Why I Observe the Sabbath

I grew up in a very religious household. Both of my parents are Seventh Day Adventists, which means that they keep the Sabbath from sunset on Friday evening until sunset on Saturday. All we are meant to do is rest. There is a wide range of rules one can follow for the Sabbath, but for my family, that meant only the necessary electronics were allowed, no money can be exchanged, no speaking or doing of work, and a lot of church.  As a child, I had a healthy disdain for this practice because I generally wanted to be active and entertained. It felt like everyone else had a two day break in their weekend, but I was only allowed one.

Though I was expected to go to a SDA university, like my sister, I chose a different route. When entering college, I finally had the freedom to make my own schedule. Freshman year especially, I really appreciated having the extra day to do schoolwork. I reveled in how productive I was able to be when I had 7 days in the week. As time went on though, I felt more and more drained. Penn boasts a culture of misery olympics, in which your status as a student is determined by how little sleep you get and how much work you still need to get done. Being the susceptible youth that I am, I fell right into it.

Spring 2018 I took 6 classes (the recommended load is 4 or 5) and afterwards, I was aggressively burnt out. Everyday, I thought of all the things that needed to get done and I never had a moment to just sit down and hang out with friends. Fall of 2018 I took 7 classes*, got the highest GPA of my collegiate career, hung out with my friends regularly, and took the occasional nap. So what changed? I returned to my roots and started keeping a Sabbath.

It first started with a day where I do only what I want, but that wasn’t getting the full effect  of the day. I was interested enough in my classes to want to do the work. So, each week I had to make a decision about whether or not to work. Like I said in an earlier post, committing 99% is way harder than 100%. So, I decided there would be absolutely no Penn work or meetings on Saturdays. I stuck to it even if I had a test on Monday that I was completely unprepared for, even if I knew half of my Sunday was already scheduled.

With less time available as a whole, I had to be smarter about how I worked. It forced me to inspect my methodology and trim the fat. Turns out, my productivity is highest in a block schedule. I have committed to working without distractions for a minimum of 4 hours at a time. It allows my brain to get into the alpha state (otherwise known as the flow state), which is when time passes without you knowing and you are able to concentrate on a singular task. Without doing the mental gymnastics of switching from social media to work, I was able to finish tasks that used to take 1.5 hours in 30 minutes. Furthermore, because I had a designated day off each week, class concepts and project ideas would have time to marinate in my head, giving them much more clarity when I went to work on them later.

Keeping the Sabbath is a religious concept, but there is merit to its practice for secular individuals as well. For those seeking to maximize their efficiency in coursework, perhaps a day of rest each week, though counterintuitive, is a strategy worth the try.

* I strongly advise against taking 7 classes. This is a glamorized summary of the experience.  My situation was somewhat accidental and I was lucky to make it out unscathed. Love yourself!