How to Really Take a Day Off

Somewhere in the past few decades, a day off became more about catching up, running errands, and planning for the next week than about actually enjoying the day. You probably do one or more of the following on your day off.

  • Grocery shopping
  • Banking
  • Cleaning
  • Meet friends for brunch
  • Laundry
  • Wash Car
  • Go to the movies
  • Entertain
  • Catch up on work
  • Catch up on TV
  • Plan ahead

Some of those things are productive, fun, and even necessary, but when does your body, mind and soul get to rest? The one time we actually take a day off is when we are sick. And why are we sick? Because we got rundown, tired, and infected. Yuck.

Ali Edwards mentioned that she was almost finished reading the book, Sabbath, and wished she could start it again. That one little sentence was a great review, and I wanted to check it out. When I saw the tag line, finding rest, renewal and delight in our busy lives, I knew Amazon had just made a sale. I am not even close to finished and already want to re-read it. This books speaks to me and inspired this post.

3 Reasons to really take a day off…

  • You deserve it
  • You need it
  • You will be better because of it

Wayne Muller, the author of Sabbath points out that while Sabbath may be a holy day for some, it can be anything that provides a visceral experience of life giving nourishment and rest. He suggests that Sabbath time can be a refuge from our modern life which is designed to seduce our attention. Between hundreds of TV channels, calendar alerts, email, billboards and other cries for our attention, it’s no wonder that we often feel overwhelmed with day to day life, and then some sense of guilt for wanting to retreat.

Did you know that stores used to be closed on Sunday once upon a time? They still are in parts of Europe. I know this because on my last day in Copenhagen, many years ago, I went back to the boutique that carried the boots that I didn’t think I could leave the country without, and all I found was a locked door. It was Sunday. While I could have been experiencing life giving nourishment and rest, I had my nose pressed to a closed store window, moaning, “no, no, this can’t be happening, maybe they open at noon.”

Fast forward several years and several pairs of sub-par boots, and what I want more than anything is a visceral experience of life giving nourishment and rest. If you want that too, then follow the simple instructions below and rest, renew and delight.

The 10 step plan to really take a day off

  1. Schedule your day off. Put it in your calender and make it important.
  2. Tell the world. Call your friends, text your colleagues, tweet the news that you have scheduled a day off and won’t be available.
  3. Take a Sabbath eve. On the night before your planned day off, skip the heavy meal and alcohol. Plan to wake up feeling peaceful and refreshed.
  4. Make a Sabbath box. This was a lovely suggestion from the book, Sabbath. Put anything in the box that you don’t want to use during your day off. I think cell phone, and computer will top the list, but there may be other things. Also include things left undone, and worries by writing them on a piece of paper and placing it in the box.
  5. Time out. Whenever I go on vacation, the thing I love most is not being aware of what time it is and not caring. If you can afford this luxury, turn off your clocks and don’t worry about what time it is. Eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty and sleep when you’re tired.
  6. Leave the “shoulds” in the Sabbath box. If you are really going to take a day off, don’t worry about what you should or should not be doing. If you want to take three naps, take three naps. Lunch in bed? Why not?
  7. Rest in your own way.
  8. Renew in your own way.
  9. Delight in your own way.
  10. Promise you won’t spend the day after making up for your day off.

If you can’t decide how you want to spend your day, I highly recommend this suggestion from Sabbath, and plan to put it to the test myself.

Slotha Yoga

“When you wake up, don’t get up. Stay in bed. Give yourself time to review your dreams. Notice how it feels to be in your body this morning. Watch how the light is coming in your room today, read a little, daydream a little, wonder about breakfast.” One couple mentioned in the book has a ritual of champagne and Scrabble in bed on their Sabbath mornings.

“The fruitful uselessness of rest, play, and delight can begin on a Sabbath morning. Wake up, but do not get up. Do something delightful. Use your imagination, be frivolous, be daring. Invent rituals. Do nothing of significance. Cultivate expertise in Slotha Yoga.” – Wayne Muller


  1. says

    So true – days off have become “days to do all the things that you need to do, but can’t do whilst you’re at work”. How refreshing to be reminded that a day off can mean just that – a day off – from everything! Thanks.

  2. says

    I recently finished reading “Sabbath” and agree that it is a book worth reading more than once. In addition to the practical suggestions for weaving rest into our lives, I found many inspiration quotes that related to my journey of having less…like his concept of thinning – making space for life.

  3. says

    We do the housework and errands late Friday afternoon or early evening in order not to jam up the weekend with those chores. This increases the chance of truly relaxing at least one day of the weekend and yet preventing things from going to pieces. Totally worth it!

  4. says

    I have cat-like tendencies, so I actually do sometimes take whole days off (that is, days off from human interaction and its various banking/shopping/sundry duties). My happiest days off involve a couple hours spent in relaxed concentration at the pottery studio, then lots of time sitting in the sun and reading with the company of the cat, spouse, and copious pots of tea. It doesn’t happen as often as I’d like, so maybe scheduling at least one or two in a month would be a good idea.

  5. says

    Totally true. We use our days off to catch up. That seems unnecessary! I loved your first step – schedule it in and make it important. I always feel guilty taking a day to myself, relaxing in nourishment. That makes it more difficult to take the day off seriously.

    I loved this quote, “When you wake up, don’t get up. Stay in bed. Give yourself time to review your dreams. Notice how it feels to be in your body this morning. Watch how the light is coming in your room today, read a little, daydream a little, wonder about breakfast.”

    I’m trying to ease into my mornings right after waking up. When I first started working it was really tough to get up in the mornings and get to work. Now I’ve learned to just sort of yoga my way into it. Watch the light seeping in through the windows, really get to know what my body is feeling, and have a good transition from sleep to wakefulness. Move slow, stop the sense of urgency. I think the sense of urgency is also a plight of modern society – due to all the billboards, TV shows, commercials calling out for our attention.

  6. says

    What a lovely post! I had heard of the book and been wanting to read it, but I dont’ have time…so maybe it can be what I curl up with on my Sabbath day. I’m working on a book hopefully to be called the “Zen of Unemployment” the excepts from Sabbath make it sound like a book to look at also for it’s beautiful language. Thanks.

  7. Rodrigo Afonseca says

    I think I’m gonna try some iPhone-turn-off this Sunday! Planing on going to cinema with my wife and kid.

  8. says

    Actually just made an appointment to use a spa certificate I got for my birthday, and added a night stay at the hotel to really stretch the whole relaxing experience.

    February 21st.

    I am counting down.

  9. says

    I love my Sabbath. Yes my Sabbath is on a Sunday because that works for me and my family. In the mornings we go to church, then we come back and eat lightly and are thankful for the food we have and the means to provide such food. Then i read, write proper letters, take a nap, talk to my adult children, phone my parents, take a long bath and just dream a little.

    The sad thing is that has we set off for church others are setting off to go shopping or some kind of leisure activity and they spend no time relaxing and then the following day they have to go to work and wonder why they are always tired and stressed. The increase in stress in our lives is now being linked to the increase in heart disease. For me a Sabbath day is a day to STOP.

    The weekend is nearly here and im already planning what we will be doing when, but maybe we will just have a Sabbath instead – thank you for the reminder.

  10. says

    I really needed to read this and now am going to share it because I know others do too. Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful and restful weekend full of quiet moments!

  11. says

    Awesome idea. I normally come back from vacation wishing for a couple days off to get my life back in order before going back to the drudgery of work. If you’re going to be stuck in a rut at work, why be stuck in one on your day off!!!

  12. says

    Wow – headed to Barnes and Nobel to order now – I need to learn how to be nicer to me. I work a 40+ hour a week job (Hospital system admin) teach two classes a semester online, and volunteer as the director of a free heatlh clinic. I do find time to run, scrapbook, kayak, and trout fish – I just do not find time to do nothing. I can learn to be nicer to me.

  13. says

    This post came close to giving me an anxiety attack. Because it hit me right between the eyes. I know it’s true but I have to admit – I have a very hard time with this. It’s one of the biggest point of contention between my husband and I. I am proud of myself for meditating – it was a huge accomplishment for me to be able to get calm for a small amount of time. But the thought of large amounts of time – like 24 hours – I don’t know how to do that yet.

    He tells me he needs it and it hurts him because he knows I need it too, and he sees me tense up even at the idea of it.

    I might need to get the book.

  14. says

    Great post.
    I’ve really learnt to enjoy my day off’s since moving to Spain. Here weekends are quite sacred, and it’s impossible to find a shop or Pharmacy open on Sunday. At first I found it quite frustrating having lived in London where everything is open 24/7. But now I love it.

  15. says

    This post is a great reminder to us all. I know I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of trying to cram some type of multi-tasking, errand-based thing into every spare moment. Even my so-called relaxation is no longer relaxing. Thanks for giving us all permission to truly relax and enjoy.

    • bev smith says


      I no longer have pre-schoolers as they are all grown up but i do remember what it felt like to have 4 young children with less then 8 years between the youngest and the oldest. I think having a sabbath is not so much as having a day-off it more like having a day-off from the world. Here are some suggestions for you and your pre-schooler and some for you too.

      1. make your home a haven from the world
      2. plan to make the day a quiet one
      3. give yourself a break from everything else but being with your child/ren and family
      4. keep it simple

      No matter if you attend church or not taking time out from the world can be relaxing.

      – turn the tv off – if you want to watch a show or a film make it specific and watch it together
      – and computers/games, etc
      – go for a walk
      – prepare food the day before and eat together
      – visit with relatives or phone them
      – play games together
      – have a box of quiet toys and books which you only share on your sabbath day

      And for you, even pre-schoolers go to bed

      – take the rest of the day off
      – read a book
      – have a long bath with your favourite smelly
      – do only that which is absolutely necessary around the house
      – keep in touch with friends
      – and that film you always wanted to watch but never get the time to, give yourself permission to watch it


  16. Mia says

    Oye, after 28 years of enforced Sabbaths exactly as prescribed above – it is SO NICE have a full week again. I understand that other people may have problems scheduling downtime and might need and might need a formal excuse to take a break but it’s not for everyone. After roughly 1,400 Sabbaths, I think I’m rested up enough for eternity. Bring on the fun and the living and the doing! :-)

  17. says

    Interesting post!! I observe the Sabbath on Saturdays as an observant Jew. It is truly a highlight of my week as it is freeing and completely separate from the rest of the week. It is a day of disengaging from all outside stimuli and turning inward towards prayer, family, and friends. I light my Sabbath candles on Friday at sundown and sink into my couch breathing a sigh of welcome as I look forward to the next 25 hours of R&R. No errands, no work, no technology. How I welcome this “forced” day of stopping all extraneous things. And when sundown arrives on Saturday evening, we have a ceremony to end the Sabbath and reengage and resume our regular activities. We begin our Saturday nite recharged and ready to go….

  18. says

    hi courtney,

    this reminds me so much of the seventh day adventist observation of sabbath. i am not sda but i live near a large community of them. starting at 3pm on fridays, businesses close and families gather what they need for the weekend. they are not supposed to use anything tied to electricity or even really work. they stay in all evening and go to church the next day. it’s a sundown to sundown thing. i have always thought it was a beautiful practice. i will def check out this book. thanks for sharing.


  19. says

    According to the poem that begins the great Israelite mythology (the OT), our universe was set into a time signature of six-and-one. This is, regardless of the credence you lend to the origin myth, a wonderful way to understand the poetry of the cosmos.

    Oh and I’m SO going to put SLOTHA YOGA on my list of ways to “cultivate imperfection.”

    Thanks for speaking into a MAJOR need in the developed world. The locals here in Brazil, know Samba, Capoeira, Sabbath. It’s in the mythopoetics/genes.

  20. Erin says

    Thank you for highlighting a great book — have read it many times. My partner and I have been talking a lot recently about how to incorporate Sabbath time into our lives, so this was a very timely post.

  21. says

    I slept mostly through my first “Sabbath” after a long time. I guess it was a good start. :-)
    At age 19 I spent a few months as an au pair with a jewish orthodox familiy in London.
    Looking forward to the next day off.

  22. says

    Okay this is spooky, only today was discussing this elsewhere …. ie the whole bewildered/deer in headlights look you get when you say you are going to do ‘nothing’ on your day off work.

    Now i find your blog post- brilliantly written as well

  23. bev smith says

    The Sabbath day as always been important to me, ive always attended church but now has the world gets busier its become increasingly more important. Its tradition in the UK to always have a big Sunday dinner but from next week we are going to have our family dinner on Saturday evening. We are actually going out for dinner which is something i wouldnt do on a Sunday. Im looking forward to it and im looking forward to coming back from church on Sunday and not having to cook just eating lightly and enjoying the day.

  24. says

    Great and much needed post. I do value the concept of honoring the Sabbath as I understand it. I’ve gone through periods of practically doing so and periods of feeling it’s just not possible. I’ve always tried to keep one day at least less connected but I’m not currently in a great practice of honoring the Sabbath.

    As I read this post I think of a wonderful, much deserved (for all of us) at home-vacation day. I feel like I should do this once a month, commit to it and schedule it as you say. I think the most difficult part would be point #10, not making up for the day off the day after.

    For me though, Sabbath is a whole different sounding venture. Even though it includes many of the same practices of unplugging (in many ways)–I think it asks of us to plug in very intentionally in one way for it to become a “holy day.” Also something I desire to engage far more thoroughly and consistently.

  25. says

    With the ever present and available phone and laptop, it is tooooo easy to NOT take a day off. I just wrote a draft-post today about my need to take one day off a week. Something I rarely do. I think this post of yours is s “sign” that I really do need to take a sabbath other than Sunday (I work at a church).
    Thanks for this helpful and timely article.

  26. says

    Recently, I have been very intrigued by the thought of a digital sabbatical, if even for a day. Just disconnect, turn off, time out. Go for a walk. Go for a hike, go for a drive. Use a real map, read a physical book, connect with nature. No pictures, no GPS, no Kindle, just your experiences, your relaxation.

    Just writing that makes me want to do it!

    Great Post Courtney, everyone does need time to just, take a day off.

  27. Tessa says

    Great post, Courtney! I can’t wait to read Sabbath! (and start a ritual of drinking bubbly bed on Sunday mornings…)

  28. says

    Thank you for this post, Courtney. I’ve just discovered your site through RowdyKittens.

    Am currently reading Wayne Muller’s “The art of being, having and doing enough” which I will reread upon completion!

    I’ve been practicing a Sabbath for the last few months. Interestingly enough, I always get good ‘work’ ideas the night my Sabbath starts. Temptation or inspiration? 😉

    I also like the custom of lighting 2 candles to start Sabbath and 1 to end Sabbath (symbolizing the shift from division to wholeness and unity.)

  29. Deidre says

    I haven’t had a full day off without any appointments, classes, or travel in over a month, and even that one was an unplanned snow day. I’m looking forward to my sabbath tomorrow – no email, no phone, no facebook – yoga, books, coffee, and rest!

  30. Ali Colbourn says

    ThankYou! Well written…. I Just need to turn the brain off! Telling me all the things I Should be doing, when resting should’ve been # 1 on the list 😊


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