It’s becoming normal to take a sabbatical. A few years ago, the Wall Street Journal reports that employers won’t penalize job applicants for short gaps on their resume. It could be timely today. Here’s the link.
People who have taken time off, the article says, have successfully returned to the corporate world or to their businesses. . One woman returned after a sabbatical, refreshed, and rose to being president of an insurance company.
Entrepreneurs can choose sabbaticals on their own timeline. But it’s actually trickier than taking time out from a company job. Without ongoing interaction, you can lose your audience and your momentum. However, an established business can usually keep going with with a laptop, an Internet connection and a plan.
It’s often a good idea to reframe retirement as a sabbatical. A lot of people find themselves eager to “retire,” but then get that “what next” feeling. Planning a sabbatical allows you to question, “What do I really want to do next?”
So how do you set up your sabbatical as a foundation for your future career?
Many people envy academics who take sabbaticals. What they don’t realize is that sabbaticals are not designed as a time to relax on the beach. You are supposed to use your free time to accomplish specific projects that will move your career forward when you return. You might use that time to write a book or publish research that will enhance your reputation.
To get a sabbatical, academics need a proposal and a plan. Your plan needs to be concrete and eminently feasible.
You too can create a sabbatical. You may have to self-finance your sabbatical, but you’ll often reap rewards long into the future. Here are tips to make sure your sabbatical will be productive and will lead to the kind of growth you desire and deserve.
(1) Make sure your plan includes fun.
How do you want to play? Did you always want to spend a year at the movies, take a ceramics class, write nonstop all morning, or begin each day with a blank slate?
When I took a sabbatical, I focused on the arts—ceramics class, theatre, music, and art museums.
At the time, I wanted the luxury of exploring these areas and seeing where they’d take me. I’m still enjoying the benefits many years later. I still take ceramics classes and attend classical music concerts. And I credit my study of art and theatre with my current professional focus on storytelling.
“Fun? I haven’t had fun for ten years.”
Start slowly, perhaps using the weekends, rather than jumping into a whole year with an empty calendar. You may need time and space to understand what you really want to do.
Jumping headfirst into retirement, sabbatical leave or even a long vacation will almost always be a mistake. d
(2) Set two types of goals: a creativity goal and a physical activity goal.
A creativity goal involves developing a new side of yourself, using some combination of art, music, drama, and writing. You may become an artist or take “appreciation” classes. If you travel, you can keep a journal, visit art museums or attend concerts. You could write a draft of a novel or nonfiction book, even if you decide not to become an author; the process will make you more productive, regardless of the outcome.
If the whole idea of creativity is too mind-blowing, you can start small with meetup groups or online classes. Just a few minutes at a time can have a huge impact.
You can also look up resources, such as The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. It’s been around a while but still represents a goldmine of ideas for enhancing your creativity and productivity.
Physical activity can be as simple as walking or as rigorous as training for a marathon. Learn a new sport. Dance. Work with a trainer in the weight room. People tell me over and over, “I felt stronger as a person when my body became stronger.”
Some goals are unique combinations of the physical and the creative. “Build a cabin on my property,” “Sail my boat to the island and back,” “Walk the length of the state of California and keep a journal.”
(3) Set a time limit for your Time Out.
Over three months, you can sign up for a class in pottery or piano. You can travel to a number of places?—?or settle down in one long enough to feel like a native.
Six months? You can draft a short book or outline a longer one.
Six weeks? You can travel or go to workshops or see all the movies you didn’t have time for.
A time limit can free you. It’s all too easy to keep drifting and one day you realize you’re trapped in a new way. You’ve lost touch with your previous life and have no way to go back.
A time limit helps you savor the moment. You realize, “I’m so lucky to be enjoying this place, doing what I’m doing, or completing my bucket list.”
Not to worry. You can always start a new Time Out if you’re ready.