The Power Of A Digital Sabbath

I’m doing a little better than I was on Friday morning when I wrote the post Generosity Burnout. Just writing the post put me in an appropriate frame of mind to reflect on things on Saturday. I took a digital sabbath, something I’ve been doing on 90% of the Saturdays since I first tried it in March, 2013 in the middle of a deep depressive episode.

I’m not religious but I know many successful people who take a full day off once a week. I’m most familiar with the Jewish traditions, so I decided to emulate sabbath in spirit. No phone. No computer. No email. After almost four years, it’s a weekly touchpoint that has become a central part of my life.

On Friday, when I wrote Generosity Burnout, I was exhausted from three weeks of travel. On Tuesday in San Francisco, in the midst of an endless downpour, I acknowledged to myself that I had started to feel “down”, which is a euphemism for “feeling depressed” for many of us. I hadn’t tipped to a dark place, but I realized that I had given myself a total lack of self-care since the beginning of the year. While I had a normal amount of work stress, with something new fucked up every day, I was feeling the emotional impact more and carrying around extra anxiety that was bordering on obsessive thoughts.

Yesterday, I had a typical digital sabbath. I slept 12 hours, meditated, and then went running. Amy and I had lunch and talked. I then retreated to the couch and a read a book with her and the dogs. We took an afternoon nap, showered, and then went into Boulder for dinner with friends. We went to bed when we got home.

I took action on the self-care front. I haven’t been drinking any booze since my birthday (@bfeld v51). I decided to stop drinking coffee, cancel all of my Q2 travel, spent two nights a week at home with Amy for dinner in Q2, and start saying no to everything new until I feel like saying yes again. I’ve got plenty to work on – there’s no need to add more to it. And I know I get a lot of satisfaction and energy from working on what is on my plate.

I feel a little better today. I’m still tired and anxious. Meditation this morning was calming, as is writing this. After I hit post, I’m heading out for a run with the dogs.

Also published on Medium.

  • I played four sets on Friday pm in that 80 degree weather at Wash Park. It was glorious.

    • That does sound glorious.

  • Glad to hear you are feeling better. I was one of those who was going to ask you for two things (both of which we first talked about back in 2013 I think).

    Time to recharge is so important. I’ve also been using Saturdays for that, mostly because I like to use Sunday to reflect and plan for the week.

    • As I sit her on Sunday night, feeling a lot better, but trying to dig out from under the very deep pile of things in my inbox, I feel that “planning” thing pulling me.

  • For what it’s worth, hearing you speak on Tuesday was the highlight of my Saastr experience (I never walked up to and pitched a VC in front of a crowd, it was fun and you are super cool, though I’m too early for VC funding yet…)

    I happen to keep Sabbath (while I’m a religious Jew I actually consider myself a “mystic” more then anything else), and it has a powerful effect of resetting our state of mind.

    • Thanks. And hope you had a great sabbath yesterday.

    • Paul Azous

      Kol hakvod
      Paul Azous, CEO

      • Paul, your company looks interesting. My startup provides managers (who are using Gmail or G-Suite) situational awareness across the multiple inboxes of their teams.

        In my day job, I am product manager on a deal management system for a commercial mortgage brokerage with over 300 brokers. And we have put in place an awesome, QuickBooks integrated business layer for their general ledger, using interactive dashboards, and business processes, metrics, etc. Before that, I was working on ultra low latency electronic trading systems for Deutsche Bank.

        Our team at Life Dashboard is setting out for a lofty goal – use AI and Gmail integration to deliver visual situational awareness across a single inbox or a network of inboxes. Create & classify business context (structure) to email conversations.

        Would be great to pick your brain, and maybe even consider using Life Dashboard at

        By the way, on the Jewish Mysticism side, please please please check out my blog – it is unique and filled with prophetic wisdom. Thank you.

  • Just keep showing up and being you when I see you. It’s good energy for me.

  • Eli David

    I always try to get lost on Saturday, this weekend took a ferry from Andalucia Spain to Africa, a new continent for me. If someone tells me “get lost” I always say thank you.
    The digital Sabbath sounds great, but when I reach somewhere new, I need google maps, airbnb, and love listening to podcasts and taking photos. I think the key here is to have one rule that will keep you in place. Since I can’t do the digital one, mine is to always go and spend the night (or two) in a new place, far away from where I work. I am not very spiritual, but believe that the energies in the city where I work are not mixing well with the weekend energies, so I opt to go far.
    I wrote a little bit about my weekend routine here

  • So glad to hear you’re taking a step back and taking care of yourself. Being with loved ones (including 4-legged ones) becomes more precious and appreciated as the versions increase.

  • Niko G

    New follower here.

    It has been intriguing to follow your posts on depression and navigating the dark places of your life, as it is not something people are often comfortable sharing. This post of yours in particular, coming a day before your comical Alexa Accelerator plug, led me down an interesting train of thought. Due to your unique perspective on technology and the need to remove oneself from it occasionally (i.e. digital sabbath), I am interested in how you feel about meditation apps such as Headspace, Calm, etc. Do you consider them beneficial for mental health, or a hindrance to natural peace of mind?

    • I’m a huge fan of apps like this. I’m a regular user of Headspace and I’m a tiny investor (through Jason Calacanis’ syndicate) in Calm.

  • Paul Azous

    Its very important to unplug.
    Paul Azous

  • This is a great post. Sometimes you have to “treat yo self”.
    I like to have dinner with Michelle 5-6 days a week (depending on our evening activities) whether that’s out or at home.

    Also Saturday is a peak non-computer-geek fun day. I only work on a project if I’m super inspired, and even then only for an hour or two. I haven’t tried the full disconnect, but it sounds fantastic. I’d love to try that quarterly, and maybe a full week or two though, to give my mind a chance to wander (when I can afford to).

    Completely off topic, don’t suppose you know of any good biotech startups in your region? My wife’s been exploring other options, but says it’s tough to find openings in her field. She’s a lab manager/assistant director 12 yrs+ experience, MS Molecular Bio, Doctorate Public Health.

  • Jamie Rosa

    So well said Brad, as someone who struggles with anxiety and depression, action steps after signs appear are the ones where change truly occurs. Meditation has also brought relief as does my personal relationship, great to hear your words, so comforting to feel not so alone sometimes.