Want to Be More Productive? Take a Break. Really.

Today my Disciple-Making Class will not meet for class. Why not? Because all the students will be taking the three-hour course time for a personal retreat. We will be doing two of these during the semester. The first one follows a uniform guide I gave them which you can find here.  The second will be more up to the student in terms of its focus.

Taking time–three hours or more for a personal retreat has become vital to me. It didn’t come easy. I’m a Type A, diagnosed ADD, hard charger and workaholic by nature. But creating margin in life generally and taking personal retreats regularly have literally changed my life. Our minds, our spirits, even our bodies and souls need breaks. And, I’ve found that by taking breaks and cutting out some unnecessary things in life I not only have less stress, but I get more done!

A personal retreat obviously helps our spiritual lives, but it does more.  Much has been done in terms of willpower research. As followers of Christ we have remarkable resources–the Holy Spirit, the Word, the church, the call of God, and more. But that does not keep us from being human. We still have limitations. We do not have unlimited willpower, and this impacts our interactions with others, our dealing with stress, and our ability to ward off temptation.

Willpower is an exhaustible resource. It has to be replenished.  The mind, like the body, needs rest.

Willpower in itself is not a character issue. But, when your willpower is weak, it becomes a character issue. If we use willpower so much in one area, we suffer in another.

Willpower is replenished through rest, and margin. This changes as we age. I don’t have the stamina physically or mentally I once had. I can strengthen these, but I won’t ever match the strength I had when young. The ace is I have much more wisdom than I had when younger. So, I can say no easier than I was when younger and almost addicted to people pleasing. I can focus on a few specific things God called me to and stay more focused than when younger. And, I have a much, much greater appreciation for sabbath rest.

The first step in getting healthy is not diet and exercise, but getting enough sleep. The first step in having healthy minds is not to add more information, but to let them rest. This week Nobel Prizes were given in several fields, which reminded me how Einstein finally solved relativity not when he sought to do so, but as he took a walk, giving his mind a rest.

If you want to be more productive, or simply have less stress, take breaks. This week I’ve had a really busy schedule, speaking a total of six times (I’ve lost count) to very different groups, as well as a number of individual meetings. I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly, and I’ve also taken some glorious naps and slept TEN HOURS last night. I’m also on break this next week. When I work, I work hard. But I do value those breaks.

Because I’m speaking to students at Southern Miss University at lunch today I will be doing my retreat tomorrow up at our farm. I can’t wait! Build margin into your life, take breaks, and value retreats. It is life giving.