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When is the last time you took an entire day off from your freelancing?

It’s a tough question, isn’t it? One of the challenges of the freelance life is that if you’re not working in the business, you’re working on it. If you’re not doing work for clients, you’re working on your website or your finances or your marketing or… the list can seem endless.

But we’re not machines. We all need to take time away from our work. We need it for many reasons and in a variety of ways. Taking a day of rest might seem like an extreme thing to do and our culture certainly doesn’t encourage it. But you could discover it’s the best way to prepare yourself to handle another week of freelancing.

The wisdom of rest days

There’s an old religious concept about time off that carries ancient wisdom with it. It’s the idea of a sabbath day. “Sabbath” refers to a day of rest, when no work is done. Traditionally, that day has been either Saturday or Sunday.

It was time for family, for relaxed conversation, for hanging out on the front porch and watching the world go by. (Historically, the tradition of hosting large Sunday dinners meant that women did not get that day off to the same extent as men, but that was not always the case. There was a time when Sunday dinner was a long-simmering stew that would be put on the fire before bed on Saturday night so that all the “work” done in the kitchen on Sunday was serving it up!)

I know I need a day off. I’ve watched my efficiency, and my capacity to handle the unexpected, deteriorate without it. So I do my best to adhere to that sabbath tradition. I’ve found it really does make a difference in my level of energy and commitment for the rest of the week.

Set your day off–and stick to it

I have choosen Sunday as my day of rest. This doesn’t mean that I never work on Sundays. In fact, if I’ve chosen to take a trip or vacation that will have me away during the week, I may choose to work on Sunday in order to have that other day free. But I’m not giving up my day off; I’m simply transferring my sabbath to another part of the week.

I’ve also made this sabbath commitment clear to a few of my longstanding clients. In fact, I have one client—another freelancer—with whom I have arranged a “Sunday rate.” He was notorious for giving me work at the last minute—which often meant on Sundays.

One year, when we were negotiating my rates for the following year, I brought up the idea of a Sunday rate. He agreed with my proposal that the Sunday rate would be much higher than the usual rate—and since that rate was created, it’s only been invoked once (and that was actually for a holiday, not a Sunday)! He’s sent me a lot of work on Sundays, because it’s a day of work for him, but always (except that once) with the understanding that I will not work on it until Monday.

I dare to hope that the Sunday rate has pushed him to be more organized, and perhaps more cognizant of his own need for sabbath. It’s certainly helped me to guard my day of rest.

Commit to rest

Could you take a day of rest every week? If that feels like too much, could you commit to an afternoon of rest every week, or a day of rest every month? I encourage you to explore the idea, and to make a commitment to yourself about taking a sabbath of some sort.

You might be surprised at how much of a difference a period of rest can make in your energy level, your perspective, and your efficiency when you return to your work the next day.

Shirin McArthur is an editor, writer and writer coach who lives in Arizona and specializes in spiritual works and memoirs. She is also a photographer, spiritual guide and retreat leader who focuses on self-care for busy ministers and freelancers.