As we near the end of another Labor Day weekend, I took a few minutes to step back and think about why this holiday even exists in the first place. Beyond a great excuse to hang out at back yard pool parties and barbecues, all while dreading the start of another school year, I knew there had to be a practical reason for the holiday we all love here in the States. The TL;DR history lesson is that in the mid 19th century, we started the annual tradition of honoring those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” Just after the industrial revolution, we created a holiday to celebrate the working man’s accomplishments. In short – Labor Day is a way to celebrate our productivity.
This mini history lesson led me to a more practical realization: The go-go-go mentality that we creatives tend to embrace so dearly carves out little time for kicking back hitting refresh. Yet, the majority of our work requires us to be at the top of our game with continually fresh perspectives. These ideas seem hard to reconcile and I realize now that Labor Day (especially in 2014) has several benefits, two of which really resonated with me.
1) A day off is a great opportunity to get our feet back under us to create something even more spectacular.
There’s a prime example of this in our recent rebuild of Coffitivity.com. After an entire summer of coding, designing, rewriting code, and redesigning, we got a build that we’re proud of out to our fans. Of course we know – especially in the web world – that a build is never truly finished as there will always be bugs, tweaks, and updates. Even still, it helps so much to stop and look at a project for what’s been made rather than what it’s missing. On the evening that we finally shipped Coffitivity 3.0, we went straight to the bar. We didn’t pass go; we didn’t collect $200, we just sat and drank and not one of us mentioned the website we had just pushed live. It was a great break from a project we had been looking at constantly for longer than we care to admit. What’s even more interesting is that when we finally jumped back into the website almost an entire day later, we felt refreshed and ready to rock. Simply put, the break was re-energizing and we were better for it individually and as a team.
The second benefit of Labor Day hit me after recalling a recent series of (un)fortunate events in which I found myself stranded with no computer, iPad, cell battery, charger, or house keys. I had my wallet and my bike and the inventory ends there. After spending some time contemplating my peculiar situation, I just started riding. There was no destination, no goal in mind. I did nothing but wander and wonder why I hadn’t done more of it sooner. An hour later I stopped at one of our favorite Richmond spots for a bite to eat, and for the first time in what felt like ages, I enjoyed lunch without any work sitting in front of me. I had unknowingly forced myself to unplug and enjoy a gorgeous day free of emails, phone calls, students, or clients…and that’s when it hit me.
2) Work for work’s sake makes no sense if we never take time off to appreciate what we’ve created.
As writers, designers, entrepreneurs, and creatives, it’s incumbent on us to celebrate the act of creation by (bear with me here), not making. Seems counter intuitive, yeah? Yet, at some point during the day I realized something: my day off represented on a grand scale the same core philosophy behind Coffitivity. The science supporting what we’ve built essentially says that we need to have a little bit of distraction to avoid focusing too much on our work at hand. With our website, coffee shop sounds provide that tiny bit of distraction to help get creative juices flowing. As it turns out, accidentally unplugging forced me enjoy a simple lunch at a coffee shop which was the perfect distraction from my daily grind. It gave me a second to breathe and think about why we built Coffitivity and continue to work on it. At the end of my day off, I felt re-inspired and more excited than ever to dive back into building a company that helps people work a little bit better and there’s definitely something to be said for that.
So, as we gear up to make the most of our Labor Day, take a second to appreciate what it really offers us. Whether your day consists of beer-filled kiddie pools and corn hole or quietly reading and relaxing, just make sure you’re actually taking time to unplug, kick back, and recharge. Tomorrow will be here before you know it and you’ll be ready to do more work worth taking a day off to celebrate.