I still remember that day in my cubicle at the consulting firm in 2003. My manager invited me to download this new technology for interoffice messaging. “This is really great, Anna. I can sit here in Philadelphia while you’re in Dallas and I can send you a message and you can respond. We can communicate instantaneously.” The writing was on the wall. With instant messaging, I would need to be in at 8:30 sharp and stay until 6:00, with one hour off for lunch. What I had once considered “suggested” working hours was beginning to look like a prison sentence.
Don’t get me wrong – I love to work. But as the only Dallas-based member of this international team, I was used to getting the job done on my own time. Seeing how restricting this new technology would be, I avoided downloading it. My cat and mouse game lasted for about nine months until I finally got honest with myself. It was time to resign and become an entrepreneur.
Turns out, there’s no such thing as working for myself. Now I don’t work for my manager, I work for my clients – when I am lucky enough to have them. As for setting my own schedule, I do as well as anyone else who is trying to run a consulting business while bringing up two small children: I work whenever I can during the week and finish the rest on weekends.
Many people have tried to help me make my life easier. Take Steve Jobs, the great inventor of the iPhone. It’s brilliant, just brilliant. With this device, I can receive messages from anywhere and respond instantaneously. Why, if I don’t set boundaries, I can even respond from the dinner table or the bathtub! I now look back on that interoffice messaging system as quaint compared with the ubiquitous demands of today’s technology.
In retrospect it would seem that I resisted my manager’s perfectly reasonable request to stay connected for 8 hours per day, 5 days per week — only to voluntarily consign myself to being 100% accountable, 100% of the time. Is there no escape from this unrelenting, 24/7 lifestyle? There should be laws.
Wait, there already are.
Thou shalt not kill. Neither shalt thou commit adultery, steal, nor bear false witness against thy neighbor. If you have never opened a Bible in your life, you have probably still heard some version of the verses in chapter 5 of the book of Deuteronomy. Lately, one of the Ten Commandments has been gnawing at me – the fourth one:
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all they work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor they maidservant, nor they cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.
Stop Day. That’s what author Dr. Matthew Sleeth calls the Sabbath in his new book 24/6. Taking a “Stop Day” carries so many spiritual, physical and social benefits that one wonders why we would ever let it go. As 24/6 points out, God must have known we would forget the Fourth Commandment, because it is the only one that begins with the word “Remember.”
As for New Year’s resolutions, we are pretty good at forgetting those, too. A recent British study found that 88% of them end in failure, and cited the need to strengthen willpower in order to make new habits stick. One way to increase self-discipline is to increase self-awareness, something that rest and reflection is also good for. Whether for a day of worship – or just a day off to stay sane – a Stop Day is your prescription for a healthier, happier life.
For more insights on surviving and thriving in the 21st century, visit www.annamclark.com.