Here in my middle age, life on autopilot means busy, fast, and hurried. I've got four children (ages three to nine) and an energetic wife and two demanding careers as a teacher and a writer. Everywhere I look in my life, there is a thing that would gladly take more of my time. Which of the things or people I say “Yes” to and which of the things or people I say “No” to is of critical import — my very life, and the lives of those to whom I most owe my love, will be determined by the sum of my yes or no decisions.
Five years ago or so, writing that last line might have caused me panic. Now, it just sobers me. It gets the task in view with clarity. From clarity, I can act.
And that brings us to weekends. During the workweek, my time is pretty clearly apportioned, especially when school's in session. I work from seven in the morning until five at night. These are the hours when teaching and writing and planning and feedbacking and creating happen. They aren't enough hours — no amount of hours will be for us to do teaching perfectly — but they are my constraint and they coral me into a focus that without their rule I would not be capable of.
But weekends? They are a different ballgame. I'm starting to learn that weekend is a verb and an art and a craft. Weekending well — in a way that restores me and my family for the week to come — takes practice, intentionality, study, and inquiry. It's weird but true: resting well takes practice in a time as wired as ours.
I've not got the time for a lengthy post today, but what follows are two practices you can take up if the art of the weekend intrigues you. First, let's look at the easier of the two.
Practice 1: Twenty Minutes Silent in Nature
This one's a cinch.
Find a trail or a park or a backyard near where you live, and go there to sit or walk for twenty minutes. No earbuds, no phones. Your goal is to be quiet amidst other things that are A) alive and B) unable to make demands on you.
As you're able, appreciate the sights, sounds, smells. Pray. Reflect on a line from a poem or a scripture. Once twenty minutes are up, you're done.
Got kids? Me too. Consider bringing one along and explain to them what you're doing. Frame it as a challenge, a workout, a puzzle, a practice — use the language that your family uses. Enjoy the silence together. The same with a spouse.
Practice 2: The 24-Hour Challenge
Last Friday on Twitter I shared something called the 24-Hour Challenge. This is a term that one of my hardest working friends and I have been bandying about the past few weeks.
The idea is simple: for 24 hours straight, you don't read or think or write or check email about work. You don't do paper stacks, you don't do mindless grading while watching a movie — work just doesn't exist for those 24 hours.
In our family, this is normally a Saturday evening until Sunday evening thing. That gives me a spot after the kids are in bed Sunday to start thinking about the week's lessons, doing any last minute feedbacking, or reducing the inbox down to
zero something less than its present state.
If you want to get really hardcore, don't even use your phone or devices during the 24 hours. Instead, try radically non-wired things like riding a bike, taking a walk, snoozing in the middle of the day with a child or two, reading a book for pleasure, shooting hoops, snowshoeing, etc.
My wife Crystal and I, as apprentices to Jesus, come to this practice via the ancient Jewish practice of Shabbat — a Hebrew word that literally means “cease.” (I know, I know — I didn't make up the 24-Hour Challenge after all. I'm sorry.)
Sometimes, the faith Crystal and I share leads us to sing during the challenges; other times we pray. Always we serve — remember the four kids? — and we serve by teaching our children as best we can that life isn't just a matter of action and striving. For go-getters like Crystal and me, what we're most challenged and restored by in the 24 hours is the idea that the world doesn't depend on our performance or our keeping up with things. There are plenty of times when we don't make it through — we sneak a peak at the email or pull out that book we've been reading for work. When these things happen, we don't beat ourselves up — we just observe what's happened, maybe chat about it, and try again.
But bit by bit, we find that we are improving. It's an art and a craft.
Regardless of your philosophical bent, may I strongly recommend the 24-Hour Challenge to you, too. It is such a good practice for those of us educators who want to maximize the long-term flourishing outcomes of our classrooms while not sacrificing our lives on the altar of professional success.
Got questions or comments? Bring them up in the comments at the bottom of this blog post or on Twitter.