How to Close Your Apple Watch Rings Every Day for a Year

Apple Watch - Perfect Year - Close Rings 365 Days in a Row

Today is Day 403 in a row of closing all three of my Apple Watch rings. I’ve worn an Apple Watch since they launched in 2015, but I never closed my rings more than 2 days in a row for the first several years.

James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, poses a question worth considering:

My current habits were not carrying me to my desired future.

Most of my months looked like this:

June 2016 Apple Watch Rings Incomplete

It wasn’t until 2018 that I decided to start taking my health seriously.

Changing My Unhealthy Lifestyle

I didn’t exercise at all during my 20s. I did nothing but sit and work at a desk—it wasn’t even a standing desk.

One year, while visiting family during the holidays, I asked several older relatives what advice they’d give their 30-year-old self. The most common response:

“Start exercising now. It only gets more difficult.”

I decided to make a change.

January 2018 Apple Watch Rings Incomplete

In January of 2018, I began exercising several times per week, but I still wasn’t regularly closing my Apple Watch rings. The best streak I managed was 5 days in a row.

It Started With One Perfect Week

It wasn’t until August of 2018 I saw someone share their Perfect Week (All Activity) badge on Reddit. It looked so cool!

Apple Watch Perfect Week All Activity Badge Animated

“Maybe I could do that…” I thought.

I set out in the last week of August, 2018 to close my Apple Watch rings every single day.

Apple Watch First Perfect Week

It wasn’t easy, but I did it! I closed all three rings on my Apple Watch Monday through Sunday. I earned that beautiful Perfect Week (All Activity) badge, and I was so proud of myself.

Once I finished the week, I planned to quit. I just wanted to get the badge.

Then I Earned a Perfect Month

After I posted a screenshot of the Perfect Week (All Activity) badge on Instagram, someone messaged me and said, “Now go for the Perfect Month badge!”

I wanted to laugh off their suggestion, but I kept thinking about it. I didn’t really want to break my streak of 7 days. Could I really get a Perfect Month?

Apple Watch September 2018 Perfect Month

Yes, I could!

Apple Watch September 2018 Perfect Month Badge

I got my first Perfect Month badge in September of 2018, and I was hooked. I loved the feeling of accomplishment, so I kept going.

Apple Watch Helped Me Kick My Video Game Addiction

Rewind back a few years ago: I got addicted to playing video games. It wasn’t good. I sunk a thousand hours into a game, and I wasn’t happy with where my time was going.

I desperately wanted to find a way to channel my obsession into something more productive that would benefit my life.

Apple Watch activity rings and badges became my new video game.

No Video Games Habit

After a few months in a row of closing my Apple Watch rings, I decided to uninstall the game completely. I haven’t played video games in 278 days, and I’m happier than ever.

I Completely Changed My Lifestyle

It hasn’t been easy to close my rings every day, and there have been some close calls here and there, but I completely changed my lifestyle and habits. It’s now a foregone conclusion: I will close my Apple Watch rings every single day no matter what.

Apple Watch Workout Types

Sometimes I run, sometimes I walk, sometimes I do strength training, sometimes I do HIIT workouts, but I make sure to always close my rings.

That Darn Stand Ring

A lot of people complain about the Stand ring.

Apple Watch Stand Ring

  • “I work at a standing desk and it still tells me to stand. Dumb Watch.”
  • “Look—I stood up from my chair and didn’t get stand credit!”
  • “I got sick of those reminders, and I turned them off.”

What they missed is this (from Apple’s Close Your Rings page):

Apple: Close Your Stand Ring

Close your Stand ring by getting up and moving around for at least 1 minute during 12 different hours in the day.

The blue Stand ring isn’t the:

  • ❌ Stand-up-from-the-chair-where-you-haven’t-moved-for-an-hour-and-wave-your-arm-for-10-seconds ring.

This is the:

  • ✅ Stop-being-sedentary-and-move-around-for-a-minute-each-hour ring.

Of course, that’s a bit too long, and they had to pick a one-word name, so they called it the “Stand” ring. But remember, the Stand ring is about more than just standing for a brief moment. It’s about moving around every hour.

If you’re like me, when you first got your Apple Watch, you got sick of those “Time to stand!” notifications and turned off the reminders completely.

I lamented the fact that I could not change the blue Stand ring to some other more interesting metric.

I was making a mistake by ignoring the Stand ring.

I learned that Apple did a lot of research and made that third, blue Stand ring for a reason:

Not standing and being sedentary leads to higher blood pressure, decreased energy, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Don’t ignore the Stand ring!

I would encourage you to turn your Stand notifications back on. Make a point to get up, and move around for several minutes each hour. You can do this, and it’s good for you. The degree to which it’s annoying is the degree to which you need it.

If you’re healthy, you’ll never see the notification reminding you to Stand because you’re already moving around. You’re not remaining sedentary for long periods of time.

Yes, standing at your desk for too long without taking breaks is a problem too!

If you get a “Time to Stand!” reminder while standing at your desk, don’t complain that the Watch is dumb and ignore the reminder. Take it as a sign you’ve remained relatively motionless for too long and it’s time to take a break.

Walk downstairs, down the hall, or go outside and move around for a few minutes.

The 3 Rings Club

After I closed my Apple Watch rings consistently for a while, my friends started to notice. Gradually, they began to join me. I formed a cohort of Apple Watch activity buddies with whom I share my activity (currently 10 strong). I call it The 3 Rings Club. We’re all serious about closing our Apple Watch rings every day.

My 3 Rings Club

We love replying to each other’s Workout notifications; sometimes with an encouraging message, other times with a joke or playful jab.

This accountability has played a large role in helping me stay consistent. It’s not a solitary activity, it’s a group effort.

Accountability is key to maintaining consistency in the beginning.

I like to use what I call the Three P’s of Accountability:

  1. Public Accountability
    • Tell the world you’ll do something.
    • Example: Share on your Instagram story or post a tweet on Twitter saying you will close your Apple Watch rings every day. Share a weekly update to stay accountable.
  2. Partner Accountability
    • Tell a friend you’ll do something.
    • Example: Add an Apple Watch Activity buddy and share your workouts with them. Tell them you will close your Apple Watch rings every day. Reply to each others workouts and send encouragement. Meet in person or hop on a weekly call to stay accountable.
  3. Personal Accountability
    • Tell yourself you’ll do something.
    • Example: Write in your journal, or place a sticky note at your monitor: “I will close my Apple Watch rings every day.” Set a reminder on your iPhone. Use a habit tracker—whatever you need to do!

Most people don’t have self discipline and struggle to follow through on commitments they make to themselves (see: all the times you set an early alarm only to hit “Snooze” half a dozen times). So it might seem strange to see “Personal Accountability” in the list above. How does it help?

Well, at first, Personal Accountability doesn’t help. Usually your Personal Accountability is the weakest form of accountability.

But when you combine all three forms of accountability, it increases the chances you’ll follow through.

  • You’ll want to follow through on your Public Accountability because your reputation is at stake. You want to be seen as dependable because reliability is a desirable trait.
  • You’ll want to follow through on your Partner Accountability because you don’t want to let your buddy down. You want to show up consistently for your partner as much as, if not more than, you want to show up for yourself.
  • You’ll end up staying consistent mostly because of the first two forms of accountability, but in doing so, you also strengthen your own Personal Accountability.

When you combine these three forms of accountability, the first two strengthen the third.

In time, you’ll reach a point where your Personal Accountability becomes so strong, you can tell yourself you’ll do something and you’ll actually follow through on it without any other forms of accountability. You develop self discipline.

Achieving the Perfect Year

After earning my second and third Perfect Month badges, I decided to go for a Perfect Year.

While there’s no official badge for “Perfect Year” yet, I set out to get 12 Perfect Month badges in a row—that’s what I’m calling a “Perfect Year”.

365 Days Closing Apple Watch Rings

Closing my Apple Watch rings became a part of my life and before I knew it, the month of August ended, and I’d earned my 12th Perfect Month badge.

Apple Watch 12 Perfect Month Badges

I didn’t stop there. A few days ago, I earned my 13th Perfect Month badge. My focus now is to earn 12 Perfect Month badges in the 2019 calendar year. I have no plans of stopping.

Inspiring Others

After I decided to go for a Perfect Year, several of my friends committed to closing their Apple Watch rings every day for a year as well.

In recent weeks, several of them reached the 365-day milestone!

It really goes to show how powerful the snowball effect is:

  • Someone shared their Perfect Week badge and inspired me.
  • I shared my Perfect Week badge.
  • Someone shared their Perfect Month badge with me.
  • I shared my Perfect Month badge.
  • My friends shared their Activity with me and started exercising regularly.
  • I shared that I was going for a Perfect Year.
  • My friends decided to go for a Perfect Year too!

If someone else hadn’t shared their small success, I wouldn’t have been inspired. If I hadn’t shared my success, my friends wouldn’t have been inspired.

Move Goal Shaming

One annoying thing about sharing your Apple Watch achievements is there’s always someone who asks, “What’s your Move goal?”

No matter what you reply, the answer is always, “Seriously? That’s it? Haha, no wonder you make it every day? My move goal is <some bigger number>.”

They usually go on to explain why maintaining a streak is impossible for them because their goal is so much bigger.

Okay…

There are two problems with this:

  1. Everyone is different (more on that in a moment).
  2. The point of the goal is to motivate you. If it’s consistently impossible to hit your daily targets, your Move goal will have the opposite of the desired effect: it will demotivate you.

Let me expand on the first point.

I’m a very skinny person. When I exert myself for hours, I burn an amount of calories that would seem low to you. I know people twice my weight who burn the same amount in minutes.

I average 80 to 100 minutes of exercise every day, but I rarely break 1,000 calories because of my body size—even with extended amounts of intense exercise.

It should go without saying, but:

The amount of calories burned in a given workout is different for everyone.

It doesn’t matter what someone else’s number is—their body is different from yours. Depending on your age, sex, height, and weight, you might burn 1,050 calories while someone else will burn 425 calories doing the exact activity for the same amount of time.

Setting a Sustainable Move Goal

So what should your Move goal be?

Change Move Goal

I recommend setting your Move goal so reaching it takes either:

  • ✅ 30 minutes of intense exercise, OR…
  • ✅ 60 minutes of light exercise.

It’s really simple to calculate your Sustainable Move Goal:

  • Look at a recent 30-minute workout where you went hard. How many calories did you burn?
    • If you haven’t ever done a hard 30-minute workout, give it a shot this week. Run, lift weights, do some cardio, HIIT, etc. Get that heart rate up!
  • Look at a recent 60-minute workout that was relatively light and easy. How many calories did you burn?
    • If you haven’t ever done a light 60-minute workout, try taking a brisk walk for an hour. You’ll probably log 3 miles or so (around 5 kilometers).

Set your Move Goal at a number that takes 60 minutes of light exercise or 30 minutes of intense exercise to attain.

Don’t keep increasing your Move goal when Apple suggests.

Set your goal between your 30-minute intense exercise calorie burn and your 60-minute light exercise calorie burn.

  • Example #1: If you average 750 calories for an intense 30-minute workout and 850 calories for a lighter 60-minute workout, I recommend setting your Move goal in the middle to 800 and leaving it there.
  • Example #2: If you average 450 calories for an intense 30-minute workout and 500 calories for a lighter 60-minute workout, I recommend setting your Move goal in the middle to 475 and leaving it there.

If you keep increasing your goal every time Apple suggests, the amount of exercise required to reach it will eventually get so high, you can’t realistically fit it in to your normal schedule. When you inevitably set the goal so high you break your streak, you run the risk of getting demoralized and quitting.

Make your goal attainable with 30 minutes of intense activity. Then, even on really busy days, achieving your goal still remains realistic. You can set aside 30 minutes to get a good workout in and you will close both your Move and Exercise rings at the same time.

99% of the time, I go way beyond just closing the Move ring (66% beyond on average, to be exact), but in the rare instances where I’m sick or injured, maintaining a Sustainable Move Goal means it’s at least not completely impossible for me to keep my streak (see “How to Close Your Rings if You Get Sick or Injured” below).

When you meet your goal, you’ll often be motivated to go above and beyond it. You’ll end up achieving more in the long run than if you kept increasing your goal to the point of failure and quitting as a result.

Start Small

Before you go for a Perfect Year, consider starting small and setting a goal of getting just one Perfect Week (All Activity) badge.

It’s still my favorite badge to date. It looks so nice.

Apple Watch Perfect Week All Activity Badge Animated

Once you earn a Perfect Week, go for a Perfect Month.

Once you earn a Perfect Month, go for a second Perfect Month.

After about three months in a row, it will get easier to achieve a Perfect Year because you’ll have adjusted your routine and adapted your lifestyle to staying active so you can close your rings every day.

No matter how you slice it, you’re still showing up one day at a time. Focus on today and start small.

Make It Fun

As long as you see closing your rings as a chore, it will feel like an uphill battle for you.

Find a way to make exercise fun.

If you don’t like a particular workout, try something else! Maybe you haven’t found your thing yet. Experiment and try something new.

Activity badges are a great way of gamifying your health, but another way to spice things up is to start a Competition with one of your friends.

Apple Watch Competition

If you haven’t tried Competitions yet, give it a shot. You can earn unique badges by winning (as well as simply completing) competitions with your friends (TIP: start multiple competitions with several friends at the same time to multiply your efforts and earn more badges for the same amount of work!).

Personally, after doing about a dozen Competitions, I grew bored of them, but I remember having fun in the beginning, so I’d still recommend trying it out if you haven’t.

Some more ideas for making workouts fun:

  • Only allow yourself to listen to your favorite podcasts while running.
  • Only allow yourself to listen to your favorite audiobooks while stretching.
  • Only allow yourself to listen to your favorite music albums while lifting weights.
  • Only allow yourself to watch YouTube videos or browse social media if you’ve already completed one workout today.

Feel free to mix these up to your liking. They’re just suggestions based on things that have worked for me.

I love listening to podcasts, audiobooks, and music, so I use them as rewards: I allowing myself to listen to certain things only while doing certain exercises. This helped me look forward to exercising when I was first getting started.

Over time, I grew so fond of the “runner’s high” endorphins that I now look forward to exercising for its own sake. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks is just a bonus.

Apple Watch LTE

Invest in an LTE Apple Watch

I love my LTE Apple Watch so much. I use the heck out of it. I love not having to manage downloads and syncing. I hated the slow Bluetooth transfer speed on previous models. If I didn’t think to add something to a playlist the night before, forget it. It took forever to sync albums and audiobooks, so if I didn’t remember to sync something until right before my run, It was too late. I had to go without.

No more of that nonsense with the LTE Apple Watch.

I can stream whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want. I never bring my huge Max iPhone on runs. All I need is the Apple Watch and AirPods.

You know how you always get your best ideas in the shower (or while running) but by the time you finish, you forgot the ideas?

That never happens to me.

For one, I use waterproof AquaNotes in the shower (highly recommend).

But the key to never losing another idea on a run is dictating things you want to remember with Siri—only possible with an LTE Apple Watch.

“Hey Siri” support on AirPods makes it super easy to capture ideas the moment you get them.

I dictate notes and make reminders for myself on almost every run.

I never forget anything because I capture ideas the moment I get them. This alone makes the LTE Apple Watch more than worth it.

On the Value of Ideas:

I can distinctly think of three ideas this year that have been worth five and six figures to me. I don’t think twice about the cost of the LTE Apple Watch or the $10 or $15 per month I spend on the cellular service. Seriously, I don’t even know the monthly amount because I don’t care. The ideas I don’t lose are worth 10,000 times what I pay.

How to Close Your Rings if You Get Sick or Injured

I got injured pretty bad late 2018 which made running impossible. I was also under the weather a couple times and not feeling well.

The nice thing about setting a Sustainable Move Goal is it’s still possible to close your rings (albeit with a bit of effort) even if you’re not feeling well.

My best recommendation is to do a Flexibility workout. You can find lots of follow-along stretching routines on YouTube. Not only does it feel great, but taking a nice, leisurely 60–90 minutes to stretch will give you some Move and Exercise credit.

I was able to close my rings while injured this way, and I ended up falling in love with stretching so much, I incorporated it into my routine even after I recovered! I’ve now stretched every day for 347 days.

Stretching

Obviously, I wouldn’t recommend pushing yourself too hard if you are terribly sick or completely bed-ridden. You’ll simply have to break your streak. But if you’re not completely out of commission, you might be able to complete a 60–90 minute Walk or Flexibility workout to close your rings so long as you have a Sustainable Move Goal.

Apple Watch Has Changed My Life

I feel better than ever.

  • I’m stronger.
  • I’m more flexible.
  • I have six-pack abs.
  • I have more energy.
  • I can run much faster.
  • I broke my video game addiction.
  • My resting heart rate has gone down 10bpm.

Are you satisfied with repeating the last six months of your life? If the answer is no, something needs to change.

When I ask myself, “Can my current habits carry me to my desired future?” I’m happy to say the answer is now a resounding “Yes!”

Apple Watch played a big part in that transformation.

Onward and upward.

Kauai, Hawaii Cinematic Short Film

Kauai, Hawaii

I was born in Hawaii, and ever since I left at the age of six, I’ve been longing to go back.

I’d hoped to go last year, but it didn’t work out.

This year, I was determined to make our trip to Hawaii happen.

We visited Kauai, known as “The Garden Island”, earlier this month and had an unforgettable trip packed with unbelievable sights.

Part of the trip involved camping and a tough hike. The hike didn’t go quite according to plan. I talk more about what happened in an episode 447 of the seanwes podcast, titled Sean’s Adventures in Hawaii).

But we did get to go on an epic helicopter tour around the island, and words simply cannot describe the beauty.

I look forward to sharing more of my photos soon.

In the mean time, I put together a cinematic short film to share some of the experience.

P.S.
This video is published on a brand new YouTube channel.

I created this new YouTube channel to document my sabbatical year. If you want to join me on my travels in 2020, be sure to subscribe to the new YouTube channel to follow the journey.

Hiking the Na Pali Coast Trail to Kalalau Beach in Kauai, Hawaii

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

We are traveling to Hawaii in September, 2019 during one of my Seventh Week Sabbaticals. I work six weeks and take off every seventh week as a sabbatical. Sabbaticals have completely revolutionized my life.

I don’t always travel when I’m on a sabbatical. Usually, I stay home and rest or pursue side projects. This is a rare occasion where we’re taking a full blown vacation over a sabbatical week—our first vacation since 2016!

I chose the island of Kauai for our vacation because it is home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It’s known as the garden island. Parts of Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park were filmed on Kauai.

I love beaches, and I love mountains, and Kauai is everything in one package.

Kauai is able to maintain its “garden island” reputation in large part because it receives more rainfall per year than any other place on earth, raining 330 out of 365 days.

Helicopters circle the island, taking you on an unforgettable tour that feels like you’re being whisked through a 60-minute screensaver.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

While the northeastern part of the island boasts world-record rainfall, the southwestern part of the island is much drier. In fact, it’s home to the Waimea Canyon (known as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”).

Photo: Aaronbernstein | CC BY-SA 3.0 (used with permission).

The Waimea Canyon is over a mile wide and stretches 14 miles in length, but perhaps most impressive are its stunning depths of more than 3,600 feet. If the size wasn’t dramatic enough, the canyon features a gorgeous rainbow of colors accented by waterfalls. Reddish orange terrain contrasts with lush green grass and, when there isn’t a spectacular blue sky, the canyon takes on a purplish hue in overcast weather.

While there are some incredible hikes near Waimea Canyon, there is also an easy-to-access lookout point which requires only a 2-minute walk from the parking lot.

What’s not so easy to reach is the marvelous Kalalau Beach.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

Photo: Keven Siegert (used with permission).

Photo: Keven Siegert (used with permission).

Kalalau Beach

Possibly the most exclusive beach in the world—complete with your own private waterfall—Kalalau Beach is accessible only by an 11-mile hike along the Na Pali Coast Trail. While the trail is open to the public, most visitors only ever hike the first two miles to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Continuing beyond this point requires a permit which you must purchase in advance, and permits can be difficult to obtain.

Photo: Keven Siegert (used with permission).

Beyond the initial two miles of the Na Pali Coast trail, on the road less traveled, hikers are rewarded with jaw-dropping views unlike any available elsewhere on the planet. Rugged cliffs rise straight out of the ocean to dramatic heights of over 4,000 feet. The cliffs feature lush foliage from top to bottom with folds as though the landscape were draped in green satin.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

In making the 22-mile round trip to Kalalau Beach and back, hikers must cross a dozen streams. These streams are also your only water source—and you’ll need to drink a lot more water than you can carry. This means you’ll need to filter water as you go, and while many streams cross your path along the way, there are some stretches of many miles where there is no water source. You’ll want to top off whenever you can so you’re not left parched in the stretches of trail that have no cover and leave you exposed to the baking sun.

The total elevation gain is well over 5,000 feet each way. The climb from sea level to high altitude and back earns the trail its 9-out-of-10 difficulty rating.

But besides being difficult, the Na Pali Coast Trail is also considered one of the most dangerous trails.

Photo: Keven Siegert (used with permission).

Photo: Keven Siegert (used with permission).

Crawlers Ledge

While the cliffs provide incredible views, they’re also what make the hike so perilous. On Crawlers Ledge, a rocky path hugs the outer edge of a cliff that provides no more than 18 inches of standing area and as little as 6 inches in a few narrow places. This is enough room for one foot. There is no other way through. The trail, and Crawlers Ledge, is the only way to get to Kalalau Beach. There are no roads, and not even boats are allowed to land on national park shores.

It takes 8 hours to complete the 11-mile hike one way to the destination beach, assuming the weather is good. If it’s not, you might as well turn around. Besides being miserably muddy, it’s far too risky to attempt something as precarious as Crawlers Ledge with anything less than optimal weather. You want to complete this stretch in as dry, and wind-free, conditions as possible. One misstep, or muddy slip, will send you cascading hundreds of feet to a sure death on the rocks and waves below.

There are no security guards. There are no lifeguards. There is no cell service. There are no lights. You cannot call for help if you twist an ankle. Even if you could, it would be a long time before anyone could get to you.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

People have died on this trail, but it’s typically not from falling off one of the cliffs. The real danger is flash floods. It rains more on Kauai than anywhere else in the world, and rainfall high up in the mountains has to come down. This is what creates the signature waterfalls Kauai is known for, but it’s also what causes streams to swell.

Day hikers are surprised to find the stream they just crossed 30 minutes ago swelled to much larger than it was before.

DO NOT cross flooded streams. This is how people lose their lives on Kalalau Trail. The surging water can wash you away in seconds.

Wait it out. The water will recede as fast as it flooded. You can rebook a missed flight, but you only have one life. It’s not worth it! Be smart and don’t cross streams when they are flooded, and you’ll be just fine.

You can make it to Kalalau Beach in a day by hiking for around 8 hours. This is a moderate pace that accounts for occasional photo breaks. Keep in mind, you’ll likely have a backpack weighing something like 30lbs with all of your camping gear, which will keep you at a moderate pace.

You want to pack as light as possible, because it’s a long trek, and you’ll soon wish you left unnecessary items behind. Not to mention, the last thing you want on Crawlers Ledge is an overly large pack on your back.

Some people break the hike to Kalalau Beach into two days, opting to stay overnight in Hanakoa Campground at mile 6. The mosquitoes are pretty bad here though, whereas at the beach they’re mostly nonexistent. For me, that’s enough encouragement to keep moving and complete the 11 miles in one day.

I initially planned for us to hike to the beach in one day, camp overnight, and return the following day. But after reading enough trip reports from other hikers urging others to “not make the same mistake we did,” and to “stay at least two nights,” I thought better of it and decided we will stay two nights and make the hike back on day 3.

We’re fortunate to even be able to go because torrential rains in 2018 caused devastating floods which rendered parks in Kauai inaccessible for over a year.

2018 Flood

In April of 2018, Hanalei, Kauai received a record of 50 inches of rain in just 24 hours. Residents of more than 50 years said this was the worst flood they’d ever seen, which makes sense as it may have just been the rainiest day in U.S. history.

Amazingly, no injuries resulted from the flooding, but landslides damaged roads and caused highway closures which cut off access to the northern part of the island entirely. Bridges are still undergoing nightly reconstruction work as of August, 2019.

State parks Haena, Na Pali Coast, and Polihale were all closed indefinitely to allow for the clearing of landslides and repairing of trails.

Haena State Park, which saw over a million people per year, had its visitors reduced to zero.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

The Park Reopens

It took over a year for the parks to finally re-open in June of 2019.

State park officials are experimenting with a new daily limit on park. The park previously saw 3,000 visitors per day, but daily access upon reopening was limited to just 900.

The Na Pali Coast Trail in Haena State Park is one of the most beautiful, difficult, and dangerous hikes in the world. You’d think the risks would deter most people, but they seem only to enhance the allure.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

After being closed for over a year, adventure seekers were more eager than ever to hit the trails. But with the new cap on daily visitors, the limited number of permits required to venture beyond the first few miles of the trail (to experience Kalalau Beach), disappeared almost as instantly as they were made available.

Getting a Camping Permit

While my planned trip wasn’t until September of 2019, I decided to look at the system for acquiring a camping permit back in July.

The first step is to create an account on the Hawaii government website. Once you have an account, you can access the online reservation system.

The earliest you could acquire a permit at the time was 14 days in advance. Curious, I tried to see if I could select a date in the next 14 days.

All of the spots were taken. Zero were available for every one of the next 14 days.

“Wow,” I thought. Must be a busy time of year. I’ll check back tomorrow.

The next day, I checked and, once again, all of the spots were taken. Zero available.

“Huh. I guess I better try earlier in the day!”

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

A week later, I checked the reservation system again—this time, in the morning.

Every single one of the spots for the next 14 days was taken. Zero available.

“This is crazy…”

Is there a way people are booking further in advance somewhere else? Are those who make reservations in person given a longer time frame? What does one have to do to get a permit?

I started to worry, because I already have a place booked to stay in Kauai. Our flights are booked as well, and we’re traveling there no matter what, but I couldn’t obtain a permit until 14 days prior to my arrival at the earliest.

I checked the timezones and found that Hawaii time is 5 hours earlier than my local time. I figured their online system would probably let me book 14 days out starting at midnight Kauai time.

So I woke up at 5:15 AM Central Time and checked the system.

Zero available for the next 14 days.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Something must be broken.”

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

I had to try one more time. The next morning, I set my alarm for 4:56 AM. I logged into the website. I selected my desired location, filled out all of the fields on the form, and instead of using the date picker, I manually typed the future date I wanted in the input box.

I waited.

As soon as the second hand on my Apple Watch struck 5:00:00 AM, I clicked “Continue”.

Instead of the red error message this time, it let me through!

I didn’t complete the purchase, since my trip wasn’t until September, but I went back to the reservation form and refreshed.

36 spots available.

Refresh.

25 spots available.

Refresh.

12 spots available.

Refresh.

Zero available.

In under a minute—about 30 to 40 seconds—all of the permits were gone.

I’d figured out what was happening: the permits were so limited, and in such high demand after the parks were closed for a year, that they were simply all taken within seconds of becoming available.

I started to worry I might not be able to secure a permit, and that these months of dreaming, researching, and preparing had all been for naught.

Photo: Frugal Frolicker (used with permission).

The Journey of a Lifetime

September is an ideal time to visit the Na Pali Coast Trail. It’s considered the off season, but it’s great for reliably good weather. October is when Kauai starts to get an increase in rainfall and trails get really muddy.

Over the months, I’d spent untold hours researching this “bucket list” hike, desperately hoping everything would work out for us to go. From all accounts I’d read, this was truly a journey of a lifetime. Unforgettable. Those who’d completed the trail, and made it to Kalalau Beach, say it was a highlight of their life and something they recall often.

All that remained was getting the elusive permits.

A Lucky Break

I had planned to publish this post back in July, but something happened right before I hit publish.

In preparing to publish, I figured I should include a link to obtain a Napali Coast Park camping permit as a convenience for those who may come across this post via search.

I went back to the park reservations page to copy the link (something I wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t writing this post).

This ended up being extremely fortunate, because I saw a red announcement on the page:

Napali Coast camping permits are currently available 2 weeks in advance. As of August 1, 2019, permits will be available 90 days in advance.

They were increasing the reservation window from 14 days to 90 days!

Since our trip is in September, I hadn’t planned to check back in to the reservation system until the end of August. That would have been at the previous maximum of 14 days prior to our planned trip. Had I done that, I would have been sorely disappointed to find the dates I wanted already booked.

I’m so glad I saw the message in time!

On August 1st, when the reservation window extended to 90 days, I was able to secure camping permits for our trip in September.

I’ve been beaming ever since.

Another lucky break was discovering the Kalalau Trail Facebook Group. This is where I learned the exact time at which the reservation window was to be extended on August 1st, 2019 and how I was able to snag a permit the moment they became available. The people in the group are incredibly helpful, and the search feature will reveal a wealth of information about the trail and how to prepare.

Speaking of Facebook…

The group is moderately sized, and posts in there typically garner something like a few dozen likes.

At first glance, I couldn’t figure out what it was about this one particular photo that caused it to receive 1.2k likes.

…and then I saw the name.

To think I was only a few weeks out from running into Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg invested north of $100 million in a 700-acre plot of land with his own private beach on the north shore of Kauai, so his visiting the Na Pali Coast Trail is not terribly strange.

For me though, Kalalau will be a very rare treat.

Kauai has consumed my dreams for months. I’ve spent more hours, days, and weeks that I can count reading, watching, researching, and acquiring backpacks, camping gear, water filters, camera mounts, dehydrated food… and I’ve had a BLAST doing it all.

I think I’ve had just as much fun anticipating as I will experiencing.

Now, the trip is mere days away.

I saw this post on Reddit the other day, and I’m afraid this might be me when I come back.

Dealing With Burnout

What are some strategies to avoid and deal with burnout?

Sabbaticals prevent burnout. But if you’re already burned out, what do you do? Recently the World Health Organization classified burnout as one of its diseases. That’s not great news.

Sabbaticals prevent burnout. But if you’re already burned out, what do you do? Recently the World Health Organization classified burnout as one of its diseases. That’s not great news.

You have to be patient. You have to be kind to yourself. You have to reset your expectations of what acceptable output is for you.

Be okay with expecting less out of yourself. Define what is “enough” right now. What is a successful day today? What is a successful day tomorrow?

Be okay with less during this recovery phase, because it’s hard enough recovering without also beating yourself up for not being able to accomplish more.

Write100K

I attempted to write 100,000 words in a single day with my Write100K project.

You can watch the archived live stream in the two videos parts below (we had technical difficulties part way through and had to create a second video):

Part 1:

Part 2:

The primary goal of the Write100K event was to write the draft of my next book, which is called Sabbatical. I’m excited to get this book into your hands.

If you’d like to stay in the loop regarding availability of the book, I recommend subscribing to the sabbatical.blog newsletter.

In the off chance you are currently subscribed to the seanwes newsletter, note that this is a different newsletter that is separate from the one at seanwes. You’re not on it unless you came to this website and signed up.

The sabbatical.blog newsletter is also where you’ll get to go behind the scenes on my 2020 Seventh Year Sabbatical journey. I’d love to stay in touch.

If you’re new to sabbaticals, I have some articles on this website that may be of interest to you. Feel free to look around. Here are a few places to start:

I also have a couple recent episodes of the seanwes podcast to recommend:

Thanks for subscribing to the newsletter!

Do reply to the welcome email. I’d love to hear from you.

Should You Schedule Sabbaticals Around Holidays?

I received an email from a reader:

Question: Do you try to schedule sabbaticals around or over other holidays?

Background/context: I have kids and they have certain weeks off, plus I usually take off certain weeks around certain holidays. If I start Seventh Week Sabbaticals right now, that means a sabbatical would fall right before a holiday. Later, another sabbatical would fall during a holiday. I can imagine my wife will say, “Why can’t you take off that week instead?”

We don’t adjust the Seventh Week Sabbatical schedule ever. It’s a calendar event I created in 2014 that is set to repeat every seventh week. It’s not manually adjusted for any holidays. It falls where it falls.

We do, however, still take all normal holidays and weekends. So we work five days per week (Monday–Friday), take off Saturday and Sunday, take off holidays, and take off every seventh week.

A sabbatical is not synonymous with a holiday.

  • A holiday is typically a day of observance.
  • A sabbatical is the absence of everything (including observance, celebration, etc.).

A sabbatical is intended to be margin. It’s the space between everything else. It’s extra. It’s time set aside exclusively for rest and rejuvenation. It’s freedom from obligation.

Sabbaticals are different from holidays because holidays are not inherently restful.

People often schedule events, other work, travel, plans to visit family, etc., during holidays. They fill up their holidays. As a result, if a holiday is ever truly restful, it’s by chance, not by design.

The sole purpose of a sabbatical is rest. The one rule of sabbaticals is: do not schedule anything for your sabbatical. It’s not the absence of an event but the presence of margin. This is what makes a sabbatical rejuvenating.

Yes, sometimes sabbaticals fall on holidays, where you made specific plans for that holiday. It happens, and it’s okay to follow through with your holiday plans.

It’s also okay when your sabbatical week falls the week before (or the week after) a holiday where you have plans. Take your holiday. Follow through with your plans. Visit family. But also take the sabbatical week. It is a different thing designed intentionally for rest. Don’t manually adjust where the sabbatical falls to have it purposefully align with an existing holiday. Let it fall where it falls. This makes more sense when you start to understand the difference between sabbaticals and holidays. One is restful, the other is not.

While you’re more than welcome to continue taking off the certain weeks you take around holidays, when you take more than seven weeks of sabbaticals per year, it completely changes things. You are no longer desperate for the couple of weeks of time off per year. You’re not perpetually burned out anymore. So while it might be a crazy thought to imagine not taking off certain weeks like you used to as a vacation, know that by next year, you will feel quite different (in the best possible way).

Below is what holiday time looked like for me at the end of 2018 with sabbaticals. I let the sabbatical fall where it falls—it simply repeats every seventh week since I created the original event in 2014. I don’t change the sabbatical schedule.

  • November 19th–25th I took a sabbatical week.
  • December 4th–7th I took a business trip.
  • December 24th–26th I took off to visit family for Christmas.
  • January 1st I took off for New Year’s Day.
  • January 7th–13th I took a sabbatical week.

(By the way, you can view my sabbatical calendar on the Schedule page.)

If there’s any work that needs to be done by any certain point, I know exactly what times I have available to work in between my sabbaticals, trips, and holiday commitments.

It’s just like when someone asks on Friday if you have time for a call. When looking at your availability, you ignore the weekend (because you’re not working) and simply say, “Are you available Monday at 8:00 AM?” Similarly with sabbaticals, when there’s work to do, schedule it during times of availability, and account for deadlines accordingly.

Remember, things take as long as the amount of time you give them.

Weekend Sabbatical

If you’re familiar with Seventh Week Sabbaticals, you might think the idea sounds great. It would be nice to take off every seventh week and recharge!

There’s only one problem: you don’t control your schedule.

Even if you wanted to take off every seventh week as a sabbatical, there’s no way your boss would let you.

For many years, I had no alternative to sabbaticals for those with a day job. I said, “Part of being able to take off every seventh week means you have to control your schedule.”

While you do need to control your schedule to take full advantage of Seventh Week Sabbaticals, there are smaller ways you can start taking purposeful rest right now.

Have a Day Job? Take a Weekend Sabbatical.

You probably work 5 days per week and get weekends off.

You can’t take a full Seventh Week Sabbatical yet, but let’s look at what you have control over: weekends.

Weekend Sabbatical (for day jobbers):

Take off the LAST weekend of every month as a sabbatical (Saturday and Sunday).

While the Weekend Sabbatical is not quite as deep as a full Seventh Week Sabbatical, it’s still life-changing. This practice will pave the way for full sabbaticals and get you in the habit of making time for purposeful rest.

Follow the #1 Rule: Do not schedule ANYTHING for your sabbatical.

The Weekend Sabbatical still adheres to the same rule as the Seventh Week Sabbatical.

There’s only one rule: do not schedule anything for the sabbatical.

The purpose of this rule is freedom from obligation. I have an entire post dedicated to this rule: Freedom From Obligation (and the #1 Rule for Sabbaticals)

Before continuing, click that link and read the article.

Taking a Weekend Sabbatical won’t help you unless you follow the one rule.

Obligation isn’t restful, so you will defeat the purpose and restful effects of the sabbatical if you schedule anything for your Weekend Sabbatical.

If you’re wondering, “Sean, does this mean I can’t do anything on my sabbatical? Do I just stare at the ceiling?”

No, of course not. I also answer that question here: Freedom From Obligation (and the #1 Rule for Sabbaticals)

Here’s a quote:

You can do anything and everything on your sabbatical. But that is a decision you get to make on sabbatical—not beforehand.

The purpose of the sabbatical is freedom from obligation. When you go into a sabbatical, you should have NO prior commitments, so that you can say “Yes” to anything in the moment.

The reason this rule is so important is because margin itself is what you’re scheduling, and margin is not a luxury.

You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from this blocked-off time. A moment in your day when you’re not rushing from one thing to the next will feel incredible.

Examine your weekend.

You work 5 days and get 2 days off. What are you doing on your days off?

Well, you’re probably doing lots of things. Weekends may not be so “free” for you.

Like everyone in life, you start each day with 24 hours.

During the week, work takes up more than 8 hours. You have a routine built around work and do your best to accomplish other tasks and chores in the time you have left. Maybe you poke at your side project in the evening now and then.

You start every weekend day with 24 hours as well. The good news is, work doesn’t take 8 hours away from your weekend day.

So why does it seem like weekends just tend to disappear? They’re here, and they’re gone. They goes by so fast, it’s like trying to take a photo of lightning.

Where does all of the time go? Your time is gobbled up by commitments.

Your time is like a pie with 24 slices. Sleep takes up 8 hours (I hope!), which means you’re down to 16 slices. Little by little, you give each slice away. Sometimes you planned to give a certain number of slices away. Other times, a slice was taken from you when you weren’t paying attention.

Many Saturdays, you start with a commitment to give away 6 slices right from the beginning. During the week, you said “Yes” to a party at noon on Saturday. You said “Yes” to afternoon coffee with an old friend. Oh, and there’s that group you’re a part of with weekly meetings at 9:00 AM. You said “Yes” to that years ago. And Saturday dinners, of course. You’ve done those for as long as you can remember.

You don’t question any of these things. They’re just a part of your weekend.

The full day was accounted for. Now, the day is gone.

  • Did you do what you wanted to do?
  • Are you happy with how you spent your time?
  • Would you change anything?
  • Do you feel well rested and ready to go back to work on Monday?

None of those activities are “bad” things. But you want to choose how you spend the limited time you have. When you mindlessly follow an outdated routine, don’t be surprised when life takes you in a direction you don’t want to go and you’re left unfulfilled.

It’s time to take back control.

Break some (old) commitments.

You are where you are now, with the commitments you have, thanks to what your past self allowed.

A version of you in the past said “Yes” to something. You made a commitment. You allowed something. You agreed to go along. You set expectations.

Something that took me years to learn is commitments aren’t set in stone forever.

That sounds weird at first, because when we think of commitments, we think of them as something you take seriously. Commitments imply a sense of permanence—a sense of lasting.

When you commit to something, you’re saying you will stick to it. It’s good to commit to things. You want to be a person of your word. You want to be seen as reliable.

Where you can run into trouble is thinking that commitments must be forever.

Setting expectations is a good idea, but not all expectations should last until we die.

If you’re not careful, you can find yourself stuck in old commitments.

Your commitments were made in a different time and in a different context. They were made with different goals.

Right now, you may have new goals, but you may still be stuck in commitments that are taking you in a direction you don’t want to go.

If you don’t take a step back, you can find yourself in a place where you’re fulfilling commitments that don’t take you where you want to go.

You can find yourself fulfilling commitments that are not in service of your goals, which means you will end up somewhere you don’t want to be.

I needed to be reminded of this and maybe you do too:

It’s ok for your commitments to change.

You’re not a liar if you don’t do something for the rest of your life. You’re not a liar if you don’t stick to a commitment until the day you die.

It’s ok for commitments to change. The main thing is, when they do change, set proper expectations with people. Explain the reason, be respectful, and express gratitude.

People may not be happy when you decide to stop doing something you committed to doing a long time ago. They came to expect it and rely upon it—maybe even take it for granted. This is understandable. People don’t like change. Be patient.

Be kind, and acknowledge their feelings.

Stand firm, however. This is your life. The commitments you make should always be in service of your goals.

The right time to break a commitment is when your goals have changed.

  • What do you want to accomplish?
  • Where do you want to be?
  • Who do you want to be?

You must reclaim your time. To say you “don’t have time for a sabbatical” is lazy and untrue. The first step is to acknowledge your control over your time.

If you don’t want to take a Weekend Sabbatical because doing so would require having some uncomfortable conversations, then at least be honest with yourself: you don’t want to be uncomfortable for a moment to improve your life in a significant way for years to come. At least be real about the truth.

You have time. You simply give it away.

One of the first things you may be tempted to do when you hear this is make excuses. It’s understandable: you’re under threat and want to protect yourself. When you’re called out on having time but giving it away, you will want to point to things you don’t control as reason for why you’re blameless. This is dishonest.

Look for the things within your control you choose to do that you know waste your time. You will find those things with honest reflection. Those are areas where you can reclaim your time.

You don’t lack time, you lack clarity in what you want and have time commitments that reflect your lack of clarity.

Without clear priorities, your time will disappear, and you won’t know why.

My goal is to help you give time back to yourself so you become a more rested and healthy person so you can give to others without burning out.

You can take a Weekend Sabbatical.

As a person with a day job, family, and responsibilities, the only thing keeping you from taking a Weekend Sabbatical is your decision to do so.

All that is required to give yourself the gift of rest, clarity, rejuvenation, and perspective with a Weekend Sabbatical is the decision to schedule an event on your calendar for the last weekend of the month right now.

Part of you wants this. That’s the only reason you’ve read this far. Some part of you knows you need to set aside time to find yourself again. You know you’re overworked and stressed. You know you need rest. There is some part of you that knows this, even if you’ve done your best to ignore it in your mission to push forward no matter what.

Listen to yourself. Pay attention to that small voice begging you to slow down.

If you can’t clear your schedule for one weekend a month to give yourself much-needed rest, it’s time to reevaluate your priorities.

You have a guide to breaking old commitments above. You understand you have control over your time. You’ve listened to the small voice telling you to rest.

Now it comes down to three simple steps:

  1. Decide sabbaticals are a priority to you.
  2. Break old commitments that no longer serve you.
  3. Schedule a recurring “Weekend Sabbatical” on the last weekend of the month (and keep it free of obligations).

Confessions of a Recovered Workaholic

Sean McCabeMy name is Sean McCabe. I am the founder of seanwes, and I’m a recovered workaholic.

For 10 years, I worked 18-hour days, 7 days a week.

“But I love what I do!” As if loving my work meant it was any less of an addiction.

It was an addiction. I buried myself in my work.

I slept just 5–6 hours a night for more than a decade. I told myself I felt better sleeping less and sleeping more made me feel worse. Besides, it was a waste of time. I was “one of the rare ones” who could get by just fine on less sleep (I was wrong—click and listen for just 5 minutes).

I ate two out of three meals at my desk. I consumed dinner with a TV show, after which I returned promptly to my office to work again until midnight.

There was work, and there was sleeping and eating (although little of the latter two). I cared about sleeping and eating only as much as they enabled me to work more.

I was not physically active for most of my 20s. I sat at a desk (I didn’t own a standing desk). I didn’t walk, I didn’t run, I hardly even went outside.

“The business would not grow itself,” I thought. There were only two modes:

  • Mode 1: Working on the business.
  • Mode 2: Feeling guilty about not working on the business.

I didn’t like feeling guilty.

Had you asked me if I had any friends, I’d say, “Certainly! I mean, not a lot of friends, but who needs a lot of friends? I have a few friends. Good friends! Of course I have friends.” Had you asked me to name their names, I’d have no trouble providing a list of half a dozen people.

It wasn’t until some years later, upon reflection, I realized every single person I’d have named as friend was someone I paid. They were all on payroll—except my wife.

Wait, no…

My wife was on payroll as well.

I let loose an expletive.

The realization hit me like a ton of bricks.

  • My health was poor. This was masked only by the fact that I was in my 20s. When you’re young, you’re like a rubber band—you bounce back—but bad habits catch up with you (mine would later).
  • There was no end in sight. I felt like I was treading water. There was always some surface-level reason (like meeting payroll), but I never took a step back to reflect on the big picture.
  • I had no quality non-work relationships. All I did was work. I didn’t invest in relationships. There were people in my life who might call me friend, but I certainly wasn’t being one.

The only relationship I kept up was the one with my wife. But I put that relationship in maintenance mode. I didn’t invest in my marriage beyond a few dates per month. Time was my most precious commodity (never mind that it was the one thing for which she was starved).

There was time spent working and time spent feeling guilty.

I didn’t like feeling guilty.

I convinced myself I didn’t have time.

  • I didn’t have time for sleep.
  • I didn’t have time for exercise.
  • I didn’t have time for relationships.

Don’t you understand? There’s work to do!

When I say I worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for 10 years, I’m talking about an average. There were some 14-hour days, but there were equally as many 18-hour days—and 20-hour days.

How to know if you are burned out.

Burnout is bad. I’ve experienced it. It took a full year to recover, and I consider myself lucky it took only that long.

You can’t afford burnout. Whatever you have to invest in preventing burnout before it happens is worth it.

If you wait until burnout happens, it’s too late.

If you’re wondering whether you’re burned out, you already are.

If you feel burned out right now, you have a long road to recovery ahead of you—and that journey must begin now. Don’t put off what is already going to be a lengthy process. Don’t continue pushing.

I’ll write more about recovery from burnout in the future, but for now, I will focus on preventing burnout in the first place. Whether you’ve been burned out in the past or are burned out now, you need to know how to prevent your next burnout from happening.

Going “all in” on a break.

I knew what I was doing was not sustainable. I knew I needed a solution. I was running myself into the ground.

I needed a break. I had to stop. Something had to change, some how…

I couldn’t keep working 7 days a week.

I couldn’t keep working 16 hours per day.

I know only how to be obsessed. I have an all-on or all-off kind of mentality. Either I’m going to be the best or I don’t care at all. It’s like a light switch. There is no gradient to my intensity. You get the full thing or nothing at all.

You might also call it an addictive personality.

Either way, I know myself enough to understand that if I’m going to do something, I’m going to go all in.

That’s probably why I became a workaholic.

But I couldn’t keep going this way. I needed to make a change. I needed to save myself from destruction. I had to take time off somehow, but I only know how to go “all in”.

This begged the question: what would it look like to go “all in” on a break?

Four years later: sabbaticals changed my life.

I now take off every seventh week as a sabbatical.

In a moment, I’ll tell you what I did and how it all works.

But let me first show you how different things are.

Today:

  • I sleep 8 hours per night.
  • I take off all major holidays.
  • I take off every seventh week.
  • I exercise 90–120 minutes per day.
  • I work 5 days per week and take off weekends.
  • I work no more than 8 hours per day (often less).
  • I spend 30 minutes every day talking with my wife.

How in the world is this even possible? How did I go from having “no time” to doing all of this—and still working 8 hours a day?

I sleep more, I actually exercise, I don’t work weekends or holidays, I get all my work done and there’s still time to spend a dedicated half hour conversing with my wife every single day. We call these daily chats Mini Dates. We also go on at least one “full date” each week.

It’s incredible.

This isn’t some radical 4-hour work week we’re talking about here. I regularly work 8 hours per day because I want to. Remember, I still truly love my work! I enjoy helping people. I like writing. Teaching makes me come alive.

But I don’t have to work 18-hour days to accomplish my goals or grow my business. I don’t have to be a workaholic.

How did I get to this point? What changed?

It’s all thanks to sabbaticals and changing my habits one small step at a time. It doesn’t happen overnight, but by making small changes, your life can look drastically different a few years from now. Imagine being a wholly new person, completely transformed in just a few short years.

It’s possible with sabbaticals.

This blog is a public draft of my upcoming book, Seventh Week Sabbatical. Subscribe to the newsletter to read my book as I write it.


I wrote this post as an introduction for the top of my About page.
Click here to jump to the next part of the story »

Otherwise, read about the Origin of Seventh Week Sabbaticals.

Discipline Doesn’t Stop When You’re on Sabbatical

When you think of the word discipline, you may get flashbacks. These flashbacks could be of a coach who treated your team more like a military unit than a sports group.

You may associate the word discipline with strict parents and a regimented childhood.

Discipline might make you think of an authoritarian regime.

I’m not talking about that kind of discipline.

Self discipline is your ally. It is not your enemy.

Discipline is doing the hard thing you know you should do but don’t want to do.

A post shared by Sean McCabe (@seanwes) on

Self discipline comes from within. It’s not something anyone imposes on you. No one is telling you what to do. No one is forcing you to do anything. You set your own pace.

With Seventh Week Sabbaticals, people often say, “Oh, that’s great you take so much time off! You may get less work done, but work isn’t everything.”

They miss the point. We get MORE done because we take Seventh Week Sabbaticals. Why?

We get seven weeks worth of work done in six weeks.

How is this possible? Because things take as long as the amount of time you give them.

Not only do we get the same seven weeks worth of work done as everyone else (in less time), but we also come back from sabbatical CHARGED UP. Because we’ve rested, we return to work with energy and enthusiasm.

There is a spike in productivity when we return from sabbatical because we’re amped up and ready to go. We’re looking forward to getting back to work.

As a result, we actually get more work done than people who don’t take Seventh Week Sabbaticals!

But seven weeks worth of work doesn’t get done in six weeks without discipline.

Discipline is what enables us to perform at a high level.

It’s not about the number of hours you work but how productive you are when you do.

We don’t have to work overtime to get seven weeks worth of work done in six weeks. We just have to stay disciplined when we do work. That means:

  • Minimize distractions.
  • Prevent the possibility of interruptions.
  • Prioritize and protect focus like your life depends on it.

Discipline frees you up to rest guilt-free on sabbatical.

Discipline is your friend.

In Maintaining Routine Through Sabbatical, I talk about how I keep my early morning schedule and continue to exercise throughout my sabbatical.

I treated my first couple dozen sabbatical weeks like lazy vacations. I’d stay up late, sleep in, and just sort of veg out. Sometimes I would do productive things, but mostly I just let the time slip away from me.

The week would go by in a blink and my sabbatical would be over.

In more recent years, I’ve made a point to stick to routine during sabbaticals. In other words, discipline does not stop.

Staying disciplined during the sabbatical does not mean I have no freedom. In fact, the exact opposite is true: I have more freedom than ever.

When I wake up early and maintain my early morning routine, exercise, and writing, I feel good about myself. In the first few hours, I’ve already done so much. Then, I have the rest of the day to do whatever I want! Nothing feels more restful. It’s a fulfilling kind of rest, as opposed to the lazy kind of rest I was practicing before. The lazy sabbaticals where I slacked around did not feel like true rest. They left me feeling unproductive, unfulfilled, and guilty.

When I stay disciplined on sabbatical, the week feels longer. I have more time in a day. I have more time to do nothing if that’s what I want to do! But I maintain a structure that creates this freedom. I can then use the freedom to rest, create, think, or do anything I want.

Discipline doesn’t stop when you’re on sabbatical—and that’s a good thing.

Margin is Not a Luxury

Why are people so busy?

There are many reasons, but two stand out to me:

  1. People say “Yes” by default (which is a mistake).
  2. People feel like being busy means they’re important.

There is only one word that can create time: “No.”

Yes fills time. No makes time.

You don’t have time because you’ve said “Yes” too much. It’s your fault and no one else’s. No one else is responsible for your lack of time. Reevaluate the commitments you’ve made. Take ownership and take charge.

It’s hard to say “No” because we often feel a sense of obligation and don’t want to offend anyone. We feel bad and don’t want to disappoint people. While no can be a hard word to say, it’s the only tool we have for creating more time.

“Yes” and “No” are not right and wrong, good and bad. They’re left and right, up and down. Learn to see the words “Yes” and “No” as directional, not emotional.

You may think of margin as a luxury you don’t have time for, but you must see margin as a necessity for your sanity.

How will you ever have margin if you’re always filling up your free time?

Schedule Margin

You will never find margin. Margin will not happen to you. This is because we fill time automatically by habit.

If something is important, you put it on your schedule. Similarly, if you’re ever going to have margin, you need to schedule margin on your calendar. Treat margin as you do any serious commitment.

Margin is an event. It’s not the absence of an event—margin itself is the event. When you schedule something else during your margin, you’re effectively double booking yourself. Don’t double book yourself.

Block out time by putting an event on your calendar called “margin,” “break,” or “sabbatical.” If you don’t schedule margin, it won’t happen. People will fill your time automatically if you don’t protect it.

You may feel like you don’t have time to schedule margin in your life. You don’t have time to schedule margin because you don’t schedule margin. It’s a perpetual cycle. You have to be the one to break. Choose to schedule margin even though you feel like you can’t.

You will never magically have more time. You have to get ahead of it and put margin on your schedule.

Try this out today: create a new event on your calendar called “margin.” Consider this a beginner’s guide. Later, you can work your way up to taking Seventh Week Sabbaticals.

  • Block out an hour.
  • Block out two hours.
  • Block out an afternoon.
  • Block out a day or whole week.

You’re not allowed to schedule anything else during this time.

You can do whatever you like with your margin: sit, walk, think, rest, relax, travel, write, plan—anything you’d like. But remember, don’t schedule anything for your margin. You need freedom from obligation. Margin itself is what you’re scheduling.

You will be amazed at the clarity that comes from this blocked-off time. A moment in your day when you’re not rushing from one thing to the next will feel incredible.

Actually, it will feel wrong at first. You might even feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty. Embrace the discomfort of space and living with your own thoughts. This is important time. It is a necessary to take a break from reacting to the world.

Avoiding burnout and stress is not a luxury; it’s survival.