How to take a bad-ass break and get more done

Taking a rest isn’t counter-productive. In fact, it can help you gear up for the time you spend at work AND help you prioritize your time management. I used a regular schedule of rest to level up my productivity in one of the busiest seasons of my life. In this episode, I share my story and the key practices that helped me rest for a more productive lifestyle.

Episode 2.12: How to take a bad-ass break and get more done

Listen, rate, subscribe: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google / Stitcher

For further reading on rest and the ancient practice of Sabbath, I found 24/6 by Matthew Sleeth to be informative. And one book I haven’t yet read but looks interesting is Aaron Edelheit’s The Hard Break.

More like this…

Episode Transcript

How to take a bad-ass break and get more done

  1. Thanks for jumping into the bad-ass Dad Pod.
    1. This is the podcast for upping our games physically, financially and relationally
    2. And living into our best lives no matter what age we are.
    3. Welcome to the squad, you bad-ass.
  2. This mini-episode focuses on rest as a means for productivity.
    1. We’re going to explore how taking regular, extended breaks can actually lead us into a more productive lifestyle.
    2. It’s true! Working longer is not the way to get more done.
    3. I lived this truth and I’m going to share that experience in this episode.
  3. My name is Ryan Dunn.
    1. I am your lawful good podmaster.
    2. The anchor of the sectional couch in my living room.
    3. The hammerer of picture hanging nails.
    4. The crusher of recycling cans.
    5. I’m a level 6 Relationship Ranger
    6. A level 7 Gym Warrior
    7. And just boosted up to a Level 4 Debt Mage!
      1. I paid off our credit card, buddy!
      2. No more high interest consumer debt there!
      3. May we never, ever go back into credit card debt again.
      4. How I did it will be an episode… but not this one.
  4. [Music out] Oh no, not this episode.
    1. THIS episode, we’re going to see how regular, planned rest and disengaging from the toil of productivity for a time will actually lead us towards getting more things done, be more focused, and ultimately be more productive.
    2. I’m going to set all this inside a personal story.
  5. I don’t often claim the title of Reverend
    1. But I could if I wanted to because I am legitimately an ordained clergy person.
      1. I didn’t get ordained by paying $30 and downloading a certificate from a web site.
      2. I went the legitimate route and went to seminary, then went through a multi-year review process and psych evaluations and theological examinations and interviews.
      3. It’s kind of a lot… an exhaustive process in my denominational tradition.
    2. Well, the whole process starts with the earning of a graduate degree.
      1. I started my graduate degree when I was 36 years old. I’m 45 as I record this… but you probably knew that–I brag about my age all the time.
      2. ANYWAYS, I was not in the phase of life when it was easy to commit to be a student–either full-time or part-time.
        1. It’s probably understood that I was committing to being a part-time student.
        2. But, at 36 years old, I had a lot of other things going on in my life.
        3. I was married… and had been married 11 years at that point.
        4. I had a 4 year old son.
        5. My wife and I both worked full-time jobs.
          1. Neither one of us raked in the dough as we both worked for non-profit organizations.
          2. And I hadn’t done to work to set us on the path towards financial independence 
          3. So we lived paycheck-to-paycheck at the time.
          4. And if we missed one of those paychecks, something important wasn’t going to get paid.
            1. Like a mortgage payment
            2. Or a credit card bill
          5. I just want to establish the understanding that my moving down to part-time work in order to balance my part-time schooling was not an option.
          6. I probably also need to note that I was a youth minister at the time.
          7. And that’s a job that easily stretches beyond regular working hours.
            1. The goal, as a youth minister, is to be a positive, mentoring presence in the lives of young people.
            2. Of course, young people are in school all day long.
            3. In order to be present with young people, I worked a lot of evenings and weekends.
            4. Those were the times I could engage in being present in the lives of youngsters.
            5. Youth ministry is not a job with strictly defined working hours.
            6. And it wasn’t uncommon for me to work 50-plus hours.
              1. Thankfully, the churches I worked for were generous with comp time.
              2. And I could shave hours on surrounding weeks to compensate.
            7. I just want to set the tone here that a youth minister’s schedule is irregular and often pushes into the realm of chaotic.
          8. I don’t work as a youth minister anymore.
            1. And there are some parts of the job I miss: 
              1. It is so gratifying to speak the truth that all lives have value and that you are being cared for… revealing that to young people who are lost in doubt about whether they matter is great.
              2. And getting paid to take ski trips was pretty great, too… not going to lie.
            2. But the chaotic schedule I don’t miss.
              1. It took a bit of a toll on my personal relationships.
              2. I think my family felt like they couldn’t always count on me to make them a priority.
          9. ANYWAYS, the work schedule at this phase of my life was irregular and demanding… Have we established that? Good!
        6. In addition to being a full-time parent, a full-time husband, a full-time youth minister, I also coached running part-time.
          1. THAT was a fun gig.
          2. I do miss that.
          3. BUT, when running season was in full affect, that meant I was out more nights and more weekends. 
      3. When I started school, I remember thinking “I want to be a kick-ass husband/father. I want to be a kick-ass youth minister. I want to be a kick-ass coach. And I want to be a kick-ass student. But I feel like if I’m being kick-ass at any one of those things then I’m going to suck at the rest.”
      4. Being a student has demands all it’s own.
        1. When classes started, I developed a new personal catch phrase… and it went like this: “I can’t. I have homework.”
        2. There were instances when my son invited me to go play super-heroes in the backyard… and I fell into saying “I can’t, bud. I have homework.”
        3. There were instances when my wife said “Let’s watch a movie together tonight…” and I gave the predictable line “I can’t. I have homework.”
      5. I adopted that line pretty quickly into my career as a middle-aged student.
        1. And that line wore thin really quickly when I was a middle-aged student.
        2. So thin that it was breaking.
        3. I was breaking.
        4. The people around me were breaking, too.
          1. I remember being on my school’s campus for an intensive class session.
          2. We did these a couple times a year… and we would stay on campus for that time.
          3. So I was in Durham North Carolina and my family was back home in Greenville North Carolina–about an hour and half away.
          4. And I was talking to my wife on the phone and she said “This sucks. Everything sucks.”
          5. And I’ll tell you, when you hear someone you care about say something like that…and you feel responsible for it, then it really puts some tension into your thought process.
          6. So feeling that tension I considered quitting.
        5. I took that burden into my spiritual formation class.
          1. This class was supposed to be about developing personal practices that keep us spiritually grounded.
          2. But it also became a space where we, the students, learned a lot of practical tips for self-care.
          3. Well, in this class session, we got a new assignment.
          4. We had to dedicate one day a week to Sabbath.
  6. Sabbath is a day of rest.
    1. It is supposed to be a day where participants refrain from the toil of providing for themselves and instead rest, reflect, connect and worship.
    2. Our assignment was to take a whole 24-hour period to Sabbath.
      1. We were going to pass or fail at taking a break.
    3. In the Christian and Judaic traditions–maybe the Islamic tradition, too (I’m not sure)–we believe that God endorses time to rest.
      1. In the Hebrew Bible, God commanded the people to set aside a day a week and make it holy.
      2. They were to rest and worship on that day.
      3. Religious law said they could not work… and that they could be punished for working!
      4. In fact, the Bible relates one story where a man was apprehended for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.
        1. His punishment was stoning.
        2. Meaning the people took him outside the village, picked up rocks, and threw them at the man until he died.
        3. Uhhh, not a real flattering story.
        4. It’s one of those that I believe there’s more going on there. 
        5. But ANYWAYS, Sabbath was a big deal… to God.
    4. We were going to make Sabbath a big deal to us, too.
      1. We weren’t going to stone each other for breaking Sabbath.
      2. We weren’t even going to fail for breaking Sabbath.
      3. We were just to make a valid attempt to observe Sabbath and report on our plan and then how we fared in executing that plan.
    5. I thought the whole thing was bananas.
      1. I was working full-time.
      2. Schooling.
      3. Coaching.
      4. Parenting.
      5. If I had a 24-hour period away from work, that was prime time to catch up on school work and coaching work, you know?
      6. Now this one class was saying that I couldn’t work on other classes when I might have the time to really dig into them.
      7. So I made a plan, but I really planned to fail.
        1. I’d give this rest thing a college try.
        2. Then I’d write up my report about how things blew up in my face.
    6. I told my family my plan:
      1. I was going to observe a day of rest. Saturday was my default day. Though some weeks I needed to adjust because of the demands of ministry. (That was allowed for.)
      2. On Sabbath day, I could not do homework.
      3. I could not respond to ministry demands.
      4. I had to unplug from the stream of toil in my life.
    7. Now, it’s important that I declared my time of rest first.
      1. This was actually a big deal. I don’t know that this would turn out to be the key to success… but it was.
        1. I started with rest.
        2. I started building my personal schedule with rest.
      2. Rest is normally something that gets the leftovers, right?
      3. Like, we prioritize the work we have to do… 
        1. The work project.
        2. The yard work.
        3. The email messages.
        4. The side hustle.
      4. If we have anything left, THEN we rest.
    8. I said, “I’m going to rest on Saturday… NOW I have to figure out how to get my toiling done in the rest of the time I have available.”
    9. I didn’t know it, but that flip in mindset–moving from “how am I going to rest into my schedule” to “how will I work my toil around my rest” made all the difference.
    10. In essence, all the work I had to do had a deadline without a fall-back position.
      1. I could no longer prolong projects by saying to myself “I’ll just work a little on Saturday or get back to that on Saturday.”
      2. Nuh-uh. Instead, I faced a deadline of saying “I’m going to get this done before Sabbath day.”
      3. This destroyed my tendency to procrastinate.
      4. I was way less likely to tell myself “I can always do that tomorrow” because in the back of my mind I had realized there was no tomorrow, as far as work had gone.
      5. And if it was something I could put off, then it wasn’t super-high priority.
    11. This resulted in my  simply getting things done.
      1. Seriously, I didn’t procrastinate.
      2. I didn’t let other things distract my tme away front he tasks at hand.
      3. I had a limited window to accomplish things.
      4. So I set out to accomplish important tasks during the time I had available.
      5. It freakin’ worked.
  7. If you’re a procrastinator like I generally am
    1. Then I highly recommend that you adopt a practice like this.
    2. Set for yourself a whole day to mess around. 
    3. A whole day to indulge yourself in rest.
    4. A whole day to break free from toil.
    5. I’ll bet you that if you do this, then you’ll find yourself procrastinating far less.
  8. One of the key hacks, or tricks, or whatever in this practice is that it helps to put every thing in its right place, time-wise.
    1. Because here’s how it worked for me: the 40ish hours of my work week became very valuable since that was the only time I had to get work done.
    2. In the same way, the 15-20 hours of schooling was limited, too.
    3. In essence, I had assigned time slots for each of these tasks.
    4. I actually took these time slots further, and I began scheduling specific tasks.
    5. For example, I gave myself an hour each day to email and social messages.
    6. Then I had a two hour block set aside for lesson prep.
    7. Then it was an hour for a lunch meeting.
    8. Then I might have an hour set aside for future program planning
    9. Then an a couple more hours for lesson prep.
    10. That was the work day..
      1. But I took this scheduling home, too.
      2. So I had the 5-7pm hours set aside for dinner with family. Then 7-9 or 10 would be school work time.
      3. See what that did? It carved out some deliberate space where I could be with my family without the nagging sense of needing to get other work done.
      4. There was time reserved for that.
  9. AND then, I of course had my whole rest day set aside for availability to family.
    1. And this was big, because it reassured my family that I prioritize them. 
    2. In the midst of all the obligations I was trying to meet, I now had carved out family time when I couldn’t say “I have homework to do.”
    3. On my rest day, I became completely available for them… without my being distracted by that nagging tension in my brain telling me I should be concerned about being productive.
  10. I actually felt less stressed, because I knew I was getting things, AND I had time to step away.
    1. There’s the whole ironic story of being assigned a day off, planning to fail, and instead finding life success.
    2. I got it done.
    3. When everything settled out, I graduated from my degree program with honors, my family didn’t desert me, I had one of the most productive seasons at work I experienced in years.
    4. I was super-relieved to graduate, for sure. But I wasn’t super-stressed the entire time. 
  11. Now if you’re ready to get more productive by taking a bad-ass break, here’s a quick checklist for you.
    1. First, schedule your day of rest.
      1. Pick something workable–like don’t pick Monday just because you don’t like Mondays at work.
      2. I recommend picking a day that allows you time with family–so when your sig other and kids are around, too.
      3. You may have a revolving a schedule and will need to shift your day of rest on a week-to-week basis, that’s totally fine, too.
      4. The point is not get all legalistic about this whole practice.
      5. Do the thing that works for you. That’s how you do it right.
      6. So schedule your day of rest.
    2. Then back fill your schedule.
      1. Assign timeslots for your most important tasks–including daily connection time with family.
        1. See if you can get breakfast or dinner together.
        2. My life rhythm right now allows for me to be available to family most nights after 6pm.
        3. That’s not every night–because I might have a special training session or something… but it’s most nights that my evening activities are related to family.
      2. ANYWAYS, assign time slots for the work-related things and household related things you need to get done.
    3. Lastly, the big trick… the most-likely stumbling block… is to stick to those tasks during the assigned time slots.
      1. This is the big D–discipline.
      2. You’re going to have to practice a little bit of it in order to stay on task.
      3. BUT, I’ll offer this… it becomes way easier to stay on task when you realize two things:
        1. First, that you have a deadline looming in the form of that no work day.
        2. And secondly, that you are going to have time for rest.
        3. It’s a bit like prepping for vacation on a weekly basis.
        4. You can bite the bullet and keep plugging through what you need to get done because you know  there’s relaxing payoff at the end of this cycle.
    4. And I guess there’s one more one last thing… adapt this necessary.
      1. In other words, you’re not going to do it perfectly right off the bat… 
      2. Nor are you going to be able to do it the same way forever.
      3. Don’t be rigid in this practice.
      4. Go with the flow, man.
      5. Adapt as needed.
        1. Move those time slots.
        2. Shift your day.
        3. Schedule more family if that feels lacking.
      6. I think the biggest focus of a practice is to free yourself from the stress of “when am I going to get this done” by putting things in the right, prioritized space.
      7. That’s why it’s important to start with the rest day.
      8. Because if you can’t take care of yourself and the people close to you, then what good are you going to be for anything else.
  12. OK, I’ve preached on long enough.
    1. The conversation continues in our Facebook group: the Bad-Ass Dad Squad
    2. Let’s meet up there!
    3. You can also find more bad-ass resources at
    4. I’ll be coming back with another episode next Wednesday.
    5. In the meantime, hit the subscribe button wherever you listen to podcasts.
    6. When you have time, drop your review at Apple Podcasts or Podchaser.
      1. I saw that podchaser is sending money to Meals on Wheels for each review or rating offered during April
      2. So, there’s some extra incentive… you can do some good for the bad-ass dad community and the elderly through Meals on Wheels.
    7. My name is Ryan Dunn.
    8. Music is by Eyoelin
    9. It’s been fun.
    10. OK bye.

Published by RyanDunn

Ryan Dunn has a bunch of certificates on his desk. A few are awards for content production and marketing. Another marks his ordination as a minister. One says he’s earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa. The certificate next to that says he earned an MA in Christian Practice from Duke (with honors!). Ryan is most proud, though, of the things he’s created: The Compass Podcast, some deep content on, a series of practical spiritual advice videos, a long-lasting marriage, and fantastic little boy. (He enjoyed A LOT of help on all of those projects, especially the last two.)

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