Like many people who own businesses, Nan K. Chase used to find it hard to take a break. Instead, Chase, who works as a freelance writer and public-relations consultant, found that life with her husband, Saul, and their children was suffering from the constant pressures of work. "The problem wasn't that we hated our work but that we loved our work and couldn't stop," explains Chase, who lives and works in Boone, N.C.
She found the solution to her very modern quandary in some ancient wisdom: she decided to start observing the Sabbath as a day of rest. While her solution came from her Jewish roots, she feels that you don't have to be Jewish--or religious at all--to benefit from the discipline of having one day a week without work. Instead, Chase believes that setting aside a day of rest is a powerful management tool for business owners. Here's how she describes her experience:
I found the answer to our family's problem in a book about Jewish holidays. The Sabbath, the book explained, stands apart from any kind of work, "an enchanted island of time" given over to celebration of life's sweetness. Thus, on the Sabbath we couldn't engage in our regular work or talk about it, or do yard work or housework. Once I decided to abide by this holiday, I was amazed to reap quick dividends: an energized relationship with my husband, time to enjoy our teenage children's last years at home, and a clearer view of my long-term business strategies.
The key was treating each Sabbath like a vacation. If I were going on vacation, I wouldn't think of leaving town without first clearing my desk so I could enjoy the holiday. If I wanted to limit the workweek, I had to evaluate my output through that lens. Then it was easy to streamline my operation, concentrating on the accounts paying best by the hour and on those that paid fastest and most reliably. My sales efforts reflected that sharper focus: ironically, once I started taking a vacation every week, my income doubled within a year.
When Saul and I began our first nonwork Sabbath, it was painfully clear that we had little to talk about except work - a forbidden topic. We have since fashioned a new life together on our day of rest.