You Have to Stop Working Sometimes

Take some time off

The technology that we have access to today allows many of us to work non-stop. In the past, we may have had to travel somewhere to work, but now we can work from almost anywhere. Work, today, could be described as a state of mind rather than a location. Many of us today still travel somewhere to work and then come home and work as well. We have the same tools available to us at home that we do in our places of employment. The consequence of this present reality is that some of us almost never stop working. Even while at home, we don’t stop to let our minds rest.

From the beginning of time rest has been critical for people. Most people I coach are tired and need rest. Many people struggle to allow themselves to stop working . The inevitable result is that many leaders are burned out, tired, anxious, depressed, and altogether unhealthy.

Listen, leaders, you have to stop working sometimes. Here are a couple of steps in the right direction.


Take at least a couple of hours each night and don’t work. Hang with your family or friends, do laundry, cook a meal. Don’t allow your mind to enter work mode. Unless you are a doctor on call, turn your work phone off for a couple of hours and rest from work.


Take a minimum of 24 hours each week and do nothing that touches your work. Avoid work email. Don’t enter the state of mind that is work. Recharge in the way that you recharge best. Read a book, exercise, spend time with your family, watch a basketball game, hang out with friends, play ultimate frisbee, go to the movies. But, don’t work!


Take a vacation. It’s OK if you can’t afford to go to Costa Rica. Take the time that is allotted to you and stop working. Put an auto responder on your email. Disconnect from social media, read some fiction and watch the sunset.

Daily, weekly, and periodic time off will re-charge you, keep you healthy, and make you more effective when you do work.  What works for you in this area? Comment and get the conversation going.

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Posted by Brian Howard

My focus is to help YOU move forward one step at a time. I write about church excellence, personal productivity, and family leadership. I coach leaders, start churches, and help organizations break growth barriers. My goal is to draw on this experience to help YOU move forward in life, leadership, and productivity.

  1. I love all these ideas. To take it a step further, how do you stop work when your job is working with children with disabilities and then you come home to children with disabilities? Or, if you work with addicts and come home to an addict? Or you work as a cook and have to come home and cook dinner. Any thoughts on how to do that better?


    1. Hmmmm, tricky. I think to some extent this is a different situation in that one is for family and one is for work. The responsibilities of family are definitely work but not vocation. Thoughts?


  2. Tis is true for me and we are retired!


  3. Work, whether it be paid or volunteering is an obligation. Doing the same type of tasks for family is never an obligation, it is love. Great post Brian, I will be “working” at incorporating it into my life. Thanks Anita for introducing me to Brian’s blog!


  4. What about the “doctors on call” you mention? My boyfriend is a resident and he is paged or called by the hospital without fail every time I see him. Even during his “vacation time.” How do you work on mentally checking out, even if you may have to jump back into work mode at any moment?


    1. Rachel, I wish there was an easy answer for this but there is not. In certain seasons of life it is difficult to maintain balance between work and rest. It seems like you might be in one of those now with a boyfriend in residency. Over the long term, however, no rest or lack of presence is not healthy. Thoughts? Perhaps Dr. Barrett will weigh in on this.


    2. rachel- I am a family doctor in solo practice. I am on call every day. I have someone take phone calls while I am on vacation, yet even then log into the medical records almost every day to do work. For me it, I “check out” by checking in to something else. It is not always easy, but like any skill it can be developed over time. I can be out to breakfast with my daughter, like I was this morning, and be totally engaged with her. I got a message from the service, briefly went in to doctor mode, and then shut it down and re-engaged.
      I have found this is easy for me but hard for those I am with, as they do not have that skill. That being said- I only get 1-2 calls a weekend. If I was getting paged 20-30 times it would be very hard to turn my mind off!
      One thing I have done in practice is set aside one morning a week for my wife. While other doctors may play golf, we have a date morning every Wednesday. Those 5 hours are the highlight of every week. I feel they add years to my life.
      Residency is a different, temporary beast. Like prison or the flu, it is about survival. We still need to remind ourselves that we are not as essential as we think we are! When I was a resident I was hospitalized for 5 days and could not answer any calls, and no one died!
      To me the main idea is similar to the concept of Sabbath. God instructed the children of Israel to take one day a week, and refocus. It was not just to rest from labor, but it was to rest from labor AND focus on God, a time to re-establish priorities and reflect on what really matters.
      Spending time on relationships, with God and with family reminds us of why we are alive and what is important.


      1. PS: rachel- If your boyfriend eve wants to dialogue about how to balance medicine, faith and family, I would be happy to dialogue.


  5. […] came across a terrific piece by Brian Howard of the Sojourn Network a bit ago. It’s entitled “You Have to Stop Working Sometimes,” and it’s well worth your time. This is especially true if you fit the model of the type A, […]


  6. […] “From the beginning of time rest has been critical for people. Most of those whom I coach are tired and need rest. Many struggle to allow themselves to stop working . The inevitable result of this is that many leaders are burned out, tired, anxious, depressed, and altogether unhealthy.” The truth is, You Have to Stop Working Sometime. […]


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