Why this executive never works on the weekend

Courtesy of Wiseman Group

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What is your Sunday routine? is written by Liz Wiseman, president of Wiseman Group.

The French artist Paul Gauguin once said, “I shut my eyes in order to see.” On Sundays, I shut out the world. For me, it’s a Sabbath observance, an opportunity to rest from responsibilities and focus on other purposeful activities, such as devotion and family.

Every Sunday, after going to church (which in my faith literally takes longer than running a marathon), I plop down on my couch and read until it is time to drive to our weekly family dinners–a tradition built over the last 20 years. While my Sunday routine varies somewhat, there is one thing that remains consistent: I don’t work. I’ve come to really appreciate the power of the pause–the virtue of stepping away. Resting from our work offers more than just sanity; pausing sharpens our minds. Research in neuroscience shows that we are more creative after stepping away from a problem. When our pre-frontal cortex is too focused on the task at hand, it can’t combine information about the problem at hand with information stored in our memory. When we take a break, these neural connections occur and lead to new insights. Indeed, all work and no rest makes our minds very dull instruments.

Last year when I was writing my most recent management book, my commitment to the Sunday pause was put to the test. Each Saturday I would take inventory of my unfinished work from the previous week and then check next week’s upcoming deliverables. Panic always ensued (and generally was warranted). I inevitably came to the same conclusion each week: I have no choice but to work on Sunday. Yet, every week I decided against it. I stepped away. On Monday I would resume my work, with a clear head and fresh legs. And everything always got done. This is the power of pausing–letting go, clearing the mind, and trying again. While a Sabbath may feel old-fashion or only for religious types, the practice of pausing is perfect for our modern world. Here are five simple ways you can benefit from the power of pause:

Retreat: Escape from digital deluge by shutting down your laptop, going electronic-free for a day, or simply turning off your ringer. Take a long walk and reacquaint yourself with nature.

Rest: Set aside work, be it professional or domestic. Take a long bath or sneak in a nap (Note: sadly, this option is not necessarily available to parents of small children!).

Read: Indulge in a good book, read the newspaper, or catch up on a favorite magazine–just make it longer than a 140 character tweet or blog post. Let your mind dig deeply into something.

Relate: Hang out with close friends or family. Instead of talking through your “to-do” lists, sit and engage in a real conversation. Instead of dragging your kids around on errands, try following them as you explore together. You’ll see the world through their wondering eyes and be renewed.

Regroup: Gather with family or community. You might start a Sunday dinner club, or, if you’ve already got a close-knit group, invite someone without family nearby to join you.

Everyone deserves a “Sabbath” of some sort. So this Sunday, go ahead and disconnect. Hit the pause button. Devote yourself to something other than work. Relax with family and friends. Or, simply re-center yourself in the universe.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: What is your Sunday routine?

How this CEO recharges on the weekend by Perry Yeatman, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners.

Why this entrepreneur uses meditation to start her work week by Lynn Jurich, CEO and co-founder of Sunrun.

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