On the Productivity of “Off Days”

Originally published Mar 23, 2021 for

“Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.” – Douglas Pagels

When was your last Off Day?

Today is one, for me. I’m sure you’ve experienced a day like this:

Awakened early, by loud noises, unexpectedly.


Discovering an angry message from someone

pressure & defensiveness

Discovering you’re missing food required to finish the breakfast you’ve started cooking.

smoldering resentment

Receiving a call from a colleague that client files aren’t loading properly.

fear & helplessness

Within the space of an hour, I’ve experienced a cocktail of angry and fearful emotions, and my day feels completely shot. What is the universe trying to tell me?

Surprised I haven’t stubbed my toe or smacked my funny bone on a sharp piece of furniture yet, it’s now time to decide how today is going to go. I’ve got immeasurable quantities of work to do, yet I’m completely uninspired—demotivated!—to do it.

I need a reset.

Some days are like this. And, when we try to power through them, they just get worse. We don’t do our best work. We don’t enjoy the process. We treat others in ways we later regret.

Rather than try to power through it, we need to reset.

Resetting is surprisingly healthy. When we truly commit to taking a Reset Day, it’s usually more productive than we tend to realize.

I was originally forced into the practice when I literally couldn’t work on anything productively after something demoralized me in the morning. Over the past couple years, I’ve learned that listening to these signs leads to a much more productive rest of my day and my week.

Sometimes, it’s just not in the cards that day. Resetting is healthy.

We don’t need to be constantly online on a regular Monday-Friday 9-5 work schedule. It’s okay to choose to be offline on a bad day if we so choose. As long as we do great work, meet our deadlines, and move things forward in our projects, nobody will mind.

The important thing is to take care of your mind.

By disconnecting and resetting today, you’re prioritizing your mental health. You’re setting yourself up for success tomorrow.

I’m off to the gym, then lunch, then a guided meditation, and then an afternoon of yard work. I’ve made sure my colleagues are aware, and I’ll do better work tomorrow.

Namaste. 🧘‍♂️


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