How to Work Less

 In Featured, Pastor Jason's Blog

by Pastor Jason Kramme

Two weeks ago, I took my first actual vacation in 15 months. We packed up the kids and our bikes we went on a biking trip to South Dakota. Somewhere on a trail between Hill City and Custer, I said to my wife, “I didn’t know how much I needed this trip.” She laughed and said, “we did.”

A lot of you can probably resonate with my situation. You like to work hard. You like to solve problems. You feel the pressure of success. All. The. Time. So, it is hard to shut down, put on the away message, and leave the office.

Your boss loves it, probably, and I’m sure it also provides you with a measure of purpose. The problem is when you don’t punctuate your love for work with other things; human things like naps, days off, and vacation, you get fabulously unhealthy.

You need rest. Aside from increasing your productivity, lowering your blood pressure, and improving your relationships there is a deeply spiritual reason for rest: you were made for it.

The opening pages of the Bible contain two creation stories that can be useful for how to think about this situation.

Genesis chapter one, verse one says, “in the beginning…the earth was formless and void.” In other words, it was chaotic, unspecified, and smooshed together. God, seeing this sorry situation, then begins to speak order into creation. God separates light from dark, creating day. Water from air, creating rivers and land and so on.

Things have boundaries. Allotted times. Particularity.

Think about the last year. I’d be willing to put money on the fact that one of the reasons the pandemic was so damned difficult was because it was like creation before God spoke. Your work and home-life ran together. Friday didn’t mean anything anymore. No one went to school or work because it all happened in the same place.

Creation is always in need of creating and you were made for separation. Now, I’d love to tell you that you could pray a prayer and open your eyes to a newly rearranged world. That won’t happen. God’s method of bringing things into their proper place today is, you guessed it, us. Our work won’ t be miraculous either, but with intentionality it can transform our unmanageable lives into the rhythm we were made for.

So, what are some quick and easy ways to create separation and boundaries in your life?

  1. Away Messages – Your phone is a machine made to create connection, but you can use it to create separation. Go into your phone’s settings, if you have an iPhone, then hit that little quarter moon button when you get home from work each night. This will turn off all notifications. Nothing will get through. While you’re at it, you can automate this to turn on at a particular time or location.
  2. Reset Days – The plumber, car repair, and a whole host of other tasks can be completed in a day, but they need a day to be completed. I routinely schedule “reset days.” They are days when I can get to my punch list of things that need to happen between 9 and 5. I work in one-hour blocks, starting early in the morning, and finishing before my wife and kids get home.
  3. No-Calendar Weekends – This is especially difficult in my line of work as a pastor, but I make it happen when I can. NCW’s are weekends where I block out the calendar and don’t put anything new on it. I keep my sleep schedule the same so I don’t blow that rhythm, but everything else is optional. The key on these weekends is to listen to what your body and mind need. I often spend time alone. I’m around people often and my inner-introvert needs a walk in the woods. I will also find myself reading or listening to a book—for fun! I hydrate. In any case, these weekends are about putting a two-day boundary around your body and mind so it can recover.

There are a lot of other things that you can do to use your God-given ability to create boundaries in your life. Three more mindset tricks I use are:

  1. I’m paying for it, so what if I don’t use it? – I often don’t drive my car and yet I still pay for it. I go on vacation away from the house I pay for. I have multiple streaming services and I only use one at a time. So, you better believe I am not above intentionally dropping a kid’s sporting event to take care of my mental health. I think my kids have unlimited potential, but there’s a piece of me that knows I have limited capacity. The latter will be a bigger inhibiter of their happiness in the long-term than pursuing sports every night of the week.
  2. Quality over Quantity – There are companies all over the world that only have a four-hour work week. The pay is the same. What they find is that with less time for the work, the workers automatically prioritize work better. Due to my childcare situation (my mother and father-in-law provide it) I have had to scrunch five days of office work into four for the last nine years. I know for a fact that I get more done than most people and it isn’t because there is something special about me. It is because I am relentlessly efficient so that I can be present for my kids on what we call Man-Day-Friday.
  3. More in a year than a day – We often overestimate what we can do in a day and we underestimate what can be done in a year. Read that again. We often think that if we work crazy hours until we hit the wall that we are going to be more productive over the long-haul. False. What actually happens is that you burn out, get sick, and are less happy—all of which make you less productive over time. If you give 40 good hours to an entire year, you’re going to accomplish a ton of work.

I hope that you see the way that how you spend your time is deeply spiritual; that it gets right to the core of how we were created. You need rest and nowadays you have to partner with God to co-create the world around you so that you get it.

What have you tried that helps you get rest?


Jason Kramme serves as the Pastor of Spiritual Formation and Stewardship at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church

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