by Britt Parrott

Many people forget how routine their lives are. While this is especially true for those, like me, who have a regular 9-5 job, freelancers often get into their own routines, even while being less constrained by hours and location.

Doing the same thing over, day after day, contributes to creative blocks. Some might work through these blocks temporarily (by visiting sites such as this one), but it neglects the root cause of what got them into the block in the first place: routine.

I schedule a day out for myself as often as possible. I don’t call it a day off because those are usually taken for a specific purpose: a trip, work around the house, etc. For me, a day out is a way to temporarily break out of my routine. In the process, I usually get a boost of creativity.

My rules for taking a day out include:

  • I take a long walk. Sometimes, walking is my only mode of transportation on a day out. You observe much more during a walk than any other form of transportation. It reduces stress and feels good.
  • I go to a different neighborhood. Rather than going to the same comfortable cafes and coffeeshops, I visit a different neighborhood or small town. If I’ve visited all the ones within walking distance, I might drive to others and spend time walking around to get a feel for where I want to eat, sit, write, etc.
  • I take extra time to observe. While walking, I’ll often stop and look around or sit on a bench for several minutes to watch people. I rarely get a chance to do this during my routine. It sometimes feels odd allowing myself time to just observe the flow of life.
  • I never have an agenda. I don’t take a day out with any goal in mind (except perhaps to have fun and reduce stress).
  • I pack lightly. I read a quote recently that said the less you pack, the more you experience. I usually take a notebook and a pen. Anything else, especially gadgets, will be a distraction.
  • I try to talk to people. I take the time to engage store owners and others in friendly conversation. I might ask a specific question about the neighborhood (or small town) since I am new to the area. I usually learn something new, often about myself.

At one point in my life, I took a day out on a weekly basis. Now, I’m lucky to do it once every two months. I plan to take a week out every year to visit a new city by myself, so if you see a short guy with glasses wandering around your neighborhood, say hello.

15 Comments on Taking a day out

  1. chrispian says:

    Wait, you get to work 9-5? I thought that was a myth long gone. Somewhere they slipped in an extra hour and now we all work 8-5!

  2. James says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently – I love working from home, but it can lead to cabin fever, working here all day and then not going out several evenings a week, so I’m thinking taking a walk during the day once a week might be a refreshing idea.

  3. I think you are getting old. Long walks… talking with store owners… getting lost in strange places.

    “Where I’m! where I’m!”
    - Take it easy grandpa!
    “Where I’m! ahhh!”
    - Don’t heart yourself!

    hehhee. Just kidding. I discussed the same thing with my very old mate Tom a couple of months ago. He is studding on Princeton and he need a break from time to time. I have my own business so go figure it out, I also need a break; but I made the mistake of doing an agenda, and that was the all plan death.

    I think it’s important to take a day, an afternoon or a weekend off. I usually work from monday to saturday, 8:00AM 9:00PM and it can make you forget about being creative, or your problems can look bigger than actually are.

    So, good post fellow. Excellent in fact!
    Javier Cabrera

  4. Sean Tierney says:

    Britt,
    this “day out” concept you propose is actually a cultural cornerstone to my company, Lights Out Production. We do one day per month that involves zero technology in which we engage in other activities. It’s a working day in the sense that it’s usually beneficial to the company indirectly but does so by breaking the normal technology-yoked routine and doing something entirely unrelated (usually involving travel).

    Sean

  5. Javier, I AM getting old (42)! Most people say I look 30, however. I think all the long walks keep me looking young.

    Sean, sounds like an idea that should be replicated elsewhere. I’m really getting tired of staring at the computer all the time, and, as others have pointed out elsewhere, meetings aren’t exactly helping either.

  6. Joel says:

    Sounds to me like what used to be called “sabbath” in the good ol’ B-I-B-L-E.

    I think there’s a lot of wisdom to be found in the bible, regardless of your take on faith and/or ultimate reality. The concept of a sabbath day is one that I think had/has excellent benefits for mind/body/soul both in relation to religion and in relation to simply being human.

  7. ..ak says:

    My coworker called it a “life maintenance day”. He would take one day off a month to organize everything:
    - catch up on bills
    - run errands during off-peak times
    - catch up on reading
    - cook for the family
    - spend day-time with the wife
    - stay up late the night before with the kids

    It worked wonders for him and I incorporate it every once in a while. I usually schedule it a couple weeks in advance. This helps me stay organized.

    Usually I take a Wednesday. It has an added bonus of making that week much more exciting.

  8. J.S.S. says:

    Hey just wanted to say that I visited your blog and think its cool!

  9. Rose says:

    Workin’ 9 to 5
    What a way to make a livin’
    Barely gettin’ by
    It’s all takin’
    And no givin’
    They just use your mind
    And they never give you credit
    It’s enough to drive you
    Crazy if you let it

    Ok, so I’m know Dolly Parton but I enjoy browsing your blog. My life is very routined and every now and then I want for nothing more to break away.

  10. Acres Wild says:

    Carnival of the Creators #2

    Britt Parrott writes about Taking a Day Out as a defense against creative blocks. One idea is that “the less you pack, the more you experience”. Similar advice “Consume experiences, not things” is

  11. Crazoo says:

    That’s a great idea. I find when walking, I usually have nothing else to do while waiting to get to my destination except think. Same goes for taking public transit. But it’s not quite the same when you’re driving because you’re focusing on driving and probably have the radio on as well.

    I don’t think I could leave the house without my cellphone though.

  12. theScorp says:

    Hey Britt!
    I appreciate your view.Keep it up :)God bless :)

  13. Ryan says:

    I guess a weekly off from work is enough to get out of our routine lives for one day of the week and relax, meet friends or get involved in activities which you may not be able to do while in routine.

  14. TeamGrowth says:

    Following the same job routine going to office everytime may cause a ‘Brain Drain’ over a period of time. Taking a day off in a week is an absolute must and also changing the pattern of work a little bit if possible helps a lot too.

  15. Corey says:

    I liked the ideas that you shared! Thank you for publishing them :).

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