There’s an interesting talk at TED by Stefan Sagmeister titled The Power of Time Off. In the talk, Sagmeister shared his experience of how he takes one full year off every seven years to recharge his creative life. During the sabbatical year, he closes his design company and doesn’t accept any design request. It might seem strange to take one full year for sabbatical, but he argued that it gives him more than what it costs.
There are at least three things he gets from his sabbatical years:
- He gets fresh ideas for his creative work. Referring to one sabbatical year of his, he said that all the ideas in the following seven years came out from that one year.
- It benefits him financially. Though he didn’t accept any request for one year, the improved quality of his work allowed him to ask for higher prices in the following years. He could eventually make more money than what he lost.
- It made his work a calling again. This is my favorite of the three. In the talk, Sagmeister talked about three levels of work: job (when you do your work just for money), career (when you pursue advancement and promotion), and calling (when you do your work simply because it’s fulfilling). Even if your work is something you love to do, the daily routine could make it a job. Sagmeister said that taking a sabbatical year makes his work a calling again.
As you can see, these three things solve three common problems that many people have at work:
- Lack of creative ideas.
- Lack of financial improvement.
- Lack of purpose and fulfillment. This one affects not just your work, but also your life in general.
If you had any of these problems, here is a simple way to recharge your life: take time off. Of course, it doesn’t have to be one full year since most people (including me) can’t afford it without any serious consequences. But taking even short periods of time off is useful. Here’s what I suggest you to do:
- Take time off every day. You should set aside time in your day where you can be away from your routine. Cut your communication with the outside world for a while. Use the time to get a sense of clarity of your life and work. Reconnect with your life purpose and look at the big picture of your life. Are you on the right track? Are you doing the right things? You can do this by meditating, praying, walking in the garden, or any way you like. The important thing is that you to reflect on your life with a clear mind. You don’t have to spend much time on it. Half an hour is enough, in my experience. Doing this helps you live your daily life with clarity.
- Take a few days off every now and then. During that time, try not to do your routine that might introduce noise into your life. For me that means not connecting to the Internet. Though it’s not necessary, going out of town could be helpful. I can attest from personal experience that such time is really rewarding. I often see my life and work from a new perspective. I can see the forest rather than the trees. This, of course, will happen only if you spend time to reflect on your life and work.
It reminds me of the story of two woodcutters. One of them sawed down the trees all the time without ever sharpening his saw. The other person spent time to sharpen his saw and only then did he saw down the trees. Which one do you think would cut more trees at the end?
Don’t let the busyness of your life lead you to the wrong direction. Allocate time to reconnect with your purpose and calling. Allocate time to see the big picture of your life. Taking time off helps you stay sharp.
Photo by notsogoodphotography