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Productivity Has Its Limits: Why Your Need to Rest is a Blessing from God

Productivity.


The bane of every musicians existence. We’re usually so great at being focused, disciplined and productive. These are enormous blessings, without a doubt, but can also have pit falls.

First of all, praise God for the gifts of discipline and productivity. God can channel enormous grace through a productive disposition, to bring about beautiful realities through cooperation with His grace, and good, holy human work. St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei and one of the great saints of our modern age, was dedicated to the sanctification of daily work. He speaks about encounters with God through moments of dedicated productivity. While certainly a very countercultural approach to work, it’s undoubtedly an important means of achieving everyday holiness.


Part of the beauty of our work as musicians is that our job is never finished. Perfection isn’t attainable, so there are always infinite possibilities for growth, and thus, infinite possibilities for holiness. It’s normal for our jobs to go through seasons. Sometimes we get to work on rep that we absolutely love, and practicing feels easy and fun. Other times though, the industry is uniquely challenging, rife with unwarranted personal criticisms, seriously moral and ethical dilemmas, and, let’s admit it, occasionally bad music. How beautiful that all of those experiences, the good, the bad, and everything in between, can all be offered up to God.

But, all that said, productivity has its limits. Much of our western world is hyper-focused on work, at the expense of more important values. I am increasingly learning that life is all about finding the median. Work is an undoubtedly important value, but so too are times of rest, celebration, and quality time with family and friends. God has blessed us with ALL of these things, and so we must work to find ways to incorporate these blessings into our daily lives.


Often, that feels way easier said than done. Even with the best of intentions, musicians schedules are often unpredictable and unstable. Making time for things outside of work takes a certain dedication of its own, but it’s a discipline which merits enormous graces and great fruits. Not only does rest merit us socially, mentally and physically (which, may I remind you, is the very outlet through which we produce our music! Take care of your bodies!), but it also reaps enormous spiritual benefits. God is able to work most effectively in a heart that is peaceful and rested, and when He has the room to work in our hearts, then it will naturally follow that the resulting graces will overflow into the rest of our lives- including our music. This is the primary reason why rest is just as necessary as productivity. We are only able to properly cooperate with God if we incline our hearts toward Him in all that we do.


In case you need any further convincing, here are just a few (of literally thousands, if not millions) of the important benefits of resting-

It appears in the Bible many times. God rested from His work on the Sabbath. When Elijah was despairing, the angel told him to take a nap and eat some pancakes (always sound Biblical advice). So many Psalms speak about resting in the Lord. These stories are indicative of a deep understanding of mankind’s innate need for rest, and can even be considered one of the ways in which we reflect God’s Image and Likeness. God rested after His work of creation, and so too should we rest after work!

Resting makes us better musicians. The positive physical and mental effects of good sleep are well documented. So it naturally follows that we will literally perform better with adequate rest. As a chronically sleep deprived musician, I can very much attest that good sleep makes everything feel easier- from juries, to practice session, to performances, to academic lectures, and everything in between!

Resting allows the time and space for the correct ordering of priorities. I barely slept at all during my high school and college years. I was so inundated with work, and did yes yes by trying to achieve my academic and professional goals that I cast sleep to the side. And, right alongside it, I inadvertently also cast aside many relationships, my physical well being, my actual enjoyment of everyday life, and, in some ways, a rightly-ordered spiritual life. I didn’t mean to, of course, but I had accidentally turned achievement into an idol, and placed many important aspect of my life on the altar of sacrifice. Worldly achievements are not necessarily bad, but they also won’t help us achieve salvation on our own. Thus, they must always be kept in their proper order, and it becomes infinitely more difficult to achieve that order when your brain is exhausted and you haven’t had the time or space to properly consider the importance of those things you’re sacrificing in the name is success.


I could write hundreds more little paragraphs about why allowing yourself to rest is so important. Eventually, this is a lesson we will all be forced to learn, one way or another, if we don’t implement healthy rest time early in our professional lives. My high school mentor always used to tell me “Take the time to rest now, or your body will force you to rest later”. I wish I’d listened to her advice sooner, and I would have saved myself a lot of difficulties in college and beyond.


Full disclosure, this post is late going up because I haven’t taken the proper time to rest recently, and my body has punished me for it. So, take it from someone who knows –


Rest.

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