Balancing Work And Rest: Be Productive by Making Time To Be Unproductive

My good friend, Fr. Max Oliva, a Jesuit priest and author of several books, has an MBA and leads retreats and ethics seminars for parishes and business professionals across the USA and Canada. Years ago, I asked him “How do you renew yourself in the midst of such busy and full life?”

“To be productive, I regularly make time – usually a full day a week – to be unproductive.” He had good friends who were ranchers and he would spend a day a week just hanging out at the ranch – being unproductive.

In today’s world, with its relentless emphasis on success, achievement, and productivity, we have lost, in the words of Wayne Muller in his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight In Our Busy Lives, “the necessary rhythm of life, the balance of work and rest. Constantly striving, we feel exhausted and deprived in the midst of great abundance. We long for time with friends and family, we long for a moment to ourselves.”

All of life is a fluctuation between effort and rest. We need both – every day and every week. Effort is not truly effective unless we have properly prepared for it by resting and renewing. Times when we are unproductive to renew and rejuvenate, and away from the tyranny of the urgency, gives us the power necessary to make our best effort. It is not good to rest too long and it is not good to carry on great effort too long without rest. The successful, productive life is a proper balance between the two.

We all require Sabbaths in some form. What are you doing to rest, to renew, to be unproductive?