I’ve never been a workaholic. I’m all for getting work done and doing my best at it to give clients excellent stories as a freelance writer and editor. But when it comes time to take a day off from work or the weekend off and relax, I’m ready for the time to re-energize.
That may be one of the reasons why I’m not rich. Or why the three websites I run about personal finances don’t have the awesome readership and advertising numbers that I’m aiming for.
I bring all of this up because of something I heard from one of the keynote speakers at a conference I attended last month for personal finance bloggers. Part of his message was: Take a day off. Or two or even three days off if you can. It was a much better message than what another speaker offered.
After years of working to build his website — which is one of the top PF sites and is among his many successful endeavors — and missing some valuable time with his children so he could grow his business, he came to the conclusion that taking a day off from work each week was important.
This didn’t seem like much of a revelation to me.
But I got the sense that to many of the 500 or more people in the ballroom listening to him, it was an insightful idea worth trying.
The speaker offered other ideas during his talk, but this was the one that caught my attention the most. Working on his website while his wife packed their home for a move, working through dinner and other social outings was the norm, he said, until he and his wife adopted a daughter. That was when he realized how important it was to take a day off from work — so he could spend time with his family.
Everyone has different goals in life, and I’m not trying to cry foul over someone choosing to spend every possible hour of the day to build their business. That’s their choice.
But for me, and I assume many other people, taking at least two days off each week is an easy choice to make. And being a spouse and parent are easy reminders of how important it is to spend time with people you love, even if it comes at the expense of work.
Who is ever going to go to their deathbed wishing they had worked more on the weekends?
Saving to be a stay-at-home parent
From the time we found out we were having a child, my wife and I decided to lower our expenses and save money so that during at least the first year of our child’s life, one of us would be home to take care of our daughter. I think it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
We saved enough money for about six months of living expenses, and my wife and I each took the maximum (about five months) off that California law allows for pregnancy and being a parent during the first year of a newborn’s life.
We happily discovered that the lower income we received during this time off wasn’t taxed, so it was like earning a full income.
For our longterm plan for one of us to be a stay-at-home mom or dad while raising our daughter, we cut our expenses enough so that one person was working full-time with medical benefits and the other was working part-time. I became the working at home parent in 2008 when I was laid off as a newspaper editor, and have been working 20 hours a week since then.
Our daughter is now 12 and doesn’t need as much daily care as she used to. But she still needs shuttling to school and appointments, and I feel better being home with her in the afternoon instead of having her be a latchkey kid.
Unplug for a day off from work
And what does all of that have to do with taking a day off from work? A lot. I work in the mornings until around noon on weekdays only, then take the weekend off. Sometimes I take a weekday off if things aren’t busy with my freelance work.
Why? Because even after only working 20 hours a week, I’m still happy to take the weekend off to recharge and give myself time to think away from the computer, email, calls and other work tasks.
Unplugging is another important part of taking a day off, the speaker at the conference told us. I agree. If you’re going to take a day or more off from work, it’s not really quality time off if you’re checking emails or even social media on your phone.
If you can’t get all of your work done in 40 hours per week so you can take a day off from work — or even two days or more — there really shouldn’t be much to worry about. The work will still be there when you return to your desk Monday morning.