September Reflections: Off Time

In his book Leisure: The Basis of Culture Josef Pieper wrote, “The inmost significance of the exaggerated value which is set upon hard work appears to be this: man seems to mistrust everything that is effortless; he can only enjoy, with a good conscience, what he has acquired with toil and trouble; he refuses to have anything as a gift.”

This sentiment, I hope, is changing. But most of us know someone like Professor Pieper was writing about: the co-worker who makes a show of coming to work early or staying late; the friend who can’t stop talking about how much they work; or worse, the friend who truly does seem to work themself to the bone — for no apparent reason. More personally, I can admit to some feelings of pride simply from putting in long hours rather than getting anything done or making any difference. 

I was raised on the idea of hard work being best, and it’s hard to shake the lesson. I still believe in work — broadly defined to include all work, not just traditional, paid work — but would suggest we change the frame from ‘hard work’ to ‘honest work.’ Honest work is about being honest with yourself and those around you. What do you really need to do, and what is filling time? How much of your time does a given project deserve? When does it have to be perfect, and when is perfect the enemy of the good? Is work intruding on the rest of life — leisure time, as Pieper might call it, or “off time” as I prefer (leisure reminds me of pink flamingos and shuffleboard — although that doesn’t sound so bad now that I think about it). 

Pieper’s idea has been top of mind as we have prepared for the launch of two new Outposts tomorrow – Getaway Piney Woods, outside of Dallas, and Getaway Catskills East, north of New York City. I’m proud of the team for making this happen — our fifth and sixth launches of the year! — but it also means it has been a period of intense work for our team.  

Aiming to be ambitious and realistic but not hypocritical, I guide the team to recognize that there will be periods of intense effort but that those times must be punctuated by meaningful rest. So as we welcome Getaway Piney Woods and Getaway Catskills East into the world tomorrow, I am looking forward to the team getting so more off time than they’ve had lately.

off time

Off time is really important. Off time, as Pieper says, is a gift, and one we shouldn’t refuse. And contrary to the way many of us were raised: off time isn’t unproductive. Letting your mind and body rest recharges you. Off time is often when new ideas pop into our brain. It is when we deepen our bonds with our friends, family, and communities. Off time allows us to take the long view — have you ever found that, without planning to do so, you end up making big life decisions when you finally go on that vacation?

A Getaway guest emphasized to me the importance of off time this week. I email with a lot of guests, and one wrote back to me after we had traded notes a few weeks ago about her Getaway. Her follow up email had an attachment: an ultrasound. She wrote:

Hi Jon,
I wanted to reach out to you because something truly amazing happened at our Getaway. After trying to conceive for a year we’ve learned that we are expecting! I truly believe that being in such a wholesome and relaxing environment really played a huge part and I wanted to thank you guys for being around. Attached is a picture!
Thanks again, T

See: off time isn’t so unproductive after all. 

Wishing you some quality off time this month,

Jon