“I’m so busy.” “I’m so tired.”
For many people, these complaints are voiced daily—if not hourly—without the slightest thought.
But what if we actively tried to carve out time to avoid the hassles that lead to day-to-day “busy-ness”? Catching up on emails, finishing up work, handling errands, shopping for groceries … the list goes on.
Dr. Matthew Sleeth, author of “24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life,” has indisputable proof that life doesn’t have to be quite so frantic all of the time: himself.
“For most of my life, I worked in emergency medicine. Ten years ago, I was given a 24-hour Sunday shift. I felt wiped out, and I was dreading Sunday each week, so I decided to take Saturday off to have a very simple day to read and explore my purpose in life,” recalls Dr. Sleeth.
The experience changed his life, leading him to write his book—a guide to refocusing your life around the principle of taking a much-needed rest day. Find out what living “24/6” has meant to Dr. Sleeth and others who’ve adopted the routine, as well as how you can incorporate his learnings into your own busy schedule.
LearnVest: What was your life like before you adopted a rest day into your routine?
Dr. Sleeth: I was so stressed out working the 24-hour shift—I felt overwhelmed by my work. Even though I’d never been religious before or kept the sabbath, I was suddenly attracted to the idea, so I decided to reserve one day that was totally without work.
But doesn’t working 24/7 make us more productive?
It’s ingrained in us to go 24/7, but people don’t get more done. And the world doesn’t stop if you’re not in sync with that constant schedule.
In my book, I talked to people who believed in keeping a day of rest. David Green [of arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby] started his store in the late 70s, and grew it into a huge chain. In 1991, he closed on Sunday—even though it was a big gamble, since Sunday had his largest per-hour sales. Although it took a while to bounce back from that loss of hours, his business has only flourished—despite only being open 66 hours per week, Green is able to give away $330 million annually.
The takeaway? Workers lose their enthusiasm if they’re always working, but if you carve out time for them, they’re more loyal and appreciative.
Since publishing the book, a number of people have reached out to me to say that they’ve tried the experiment of living 24/6. One realtor had been working seven days a week, and the day he dreaded most was Sunday because he had the most open houses. When he stopped holding open houses on Sunday, business actually improved because taking a rest day let him appreciate his work to a greater extent and do a better job.
What are the negative effects of being “on” seven days a week?
Throughout most of American history, we took a day off for the sabbath. Yet, compared to other cultures, Americans have worked the greatest number of hours—even with that day off! And as we’ve stopped taking that day of rest, we’ve become more anxious and depressed. One benefit of observing a day of rest is that you have something to look forward to—it’s a positive mental break.
There are also physiological repercussions tied to being under constant stress. When you’re highly stressed, you rise to accommodate the stress based on how severe it is and how fast it’s going to affect you. So if a lion roars from behind you, a five-alarm fire begins, and you start contracting some blood vessels and dilating others. This reaction is mediated by your hormonal system, which produces chemicals like adrenalin and epinephrin.