I have several friends who suffer with Arterial Fibrillation or A-fib. With A-fib, the heart’s upper chambers (atria) beat out of coordination with the lower chambers (ventricles). Another word used to describe A-fib is arrythmia.
Arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of your heartbeat. It means your heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or with an irregular pattern.
Many factors can affect your heart’s rhythm, such as having had a heart attack, smoking, congenital heart defects, and stress. Some substances or medicines may also cause arrhythmia. Symptoms of arrhythmias include: fast or slow heart beat; skipping beats; lightheadedness or dizziness; chest pain; shortness of breath, etc.
My purpose today is not to educate you about A-fib. Rather, it’s to talk with you about two major truths A-fib teaches us:
First, the longer our life is out of rhythm, the higher our risk is of breaking down. I’ve lost count of the number of good people I know who’ve done incredibly stupid things simply because they were exhausted. Exhaustion lowered their defenses, and they made decisions that were totally out of character for them.
Second, things that are out of rhythm are not healthy.
So it is with our work/rest rhythm. A couple of months ago, Laura and I spent a week vacationing in Florida. We took in Venice Beach on a windy day, and the waves were impressive to look at and inspiring to hear. The never-ending ebb and flow of the surf mesmerized me once again. I love watching waves. They energize and soothe me at the same time. The rhythmic pounding of ocean waves might be one of the most relaxing sounds God ever created.
In a way, I think ocean waves are one of God’s creative messages to us about a healthy work/rest rhythm.
Push onshore and then retreat offshore. Flow and then ebb. Work hard, then rest. Short bursts of energy, followed by moments of recess. One of Converge Coaching’s core values is “Healthy work/life rhythm.” Easy to say. Much more challenging to do. In a fast-paced world where things seem to be always speeding up, how do we create healthy rhythms and flourish at work simultaneously? How do we swim upstream in a culture that’s addicted to busy?
Here are four rhythms that will help keep you sane while working toward career success. They will allow you to stay on the field of play for a longer time. These four rhythms set you up to achieve on the job while at the same time protecting your health.
A daily rhythm has do to with at least two things: First, knowing when to stop daily, and second, creating space in-between the energy burst moments of your day. After so many hours of work in a day (for most people, this happens somewhere between 8-10 hours), you get tired. Welcome to humanity. When you are genuinely tired after a solid day’s work, accept it as a God-given stop-signal instead of blowing by it and pushing through. And secondly, do your best to avoid piling one high energy task on top of the other all day long with no space in between to recover. I have six mentoring appointments today. Each one is separated by a minimum of 15 minutes just to create some space to catch my breath in between.
Another name for the weekly rhythm is “Sabbath.” In the Old Testament, God commanded Moses: “Say to the Israelites, ‘you must (Emphasis mine) observe my Sabbaths.’” And another command to Moses from God went like this: “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must (Emphasis mine) rest.” Regular rest is more than a good idea; it’s a mandate from God. The Israelites were to observe Sabbath rest even during times of “plowing and harvest.” For a farmer, these are the busiest times of the year. Yet even in those seasons God made it clear that rest wasn’t a luxury—it was an essential.
When a busy season is on the horizon, deliberately make room in your weekly schedule for rest, relaxation, and renewal. Block off time in your calendar for these pursuits and guard them carefully. Wayne Cordeiro writes: “We have learned to rest when the work is done. But the fact of the matter is the work will never be done. There will always be more to do. So, Sabbath-rest becomes a command to respond to, not a result of nothing left to do.”
Every 90 days, try taking an extended weekend for relaxation, reflection, recreation, and rest. When I worked in the marketplace, over a period of time I had earned 5 weeks of vacation. I would take one week off every quarter . . . two weeks in the summer quarter. I found this quarterly rhythm to be amazingly effective. You may not have that much vacation available, so you’ll need to get creative with a healthy quarterly rhythm. If you’re vacation time-strapped, try the extended weekend approach each quarter.
According to Project Time Off, 52% of American workers left unused vacation time on the table in 2017. This is actually an improvement over 2016 (54% left unused vacation time on the table in 2016). But what I’ve noticed in both the marketplace and church worlds is too many of us struggle to really be on vacation even when we take vacation. A vacation where you’re answering emails, taking calls, catching up on some work—is not really a vacation. I used to answer emails on vacation. Many of my former colleagues still do—but I refuse to re-join that group. This refusal is not born out of laziness, but out of principle. If my company needs me to be available 24/7, then something is wrong with me, or my company, or both. Disconnecting from work for a real vacation is not wasted time or selfish behavior. Rather, it’s a crucial part of maintaining a healthy work/rest rhythm.
Daily rhythm. Weekly rhythm. Quarterly rhythm. Annual rhythm. You may be wondering, “why should I work at developing these rhythms?” Or perhaps you’re thinking, “this sounds like a lot of work!” Yes it’s work, but it’s worth the effort.
Here’s why it’s worth working at: you cannot escape the negative consequences of living life out of rhythm for very long. It will catch up to you. Fatigue, anxiety, and depression will knock on your door, often suddenly, when you consistently live on the edge of exhaustion.
I want you to work hard (more importantly, to work productively), and I want you to rest hard. God has designed us to do both. Ebb and flow. Onshore energy followed by offshore rest.
Remember things (and people) that are in rhythm get and stay healthy. Those out of rhythm . . . not so much.
I’m rooting and praying for you!