you don’t put your oxygen mask on first, as the airlines say. So, you must ensure you get the rest you need so you can fulfill your leadership responsibilities.

What’s more, rest can make you more productive and creative. According to Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University, our brains can be in either “task-positive” or “task-negative” mode, but not both at once. And task-negative mode — such as when we’re daydreaming or our mind is relaxed — is, “responsible for our moments of greatest creativity and insight, when we’re able to solve problems that previously seemed unsolvable.”

So, you need to regularly unplug your brain — and your whole self — from work. A sabbath is an effective way to do so. Here are six tips for how to take a sabbath:

1. First, allow an extended period of time — at least eight hours, maybe even a full 24 hours.

2. Block off your calendar and don’t allow any last-minute commitments or interruptions to creep into your sabbath time.

3. A significant body of research suggests that even thinking about work is a stressful, anxiety-inducing activity so stay away from your desk and devices which are likely to continually remind you about work.

4. Also, practice the three S’s — stillness, solitude and silence.

    • If you’re an active person like me, being still can be very difficult — but try doing absolutely nothing at least for 15-20 minutes. Just resting your body like this can be quite restorative.
    • The second “S” is solitude — try to take some of your sabbath alone, so you can focus on yourself.
    • And third, to practice silence, turn off the TV, radio, podcasts. Go for a walk or a ride, or drive without listening to anything. At first, your mind might race with a million thoughts, but after a while, you’re likely to experience peace, clarity and those flashes of brilliance that would otherwise be crowded out by all the noise in your life.

5. During your sabbath, do things that nurture your soul. For some, you might read a book; for others, eating a good meal or being active outside might be best. Whatever works to liven your spirit.

6. And finally, do this regularly — meaning, make sure to take a sabbath at least once a month, if not once a week.

I know that may seem impossible to some of you who lead such busy lives. But the truth is, rest is not a distraction from work. It’s a critical part of it. When you’re well-rested, you contribute more passion, energy, and fresh insights to work.