One thing I’m adding to my routine this year

Last week, I took a week off anything work-related. (Well, I did some thinking, but I didn’t do anything productive, per se.) I slept in, I read a novel, I did the Christmas and New Years things.

I cleaned, I worked on our budget, and I organized some bookshelves, too. Within a slow week, these things are actually relaxing to me.

I did whatever came to me, and it was glorious. We let the kids stay up later than usual, we watched more movies and played more games than we ever do the rest of the year, and I’m pretty sure there was daily chocolate. It’s my favorite week of the year.

The twelve days of Christmas are for feasting—it’s a time of celebration. (And it’s still not quite done yet…)

ginny coffee christmas tree

I also did something I’ve made the habit of doing the past three years now during this week between Christmas and New Years: I reread the book Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. This book has become a manifesto for me, so essential (get it?) to my modus operandi that I use it as the kick-in-the-pants I need when the clock turns again to a new year.

Something stood out to me during this re-read I’ve never before noticed. This one particular chapter didn’t meet me where I was until this year, for whatever reason. Greg says this in chapter 5:

“We need space to escape in order to discern the essential few from the trivial many. Unfortunately, in our time-starved era we don’t get that space by default—only by design.”

bench

He goes on to talk about how the smartest business leaders give ample space to their employees—and themselves—to think over their work and their best contributions. He shares specific examples of companies that carve out one full workday a month to do nothing but gather as a team and talk, share, brainstorm, and debrief over the previous month. Of course, there are no screens allowed—no phones, no laptops. No interruptions.

I’m not a company. I work for myself, but I’m just me. Even if I were an employee somewhere, I think there is still serious wisdom in giving myself permission to think.

See, I love to plan and dream for the new year—but I can so easily become overwhelmed by my own good intentions. If I don’t slow down enough to ask myself what really matters, I’ll toss my convictions around with my moods and whims. On what I ate for lunch.

We all have lots of stuff on our plates. What if we intentionally scheduled time in our calendar to just…. think?

Think Days

This year, I’m going to try having monthly Think Days. These are days during my regular month—so, not vacations or holidays—when I’m going to allow all the white space I need to just…. think.

bench

I might think about work, writing, the internet, my career. Or my focus might lean towards my kids, my marriage, my health, our house, my relationships. I might just read a book. For fun. There will most certainly be long walks outdoors.

I’ll tell you up front—this feels weird to me. I have a lot on my plate. In fact, I started my break last week pretty exhausted from an overly full fall season, and the spring doesn’t look as light as I’d like, either.

The idea of a Think Day feels counterintuitive, to be honest. I need to get a lot of things done.

I was saying this to Kyle as I told him about my idea of a Think Day. In fact, I told him how in Essentialism, one CEO said if he feels too busy to have a monthly Think Day, that’s a warning light for him that he’s too busy, period. And then I literally said right after this, “Honestly, I probably won’t do a whole Think Day—I don’t really have time for that. Maybe a half day. Or maybe just every six weeks.”

“Did you just hear what you said?” Kyle said.

“Yeah, I know,” I answered. “But seriously—I don’t have the luxury of working all the time. I’ve got the kids and house stuff and you, too. I’m not a fancy CEO.”

Kyle just looked at me.

“Um…. You need to do Think Days every month. Obviously. I love this idea.”

He’s right.

So, even though it doesn’t feel like I have the time for this, I know my soul, body, and mind, need monthly Think Days this year. One of my more nebulous goals for this year is to lower my stress levels, and Think Days fit in perfectly with this goal.

Greg goes on to say:

“Here’s another paradox for you: the faster and busier things get, the more we need to build thinking time into our schedule. And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.”

The world around me is fast, busy, and noisy. I don’t want to be. I’m pretty sure Think Days will be just what my soul doctor is prescribing.

So yes, let’s plan our new years. Yes, let’s dream big and work on new habits. But let’s give ourselves permission to go slow enough to think. I know I don’t do that enough these days. Perhaps you feel the same?

winter walk

Here’s to thinking this year.

p.s. – I also want to learn more this year, and next week, I’m taking a parenting course from Brené Brown called The Gifts of Wholehearted Parenting. It sounds really good. It sounds like something I need. Want to join me?

Have a good day,
again and again.

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52 Comments

  1. Kizzy

    Sounds like a great plan. I have added Essentialism to my TBR list, thanks!
    I try to do something similar, it came from studying The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. She recommends taking Artist’s Date, doing something for yourself to encourage creativity. Going to a museum, out for a coffee, always an activity on your own. I then incorporate time to think about what I’ve been doing, what has worked and what I need to stop or amend.
    Good luck with your thinking day.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      An artist’s date – I love that!

  2. Tyra

    This really resonates with me. I’m mostly a stay at home mum (I work one and a half days per week), and any time that I don’t have my son with me I feel like I need to stay really busy to “use my time wisely”. I never give myself space to just breath and think. Definitely something I should consider making time for!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes, I totally get that! And it makes “logical” sense, right? But imagine the soul-care you’d find having a day to breathe and think…. you’d be an even more fantastic mom for your son than you already are! 🙂

  3. Heather @ wellermommablog

    Hooray! I am taking that course, too, and I am super excited. Besides Essentialism-which I have listened to in its entirety approx. 5 times this year-a true compliment to that book for parents is Simplicity Parenting. I love the theme of do less and make it count more. I want that to be what 2017 looks like in my family. Here’s to breathing room and thinking space!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      That’s a fantastic book! One of my favorites on parenting.

  4. Amanda S

    This is something I actually found myself doing but didn’t think it really had a name. With my fiance and I having off schedules, Saturdays after work for me were a time to de-stress from the week, but also to plan for anything. Whether I needed to look through the cabinets to see what was missing or meal planning for the week or tackling a long lost project, it really helped me regroup as a person. It wasn’t a whole day, but at least having once a week of unstructured time to do and think made me feel more whole as a person.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yeah, this kinda doesn’t even need a name, it’s so simple, right? This basic necessity really does make us feel more whole….

  5. Megan Lacey

    I cannot even begin to tell you how much this resonated with me. I already knew the necessity of slowing down and thinking about my work — but the guilt of everything else has always taken over. I’m definitely going to read this book. Thank you for sharing!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      The book is fantastic! And it’s so good for releasing the guilt, because he says we don’t need to do basically 99% of what we feel like we’re “supposed” to do. Hooray for that!

  6. Jessica Johnson

    I have had the pleasure of enjoying a very similar week between Christmas and today. So lovely, isn’t it?

    I adore the Think Day idea (which auto-filled as Thank Day…there may be something there too…) and I am going to share this idea with my work colleagues. The concept reminds me of this quote:

    You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes everyday – unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.
    ~ Sukhraj S. Dillon

    All the best to you and yours in 2017!
    Jessica

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ooh, I love that quote!

  7. nichole

    The Wheaten puppy is adorable. We have one, too. 🙂

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Hooray for Wheatens!

  8. Adrianne | The Shelton House

    I think this is a fantastic idea. I read a different post referencing “the essential few” just recently and this makes me think it’s time to pay attention to the idea. It’s easy for me to know I dislike “busy,” and it’s easy for me to know I need practice being present…. But the “how” always trips me up. This is a great starting point. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to see what comes of your thinking space 🙂 Oh, and this also goes well with The Office episode my husband and I watched last night…. Michael has “creative space” from 9-noon and “free play” from 1-5 as his work schedule. Perhaps he’s on to something 😉

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ha! Oh, that Michael Scott.

  9. Caitlin

    LOVE this idea!! I’m gonna steal it (my high school drama teacher always said you’re only as good as the people you steal from, so I try to steal the best ideas from the best people, haha). I just put a hold on that book at the library and am excited to check it out. Definitely sounds like a topic for our times.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      That’s a fantastic quote! 🙂 It reminds me of Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist

  10. Frances

    Thanks for sharing this, and for the link to the Brene Brown course. Just what I was feeling I needed today – a community – of moms and dads who are all in this together.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes! I’m so excited about it, too.

  11. Amy@MoreTimeThanMoney

    Essentialism is on my must read list for this year. Prioritising it for January sounds like a good plan!
    I wholeheartedly agree with the importance of thinking space and I know from experience it doesn’t just happen by itself. I have a precious five child-free hours on a Friday during the school term and I use those hours deliberately. In fact I guard it will dear life. It would be so easy to fill that time with errands, appointments and housework. Instead this is my time to just be, I often do a lot of writing, some gardening or some cooking, but the thing I value the most is the opportunity to think. From the outside, it might look like I am doing nothing but it is amazing how this time to think improves my productivity.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      That last sentence you wrote there is gold, Amy. So, so true.

  12. Robyn

    I’m 67, retired and live alone. Everyday is Think Day.
    I could do with a Productive Think day.
    Thank you for the suggestion.

  13. Greg

    Yea!!! The local library has “Essentialism” available. So, I put a hold on it. It will be available in time for my new morning reading time. Rescheduling my mornings to do stuff that benefits me when I am at my most productive.Thank you Tsh.

  14. Laurel

    I listened to Essentialism last summer and was very struck (and excited!) by this idea of a Think Day. It was something I knew I needed to incorporate, somehow, into my life, but have yet to do it. Thank you for the reminder!

    So much wisdom in that book, too. I need to do a re-read/listen.

  15. Jamie Watkins

    This is great. I actually put on my calendar a similar thing for the last Sunday of every month! A day to focus and reflect and plan. Taking up a whole day every month in my calendar felt like I didn’t have time for that really, but I did it anyway. When you talk about the CEOs knowing they need to make that time when they really feel like they don’t have that time reminded me of a story I heard in college chapel once. (I think it was about St. Augustine, but I could be completely wrong!) It was about two monks or priests whose daily routine always started with two hours of prayer. One day the younger said to the older, “maybe we only pray for one hour today since we have so much we need to do,” and the older replied, “no, when we are busier, we need to pray for four hours.” The idea being that centering yourself and focusing and putting first what should be first makes you more efficient and able to accomplish more. It’s always stuck with me (even though I definitely never prayed for that amount of time…).

  16. Anna

    I just recently added the book “Essentialism” to my reading list, and this makes me want to read it even more. I have it on hold at the library. I like the idea of a Thinking day, although it is too easy to say, “I’m too busy,” but I know that I can get to the point where I am just staying busy but not getting much accomplished.

  17. Indasa Butler

    I’m doing something similar this year. I found it while reading Dan Sullivan. He calls them Buffer Days, Focus days and Free Days. I need Buffer days and Free Days more than once a month, though. 😛

  18. Judy

    This sounds like the Biblical Sabbath. According to a Jewish understanding of Scripture, on the Sabbath you abstain from all work and everything that creates, as God stopped creating on the seventh day. It leaves a whole day, once a week, for worship, reading, games, etc… And lots of thinking. ? God knew that we needed this kind of a day on a regular basis!

  19. Mekeshia Jordan

    Hello! I love this idea and I plan to do the same. This past year has been one of the most stressful years I have ever had. I actually spent Christmas in the hospital and I feel the reason partly was due to all the stress of the holidays. I was telling my self each moment had to be productive because I had so much to do.I was cramming in errands during lunch and wrapping gifts during my down time at work. With kids, etsy orders, planning an Arts and Crafts show,and working a full time job also. It was a lot on my plate and I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was most important, my health. This said I am at home for a while due to health issues and if I were paying more attention I could have possibly prevented this. I am going to use yiur method it could definitely help alot with that and just a day to do what you want would be great. A day to think about how I have been feeling and rest. Thanks so much for your inspiration.

  20. pat s

    I like that. So many bloggers have picked a word for the year and I’ve been wondering what I should pick. I’m not a blogger, but still think having a word would be good. Maybe mine will be “think”.
    Love your Wheaten puppy.

  21. Charissa

    My husband recently gave me the gift of a think day by taking the older two kids somewhere overnight. It was awesome to have the space to complete my thoughts for a change! He’s hoping to keep doing it periodically. I honestly need the time mostly to be able to pray and read the Bible without feeling like there’s a timer set for how long I get.

    I also enjoy this post in light of your recent revelation that you are a 5– makes so much sense! I’m married to a 3, it’s hard to see him feeling so nourished in his soul by a think day, though of course it would still be good for him. But a 5, and INTJ, definitely will thrive with this routine!

  22. Amanda

    I love this! When the noise increases around me (which is inevitable with three kids), I often cease to think clearly and I become slow and tend to lose focus. My husband has been on break over Christmas, and so I’ve been taking some quiet time to read “Notes From a Blue Bike” while I nurse my son to sleep. It has been just what I needed. I’ve been thinking through my goals for the year realistically, I finally started a blog, and I’ve been enjoying my coffee while still hot. Adding true think days will feed my soul all the more. Thank you for your inspiration!

  23. Jen

    I did something like the think day for the upcoming semester. I’m a professor and I have a certain number of hours I need to be on campus each week. I arranged my schedule so that there’s one day where I don’t have classes or office hours. I then blocked off that day so that I can spend the day doing deep work or just thinking. Essentially, I carved out a day where I don’t have to focus on others, and that seems to be an important element of alleviating stress. I know I’m fortunate to be able to do this and not everyone can, but I think there are other ways to carve out some me-thinking time, such as early morning or late evening alone time for people who can’t push around weekday hours.

  24. Marjolaine

    My boyfriend and I have talked about giving ourselves a day off without our daughter to create, him mostly by himself, and me with my creative friends. I might suggest a think day also as it would be great to just read and lounge and well, think. 🙂

  25. Maryalene

    This is a most excellent idea! I’m so glad you mentioned it! But on to the nitty gritty…will you plan these for a day at home when all the kids are in school or will you steal away from the family somewhere??

  26. Daria

    Absolutely brilliant! I’m going to schedule think days for myself. They’re going in my planner right now. Love this post so much I’m sharing it with my followers. So much truth in here. Thanks!

  27. Dana

    Love this Tsh! I had been hearing about Essentialism for a while so I read it between Christmas and New Year. I actually read it in a day….really good. I had a couple of Think Days after that and then a couple of rearranging and reorganizing days in my studio ( my fall was busy with taking and teaching classes and things got a bit chaotic in my creative space). My schedule ramps back up next week so I want to be ready for it. I am working on adopting precepts rather than resolutions. I wrote about that in my blog this past week. (writingtowardhome.com) I will be building my list as the year goes on rather than trying to start everything all at once and then getting overwhelmed. My precepts so far are Embrace Wonder, Choose Kindness and Be Yourself. Within each of those 2-word phrases is a lot of potential for intentions, practices and habits to form. I also do Artist Dates as recommended by Julia Cameron as a previous poster mentioned. I am journaling about the precepts each day as well as creating Mixed media journal pages around them. I so enjoy your posts!

  28. Erin

    I read Essentialism about a month ago and loved it! This week my kids returned to school- my youngest is in preschool some days – and my day job (also at a school) has not started up again. I really loved having 3 days at home alone to get projects done and follow my whims as to when I did what. It was peaceful and very soothing. I had been considering a more intense work schedule for next year when everyone is in school, but after this week, my ideal has changed. I’m learning to embrace the slow.

  29. Carole

    As an entrepreneur with 2 online stores I’m always just bouncing around from one task to another without much rhyme or reason. Taking a think day makes so much sense to get clear on what I really need to focus on. Maybe then I can be proactive rather than reactive. Thanks for sharing this concept with us.

  30. Gina

    Wow, I really love this! Just the idea of a quiet “think day” sounds delightful! Love this line also: “And the noisier things get, the more we need to build quiet reflection spaces in which we can truly focus.” As a business owner, I truly feel this is a necessity in today’s world. Thanks so much 🙂

  31. Emily at The We Files

    Yes, Tsh!!! I hope this new experiment is enjoyable for you. I love the idea and giving ourselves flexibility and freedom in our schedules. I can’t help but wonder too, if setting aside this special time to think will also encourage us to be more present in the rest of our lives, knowing there will be time to dive deep into thoughts.

  32. Caroline Starr Rose

    I’ve heard about Essentialism maybe a dozen times, but this post pushed me to finally request it at the library. Thanks and happy thinking!

  33. brooke snow

    Yes!!! Greg also goes into more detail on this very thing in a podcast interview he did on Power of Moms: https://powerofmoms.com/essentialism-with-greg-mckeown-and-april-perry-episode-152/
    He said that it’s a principle he’s learned more about AFTER writing his book, and says that he recommends that individuals take a 24 hr. offsite retreat every 90 days in order to check in with themselves. It’s pretty cool to hear him talk about it. It sounds like you have already adapted that idea to fit for your own needs and that’s great! thanks for the reminder!

  34. Jean @ Daydream Believer

    I started doing something similar on a weekly basis this past summer, except I call it a Grace Day. I try to set aside a day midweek to focus on whatever my soul needs. Sometimes that’s thinking, sometimes it’s prayer and Bible journaling, sometimes just reading a book or watching a show without any guilt, or catching up on a nonwork project. When I started I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep it up because it would cut to much into my productivity, but I’ve found that it’s actually made me more productive, not to mention more creative and energetic.

    Best of luck with your Think Day!

  35. Amanda

    Oh, I LOVE this idea of “think days.” I just got the book Essentialism last week (a Christmas/birthday gift) but haven’t yet had a chance to crack it open. Ha! The week between Christmas and the New Year is also my favorite, but with a house full of family members still visiting from out of town for most of it, this past one wasn’t as relaxing as I’d hoped it would be. (Fun? Yes! Relaxing? Not so much.) I’m realizing that despite the bazillion things on my to-do list, I NEED a monthly (weekly?) “think day” to rest, rejuvenate, feed my creativity, and plan for the month (& week) ahead. I had planned to do just that today, but it is now nearly dinnertime. Sigh. Maybe a few hours after dinner when the kiddos are in bed will be just what I need! 🙂 Happy New Year!

  36. Joanna

    I LOVE Essentialism. In fact, my husband and I just got back from a retreat in Charleston, an idea I got from Greg McKeown when he was on Michael Hyatt’s podcast. Every few months or so we do an off-site retreat where we get away to reflect, reconnect, and plan for the next few months. These have been a game-changer for us.

    A great time to do a think day would be on the first day of your period. That’s a time when you’re super intuitive and also your body is calling for rest. It sounds so weird to say, but I’m fascinated with the menstrual cycle and am trying more and more to go with the natural rhythms of my body. It’s so neat and seems to be working well. Like knowing that I can pause once a month is such a gift.

    I hope you can sink into the joy of a guilt-free think day!

  37. Bonnie Gray

    Tsh, I love this! I love the two quotes you shared. I’m going to check this book out today! 🙂 And as you know, I’m passionate about white space. It’s healed my soul and now, it’s empowering me to focus and deliver the essential of what what matters to me and how I was made-which naturally will flow into the doing part of me (I’m a planner and visioner too!). I have a monthly Thinking/Soul Rest time on the calendar too and it’s fun-energizing-I am able to be energized to do all that flows from that – to those I love and the work that’s most meaning and impactful. Hugs with coffee from rainy CA today!

  38. Caitlyn @ Candid Cerebrations

    This is fantastic! Ordering that book and writing in think days in my planner as soon as this comment posts!

  39. Caroline

    YES! This is something that came to me in an AHA! moment in college. I was chatting with a friend, and suddenly it dawned on us, “Take time to make time.”

    As we get more and more rushed (just like you mentioned) we think we don’t have time to take our time. We rush through life and end up spinning our wheels getting nowhere. Slowing down as this marvelous effect of making time.

    Another example: Let’s say I want to walk to work everyday, but I think I’m far too busy to take that time. But if were to do it, I’m actually making time, because i’m multi-tasking: I’m exercising while I get to work. Now I don’t have to schedule in exercise time later.

    Or another example: Let’s say I’m a blogger (I am), and I need to create great content so I think I don’t have time to go for a walk. But when I sit down at my computer to write, I come up empty, or I have to painfully write something sentence by sentence, making it up as I go along. Whereas if I make time for, as you said–White Space–in my life, like going for a walk, then these beautiful fully formed ideas will just come to me, and when I sit down to write it out, it just flows. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder! Take time to Make time! So easy to forget!

  40. Honestmum

    I adore this post and was directed here by my very wise and talented friend Uju of Babes About Town. I had space over Christmas and New Year to gather my thoughts and wind down and it’s made for a productive start to the year. Thanks for the recommendation, I will be buying Essentialism x

  41. Carole

    I find that I need time to not think. My mind is so cluttered with thoughts that I can’t untangle them. I’m trying to do more meditation and day dreaming. I can’t wait for spring so I can get back to walking, or just sitting at the beach staring across the water. I would love to have one unthink day per week. Even the Bible says we need that.

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