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All Work and No Play: Combating the Dangers of Workaholism

Hidden Nuggets Series #51“Six days you shall do work, and on the seventh day you will rest…” – Exodus 23:12

All work and no playNo, I’m not writing from a snowed in mountain resort lodge. I have to admit for years I assumed the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” came from that Stephen King horror novel turned Jack Nicholson movie thriller The Shining, which mistakenly came in front of my eyes as a youth (thank you older cousins). I say mistakenly because no one under the age of 21 should put that imagery into their head. (And maybe if you are over 21, you shouldn’t either.)

Turns out the phrase “all work and no play” was originally published in Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish (1659) and is attributed to a writer by the name of James Howell. It turned out to be his most popular proverbs. I certainly cannot think of another one.

The warning of the all work and no play proverb seems clear enough to me – that if we don’t release ourselves from the pressures of work from time to time we will become dull and uninteresting. We run the risk of becoming bored with life, as work becomes our sole focus day in and day out. We’ll neglect time for hobbies, family, friends, exercise, watching sports, reading, or just plain vegging.

That type of existence doesn’t spark a fire in me.

A Guideline For Work

I think maybe God knew a thing or two about work and left us a clear blueprint to follow. The Bible says in Exodus 23:12:

“Six days you shall do your work, and on the seventh day you shall rest…”

This wasn’t the first time God had instructed the Hebrews in this regard. A few chapters prior in Exodus 20, as part of the greatest Ten Commandments given, God gives them this instruction in verses 8-10:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work…”

God clearly allowed for and expected us to work. However, He also commanded rest. The purpose of the rest day for the Hebrews was to worship God. They were to remember the Sabbath day of the week and keep it holy. God had set it aside as special. It was His day.

Working Seven Days a Week Today

We’ve become a culture that embraces an “all work and no play” philosophy. Whether it’s by necessity (because you need the money), by force (your employer requires it) or by choice (because you want the money), we seem to have no problem with punching the clock every day of the week.

In my adult life, I’ve been fortunate to avoid the working seven days a week scenario. My career as an educator always allowed for me to have the weekends to myself. There is actually more of a temptation to slip into a workaholic lifestyle now that I’m a stay at home dad and full-time blogger. I could easily do blog related activities every day of the week if I didn’t force myself to let go of it from time to time.

I’ve always admired companies that took the decision to work seven days a week off the table for their employees. The restaurant Chick-fil-a, based here in Georgia, does such a thing by shutting down all their restaurants on Sunday. Founder Truett Cathy felt that Sundays should be dedicated to rest, worship and family.

Yes, he is losing tons of profit on one of the busiest eating out days of the week. I’ll wager however, his employees are happier and sharper at work because they’ve been given at least one day off per week. (Actually I don’t have to wager on that idea…I know, having eaten there countless times. The culture, atmosphere and customer service at Chick-fil-a is unparalleled in that industry.)

All Work and No Play: Combating Workaholism

I can’t help but wonder that God knew the potential dangers of working too much. Yes, He wanted their attention and worship but were there other reasons He built into the ancient Hebrews’ week a non-work day?

It’s not entirely obvious how the Hebrews filled the entirety of their non-work day. Perhaps, along with their worship, they engaged in these activities – all of which help to break the compulsion to be a workaholic:

1. Rest. Our bodies need sleep. Most people don’t get enough during the workweek. An extra hour or two may be just what the body needs on an off day.

2. Relax. Let’s face it – work creates pressure, which then creates tension and stress. If not handled properly stress can begin to have negative affects on your body. A day off can help the body unwind and release that tension.

3. Reflect. We need time to stop and think. It is really hard to do that with the fast paced nature of the workweek.

4. Revel. How boring would life be without the opportunity to go play? A day off gives us the chance to do something fun that we enjoy.

5. Rejuvenate. We need time to renew our passion for work. Often times, as I relax and reflect on the weekends, I find the answer to problems that occurred during the past week. This gets me eager to implement the solution and move on.

Why are these five activities valuable? Because there is another five or six-day workweek ahead – and so on it goes for the majority of our adult life. Taking a break from work each week will help us be more efficient and actually enjoy our week more.

Nobody ever looks back at the end of their life and says “I wish I’d have worked more.” The top regrets of the dying reveal they would rather have spent more time with family and friends and found a passion that brought happiness and fulfillment.

Fight the urge to be a workaholic. Engage in the five R’s above more often. They may just keep you from becoming bored, uninteresting and snapping like Jack.

Questions: Have you ever lived by the mantra “all work and no play?” How many hours a week do you work? Would you consider yourself a workaholic? How has being a workaholic affected your life? Do you feel that you have a choice to work seven days a week or not? What do you like to do on your day off?

Image courtesy of Stephan van Es at Flickr

Next Post: It Is Not a Sin to Buy a New Car

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Comments

  1. There are many of us working seven days a week with the added bonus of being on call 24/7 that like the extra money the over time brings. I don’t see it as a negative. I haven’t had a day off in seven months and that was only because I was forced to stay home due to cancer surgery. For some reason they don’t like blood and bandages at work but I was out for only 7 days. I couldn’t wait to get back to work,

  2. Good post, but I’m more impressed by your revealing that “All work and no play” was actually from Proverbs. And here I thought Stephen King was just really clever ….. 🙂
    MMD recently posted…Can the Experts Help Us with Investing in Dividend Stocks?  6 Month UpdateMy Profile

  3. I’ve read some interesting stuff recently on sleep, and the importance of getting more of it. I usually have a hard time falling asleep, and have started using an alarm as a time to start getting ready for bed in addition for one to wake up. But it’s certainly helped increase my ‘down’ time.

    Agreed on the importance on a specific day of rest. I’ll take it one step further, and take off both days on the weekend. 🙂
    Done by Forty recently posted…I Am Miley CyrusMy Profile

  4. I don’t consider myself a workaholic with two young boys underfoot it is hard to be one. I do however like to be efficient when I have a few free minutes to do some work. To help our family remain a strong unit and not get over run by the “7 day a week going at full speed” society we have now, my husband and I put into place a family rule. Sunday is a day of rest. We go to church and spend time at home or with my-in-laws on occasion. But Sunday is our family day…no excuses.
    Tennille recently posted…I Went Bankrupt – And Lived To Tell About It!My Profile

    • “….Sunday is our family day…no excuses.” You won’t get any criticism from me for that. There would be some who wouldn’t understand that though.

  5. Ray Clarke says:

    I had a period a couple of years ago where I had to spend Saturday and Sunday afternoons at work for about 3 weeks. Our son said to my wife that he never saw me. Instead of thinking of not working on the Sabbath as a restriction we should regard it as a blessing.

    • I’d be OK with going through a short window of time like that as long as I knew it would end. Working seven days a week indefinitely would get old and discouraging real fast.

  6. I really needed to hear/read this today. I’ve been working 7 days/week for a long time now and I’m really feeling the need for a break. I’m always tired – mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. When I try to take a bit of time for myself with friends, family, my pets, or even just alone time I feel guilty and if I try to relax enough to watch a movie or read I end up falling asleep within about 5-10 minutes. Obviously a break is in order…
    Kayla recently posted…Building Credit the Right WayMy Profile

    • I can hear the fatigue it in your writing Kayla and I’m sorry you are going through this. I don’t know how long you’ve been working at this pace but I’d encourage to give on something. When I’ve gone through seasons like this I had to force myself to create some time to give myself a break and not feel guilty about it. Even if it’s a couple of hours here and there we need that time to relax and recharge our batteries.

  7. Awesome post Brian! I like your 5 steps to combating yourself from over working!

    I am going to take your step 3 “reflection” a little bit further… I would say that for reflecting people need to do something that helps them truly reflect on what they are doing and what’s working vs what is not working.

    I would say that meditating is an excellent way to combine relaxation and reflection. In fact the art of Zen is a very effective way to get the most out of self reflection and helping sooth the body through relaxation.

    Thanks for the post 🙂

  8. I easily remember when Sunday, or the Sabbath, was different. We dressed differently; we ate differently -almost always coming home from church to pot roast, my favorite meal growing up; we all rested rather than be expected to do a list of chores like we had on Saturdays; and no going shopping of course since stores were not even open. I’ll admit that I’ve relaxed some of these things with my own family, but some things we do try to be respectful of regarding our choices like getting yard work or laundry completed so that we don’t have to face it on Sunday. This doesn’t affect me, but I was talking with a friend who has children in both the youth and children’s age groups at church. There’s the typical Sunday morning schedule, then children’s choir at 4, small group for youth at 5, the parents’ small group at 5:30 and trying to shuffle back and forth getting everyone dropped off/picked up on time. Sunday isn’t always a day of rest even when you’re trying to do the right thing by keeping your family involved with church activities.

    • Boy Karen…I agree with everything you’ve said here, especially the last section on what Sundays have become with church activities. We’ve had to bow out of some church stuff because we were simply running ragged on Sundays. I understand the value of being a part of activities in the local church but you can overextend yourself there as well.
      Brian recently posted…Bible Verses About MoneyMy Profile

  9. You are really swimming against the current with this post. It is really unfortunate that we have come to the point where you are looked down upon for coming in at 40 hours per week. We applaud those who go the extra mile for their work, who do right by their family and provide. It would be excellent if we came back to a place where we applauded those who really did right by their families by working reasonable hours. Let’s press back into rest and reflection. Good stuff.
    Jon Maroni recently posted…GRAND-Were you an awkward middle school kid?My Profile

    • Agreed Jon! I really see nothing wrong with people working 40 hours a week or 60 hours a week. (Know some bloggers who put in 80 hr. weeks…not me.) Every person has “that amount” of work time they desire or feel capable of attaining. Whatever the choice, there still has to be time to unplug from it all. There is too much other value in life that will be missed if our sole focus is on work.
      Brian recently posted…4 Reasons Why We Paid Off Our Mortgage EarlyMy Profile

  10. I do better than many of my peers, who link their work email to their smart phone and constantly check in. I’ve known people who check work email on vacation. I do not. The moment I leave, I leave. That’s my time for me and I make no apologies.
    Kirsten recently posted…Grace Through Hard TimesMy Profile

  11. I could never understand being a workaholic. I’ve never been in any danger of that, although I often wonder how much I could have gotten ahead, especially as a freelancer if I’d put in MORE work. But I almost feel like my body had no choice. I need a solid 8 of sleep, good food, exercise, time with friends…aka balance, or else I get sick very easily. I’ve seen too many other workaholics in my life, and their family life usually falls apart pretty quickly.
    Tonya recently posted…How Tonya Attempted To Get Her Groove BackMy Profile

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  1. […] All Work and No Play: Combating the Dangers of Workaholism — To combat the dangers of workaholism, take the time to relax and reflect. [Luke 1428] […]

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