Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Is a Day Without Work Too Much To Ask?

Chapter 10: The People-First Life Part 13

Now that you are saying no to your boss, I suggest that you work towards a six day work week. One day with no email and no phone calls. I know, there is a perception that we are all expected to be on call all the time. Sometimes this is reality, but more often it is merely perception.

When I was interviewing people for the book, I sometimes pushed to understand why someone was working every day. Some people said “Don’t blame the company, I’m choosing to do this.”  I would smile and nod, but I wanted to scream “Yes, that proves my point! You are choosing to work all the time!” The other common answer went something like this “The more senior you are, the more there is an expectation that you need to be available 24/7.” Again I nodded, but inside I was thinking of the CEOs and senior VPs I interviewed who said that they felt a day away from work was critical to their success.

I’ve defined corporate idolatry as a company-first or work-first value system. And people who are caught up in corporate idolatry create illusions that support he company-first lifestyle. I think both of the arguments above are indicators of corporate idolatry.

Way back in Chapter 2, I pointed out that the first two of the Ten Commandments are prohibitions against idolatry. The Fourth Commandment instructs us to “Keep the Sabbath,” a day without work. Did you know that some Rabbis argue that the most important holiday in Judaism is the Sabbath? Yes, we are commanded to take a holiday every week. It was heresy in the pagan world.

For example, the Greeks and Romans criticized the Jews for the Sabbath, because leisure was something for the upper classes only, not to be shared with common workers. In an ironic twist, the corporate idolators of today think that the more senior are expected to work more than junior employees.

Is there a competitive advantage for a business that has people working seven days a week?

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Unplug From Work This Saturday and Share Your Experience

Unplug From Work and Give Your Mind a Rest

66% of people read email seven days a week and expect to receive a response the same day.*

Ouch. I admit it, I’m one of them too, but I’m better than I used to be.

When I left the corporate world, I was so addicted to checking email that I was on my Hotmail account every hour. Usually, there was nothing new except junk mail for Cialis or a Rolex watch. But I kept checking regularly for two weeks.  At that point I  channeled my addiction into Mafia Wars from Zynga.  Unplugging isn’t easy, and for me I was the only person I knew who was going cold turkey from an intense job.

The National Day of Unplugging offers a chance to unplug from email as part of a nationwide community of people.  To participate, unplug sundown Friday March 23 to sundown Saturday March 24.  The event runs sundown to sundown because it is inspired by the Jewish Sabbath, which begins at sundown.  When it comes to unplugging from work, sundown Friday is a perfect time to start.

The Sabbath is a day of rest. And rest means no work. In the ancient world, most people lived an agrarian existence, and work was physical labor in the fields or tending domestic animals. But for many people today, work is mental labor. And mental labor can and does follow us anywhere.  It may only take ten minutes to check and respond to email, but the mental impact can last an hour or longer.

The National Day of Unplugging is the perfect chance to give the mind a rest. I find it much easier to try something new when I know a lot of other people are doing the same thing.

I see two related ways to unplug. The first is to unplug from everything to allow a time to contemplate life, reflect, and connect with people without the distractions of technology. While I support the general goals, I think unplugging completely may be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I use technology to connect with people. My parents live 3,000 miles away, and I regularly email or communicate on Facebook with my friends.

In my opinion, the more important issue is the separation between work and everything else.  Hence, my invitation: Join me as I unplug from work Friday night to Saturday night. For me, that means no checking Google Analytics for blog traffic, no checking email and no answering comments until Sunday. That won’t be easy, because checking every day is a habit. But I will set my out of office message, so people used to hearing back from me will know that I am unavailable until Sunday.

Whether you unplug or not, please send me a sentence or two about your experience. I’ll compile them and write a post early next week. And don’t worry about me – if I go into withdrawal, I still have Castleville. In fact, come visit my kingdom and I’ll visit yours.