- May 20, 2020
The Lycoming County Commissioners are taking a two-week break from meetings — partially to attend some CCAP (County Commissioners of Pennsylvania) seminars and partially to campaign. Having followed these commissioner meetings for four years now, experience has shown that when they reconvene, there generally is someone who stands up and castigates them for taking time
The Lycoming County Commissioners are taking a two-week break from meetings — partially to attend some CCAP (County Commissioners of Pennsylvania) seminars and partially to campaign. Having followed these commissioner meetings for four years now, experience has shown that when they reconvene, there generally is someone who stands up and castigates them for taking time off.
Though some might find these pauses of duty as inactivity, the truth is just the opposite. According to the Bible, man was never designed for non-stop work. The Genesis story states that man was made on the sixth day of Creation, and this was followed by a day in which God rested from his work. When Moses was given the Ten Commandments, this injunction to rest on the seventh day was based on the creation account. The message is that man will get more accomplished with six days of work and a day of rest than work without any breaks.
Modern physiology and psychology have also well attested to this fact. For example, the Mayo Clinic lists one of the sources of job-related stress is a work-life imbalance. This happens when so much time and effort goes into work activities that it leaves very little energy left for personal affairs.
I saw this first-hand some years ago while serving on a charity board with a man named Bob. He was a mid-level executive with a company that was merging with another company, and he was told that a number of those in management would lose their jobs as a result of this merger. Bob kept working more and more hours to show how indispensable he was and kept it up till he had a heart attack at the office. I remember seeing him in the hospital, and he told me, “Larry, you are looking at the most stupid man in the universe. No job is worth killing yourself over!”
It is not just physical energy that gets sapped from non-stop work, but also mental energy as well. This is especially important for individuals like the county commissioners who are faced with serious matters that require higher-level thinking. For example, most of us make decisions without thinking throughout the day because these are simple problems that we have faced before, and we know the outcomes. But what about more difficult problems? How do you think about something that you never had to think about before?
This requires a level of thinking that is termed “reflective thinking,” and it requires getting your mind ‘quiet.’ An analogy could be like trying to see your reflection in a small pond that is constantly being stirred up. The image would be distorted, of course. But if you wait long enough, sooner or later, the winds would be stilled, and the image would be clear. For those who have ever had the opportunity to experience this type of ‘thinking’ know that it is exhilarating. But it does not come without sufficient mental rest.
In Stephen Covey’s extremely popular book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, he lists the last habit as “sharpening the saw.” The term was related to the story of a woodcutter who got a job sawing down trees. The man went from one of the best woodcutters to one of the worst, and yet always worked exactly the same amount of time and the same intensity. He had no explanation for his decline in work productivity, until one of his colleagues asked, “When do sharpen your saw?” Covey’s point is that without taking time to renew ourselves, the body becomes weak, the mind mechanical, the emotions raw, the spirit insensitive, and the person selfish.
So, the message we should give to our county commissioners is that they should use this time off wisely. They have everything to gain by taking a few weeks away from the intensity of their office. Like all of us, it is good to give the body and brain a rest once in a while.
Larry Stout welcomes your comments or input. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.