posttitle = How and why I take a weekly “day off” titleClass =title-long len =49

How and why I take a weekly “day off”

Last year I started a new habit of taking a weekly “day off”. The two key things that make my day a “day off” are:

  1. no preplanned anything
  2. no browser tabs to start the day

I’ve kind of tried to keep those 2 elements alive during the day too though, meaning:

  1. I don’t schedule anything later in the day, during the day
  2. I try my best to decisively nuke browser tabs I’m not actively using

No preplanned anything

If some event is particularly juicy and only happens that day, I might put it on my 2nd calendar (more of an “fyi”) so that I know that the opportunity is there.

But I make it clear for people not to assume I’ll go.

Sometimes, a day or two before my day off, I imagine what I might do that day, but I still have to find out.

Saturday-me can delight in the present FEELING of how satisfying it might feel to spend my Sunday day off finishing an old backburner project… but it’s a fantasy, not a plan!

If anyone asks me “what are you doing on tomorrow/Sunday?” I just say “whatever I feel like doing!”

It’s simultaneously kinda scary & profoundly liberating to tell people I’m not available on a given day not because I’m busy but because my schedule is completely empty and NOBODY (not even me) is allowed to fill it.

People have been remarkably respectful of it though! I think that’s in part because I call it “my day off” not “a day off”, which linguistically implies it’s a preexisting thing. I first noticed this years ago when it felt a lot more legit to say “I think it’s time for me to take my nap” (vs “a nap”) in the context of me having a daily nap.

As someone who has been working self-directedly for the better part of a decade, and who loves my work and hasn’t felt the need to take holidays most of the time, I would highly encourage anyone in a similar situation to take this kind of day off each week. If you have a job and therefore can’t readily do big social events midweek, it’s not unreasonable to refuse to plan things on the weekends, but I’d still recommend carving out 2-4h in which you do WHATEVER YOU FEEL LIKE DOING 🙃🥳🤓😴

To be clear, I am still 100% free to work on “work” during the day. My work and play and life are very integrated and it’s honestly not clear where anything ends and begins. I’ve woken up inspired and built Complice features on days off (the now page is one example). I’ve sometimes decided that the thing to do is clean up my physical or virtual space. I’ve gone for a walk and gotten stoked about some important writing I want to do, then come back to my amazingly empty workspace and gotten deeply focused on it. Maybe “free day” would be a better name… I’ll play around with it. The name isn’t that important though—it’s about the intent.

Keep the spirit throughout the day: during the day, I might start something that’ll take awhile, whether it’s going for a walk (and needing to walk home) or to an event, or watching a movie, or whatever. But I still try to retain a sense that the rest of the day is still free and open-ended. This can be tough of course when coordinating with other people, so I try to hold to the spirit of it more than any particular strict rule.

No open browser tabs

The value of starting the day without open browser tabs is that I “what I feel like doing” bubbles up from within, rather than being sort of an “oh, what about this?” prompted by external stimulation.

It’s SO easy to bomp around at the whims of the environment all day by accident. I open twitter, or your email, or my phone notifications, and then after intending to check one thing I’m scrolling a whole thing, and then that reminds me of another thing, and then by the time I’m orienting to my day there’s already a bunch of stuff on my plate that came from outside, not inside.

So sometimes, in service of that “bubble up motivation instead of external prompts” vibe, I also take the day off Twitter! Twitter is a great source of inspiration for writing up thoughts new and old, but sometimes I want to be able to hear my own thoughts better.

Here’s an excellent piece describing what sounds like a very similar practice, although implemented on a more reflex level whereas mine feels a bit more on the routine level.

Ben Hoffman has a great article Sabbath hard and go home which was one inspiration for this. What I do is very different on the object level, but the meta points resonate: if you don’t have the slack to take a day to do whatever you feel like, that’s a sign that things are not okay. You might try beginning your day off with your phone in airplane mode. Mine is always pretty locked down in the morning anyway, using Do Not Disturb and Focus Mode, so I haven’t been an airplane mode guy lately, but I’ve found it amazing in the past, and I’d kinda like to get back into it.

Starting the day with no open tabs is hard, because it requires closing all of my open tabs the night before. I have a few strategies for this:

  • Sometimes I just declare tab bankruptcy and turn off my computer abruptly, then don’t restore my session when I reopen the browser
  • Sometimes I actually go through each of my tabs and deal with it. It’s surprisingly quick to do this… a few dozen open loops sometimes only takes half an hour to close out, when it feels like it could be like 4h. This has sometimes led me to think I want to do this every night, but so far I have not actually found the motivation for that, and it’s not clear it’d be good as it’d be a big evening task that could easily keep me up late.
  • Sometimes I use the Tab Snooze or Tabs Outliner extensions to save the tabs for the day after my day off. This kinda feels like cheating but it’s better than nothing if I don’t have time to go through things but I know I have a bunch of stuff open that I need to get to.

Keep the spirit throughout the day: on days off, I aim to just do one thing, in general but in particular on my computer. Once I’ve finished it, i close out all the tabs again and release myself into the moment again, discovering my innate effervescent freedom to do whatever I want. I’ve noticed that when I leave my computer with exactly one thing open, it can also be really easy to multitask between that thing and eg helping a friend with something in person, since when I return to my computer the context is so clear that I can just resume exactly where I left off. Only works for something with very visible state though, where I don’t have to take awhile to boot up “what was I even trying to do here again?”

An invitation, if you want one:

👉 pick a day on your calendar where you have few or no things scheduled already (just once to start, not every week)
⛔️ block it off entirely (from yourself & others)
✖️ call off any existing plans (& tell people who might have implicit expectations that you’re taking the day off)

When that day comes, do whatever you feel like doing!

in the context of the whole rest of your life, of course. Everything always is. But you can assess that directly in the moment in an in-person way.

In the long run, I think we can move towards a world where approximately people are always doing what they feel like doing. That’s not to say that there won’t be planning of course, but that our relationship with our plans will be such that we’re never out of touch with why we’re following them and a sense that we do in fact want to follow them.

Figuring out how to make that even remotely workable is a design problem though, and in the meantime practicing bite-sized amounts of utter freedom helps.

If you want to take your intentionality—or your improvisation—to the next level, check out our choose-your-own adventure workshops that are coming up in a couple weeks. Our coaches can help you design your own days off, get clear on what you want in your life, or explore anything else you’re stuck on on any level. Sign up here or watch the video below to learn more:

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About Malcolm

Constantly consciously expanding the boundaries of thoughtspace and actionspace. Creator of Intend, a system for improvisationally & creatively staying in touch with what's most important to you, and taking action towards it.


George Woodliff-Stanley » 20 Sep 2022 » Reply

Waaaaaait are you advertising your workshop where you’ll be coaching on a Sunday in your post about taking all your Sundays off? 🧐😜

…Actually though, how are you thinking about that? I want to coach at the Saturday workshop but have my own day off on Saturdays—very much in the spirit described here, with my primary constraint being no screens (phone, computer, etc.) for the whole day. I’m thinking I might “move” this week’s day off to another day to honor it while also doing the workshop. I’m not too worried that’ll set a day-off-undermining precedent because moving it often won’t be viable anyway. And if it is, and I do it a lot, I suppose from one perspective that’s broadly fine, as long as the days off are actually happening each week. That said I prefer the idea of it happening on a consistent day.

Malcolm » 25 Sep 2022 » Reply

Bahaha well-spotted.

I’ve been in holiday mode for several weeks/months, with virtually nothing scheduled (and several days not even online) so I’m not doing ordinary days off at the moment. This is my baseline habit for when I’m in an ordinary routine lifestyle phase.

And yes, simply moving it to a different day on a one-off basis is my approach to such things, and it’s worked great. And every now and then it also just can’t work for some reason, and that’s just life. Probably a good time for the “don’t miss 2 in a row” approach.

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