People often talk about being productive and accomplishing much. I believe, however, that the important thing is not how many things you accomplish, but whether you accomplish the right things. Nobody wants to realize one day that they have spent years of effort on the wrong things.
For that reason, I believe it’s essential that you live with clarity. I’d even say that it could be the most important requirement to live an effective life.
How can we live with clarity?
One good way is to have the habit of taking time off. It might sound simple, but if you do it right, it can make a big difference in your life. Why? Because it helps you redirect your life in the right direction.
Let me give you an illustration. Suppose you are in the midst of a forest. When you are down there among the trees, you won’t be able to see the entire forest. You might think that you are moving in the right direction while actually you aren’t. What you need to do is spend time away from the trees and climb a tower. Up there, you can clearly see where you are and where you should go.
Similarly, you should take time away from your routines so that you can see the big-picture of your life. Are you moving in the right direction? Or perhaps you have been distracted by something else?
Taking time off is not wasting time. On the contrary, it helps you avoid wasting time on the wrong things.
Here are some ways to take time off:
1. Take time to reflect daily.
You should have time for reflection daily. In my case, I use my prayer time for this. In your case, it might be walking in the park, sitting at your table while sipping coffee, or whatever it is that works for you.
Don’t be so busy that you don’t have this time. Make it a part of your day.
2. Take a day off weekly.
Every week, take at least one day off. Don’t do your regular work on this day. Instead, do other activities such as socializing, reading, or even playing games.
Keep your mind open to new ideas during the day. And don’t forget to write them down.
3. Take a longer period of time off every now and then.
Sometimes you need to go an even further distance away from your routines. Doing this can give you fresh insight beyond what my previous two pieces of advice can.
I suggest you go out of town for this. That way you change not only what you do but also where you do it. You change your environment. You can do this by taking a vacation, for instance.
The important thing is to always keep your mind open. Insight can come from anywhere. Write them down so that you won’t lose them.
Some people take this concept even further. Stefan Sagmeister, for example, takes a yearlong sabbatical every seven years. He said that the sabbatical year gave him enough inspiration for his next seven years of work.
Make it a habit to take time off. Do it at different levels as I explained above. Taking time off is not wasting time; it’s redirecting your life in the right direction.
Photo by Flavio~