Are you feeling burnt out? Needing a change? Could a strategic sabbatical help?
Here is how I knew that it was time for me to take a break and replenish my soul:
I’ve been a working artist for over 25 years. I sold my first piece of artwork 30 years ago exactly, while I was in Junior High. During my teens and 20’s I often had other jobs as well including office jobs and a project coordinator. For the past 13 years I’ve made my living as an artist. I love art, I love creating, I love my clients. I could work around the clock and still want more. However, as my oldest is finishing her 3rd year of college and our youngest (who we homeschool) is now 11 remind me; time goes quick. Life balance is required.
In 2020 I worked so hard and had the most successful year financially of my entire career. I also released a very personal book about grief and healing. I pushed myself so hard, I burned out. I ended up getting shingles during my busy season, it lasted 3 months. Just as I was getting better from that I got covid in early 2021. It knocked me down. I was in bed for weeks, and had reduced energy and required daily naps for 6 months afterwards. I knew something had to change. I could no longer judge myself and my “success” by how busy I kept myself or how hard I worked. I had to work smarter, be more discerning about what projects I took on, and re-discover my identity (0utside of my career).
In the summer of 2021 my husband and I decided that we were not going to wait any longer to finally take our dream trip we’ve spent years saving for. We said a prayer, looked at our numbers, pulled out a calendar and decided that 2022 would be the year. Over the next 6 months we slowly pieced together a trip that includes parts of the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. We plan on bringing our 11 year old and incorporating homeschool lessons into the experience. Currency conversions, maps, understanding history and cultures… it will be a learning experience for all of us.
I had to make a long list of pros and cons on whether I would work throughout our trip and the time off before and after. At first I figured I could find a way to monetize parts of it, or offer digital packages or courses that I can fulfill while I’m gone. In the end, I tuned in deeply to my soul. I knew what I needed. Rest, inspiration, time together, a connection to the world, and to replenish my body, mind, and soul. I knew I needed to trust deeply that my career would be ready and waiting once I’m back.
In the 8 months since deciding to take the months long sabbatical I’ve learned a few things that can help others.
Here are 5 tips to prep for a sabbatical from your job or business:
1. Plan Financially
Figure out financially how many weeks or months you can afford to take off. If money is an issue, figure out if there are things you can sell or overtime you can work in the meantime. Is there a way to make passive income while you take off? We first paid off debt back in 2017. We’ve been working at living below our means ever since. Saving in all areas we can. We drive used cars, we hardly ever eat out, we DIY almost every house project, we had a big garage sale in 2021, and sold a ton of stuff through FB marketplace, craigslist, and eBay. These all have brought us extra in others areas for us to use. You can get ideas about saving money and hear how we paid off over $48k in debt here.
We then looked at our monthly expenses to see how long that amount would carry us through. For us we are also traveling so we had to add that amount on as well. We weighed pros and cons of renting out our home while we traveled vs having someone stay here for free and pet sit for us.
If you need help (and inspiration) working through the same money mindset issues I have spent years working through: Here is a video I created all about how to NOT feel poor while you are saving for a big goal or paying off debt.
**If travel is a part of your future plans then you may want to consider some strategic ways to gather points and miles to assist your trip. During the pandemic I very strategically used credit cards. My favorite bonus we got was when we opened an IHG chase card. (You can follow my affiliate link here if you’d like to possibly open one as well, for each person that opens one they will gift me some extra points – although I promise I’d recommend it even if there was no bonus in it for me. Here is why. Bruce and I both opened a card. And these are the actual places were were able to book hotel rooms using points. (We will only be responsible for paying appropriate taxes once we check out)
We booked: 7 nights in Dubai, 5 nights in France, 12 nights in Germany!!! All with points!!! (We also used partial points and part cash for a night in Istanbul.) Their bonuses are out of this world! So amazing. You can read more about travel hacking in a post I wrote a couple years back here:
2. Get Clear on the Goal of your Sabbatical
For me I know that I need time away from my routines, my commitments, my work. In the time leading up to the actually travel I began to prep for this. I removed myself from all groups, business clubs, contracted services, and expectations. I knew that I needed to take it all away and when I get back, I will only add back in those that will serve this next half of my life going forward.
For others, you may want to load up your sabbatical schedule with time with friends and family. Exploring your community, meeting new people and seeing things in your town you’ve been too busy to explore until now. It may be the time to join new clubs with a sense of adventure.
Tune in and listen to your own knowing, pray for guidance, meditate. Whatever feels right for you to hear that wisdom.
3. Say no to ALL that doesn’t support the goal of your sabbatical.
In order to truly make room for relaxation, new inspiration, and rest… say no to new things leading up to your sabbatical. For me this has been vital. I’ve been offered free sales training, discounted business retreat referral codes, new ideas for business, even new invites for coffee and brainstorming. In order to stay true to my goal of fully rejuvenating my soul and not working during my sabbatical, I’ve had to protect that time fiercely and stay focused on my why.
I’ve used the time to leading up to the sabbatical to plan ahead for work deadlines that will happen once I’m back, plan out an approach to announcing my sabbatical to clients, and how to navigate sharing everything with also protecting my upcoming experience from anyone else’s fears or doubt (more on that next). I’ve also paid attention to things that can be simplified, clearance out products I no longer want to offer once I’m back, and getting my studio clean and ready for a break.
Acting with intention is the key to this step. Maybe you have the opposite needs than I do, maybe your goal will be to get involved, see people, fill life up with joy. Get clear about your needs.
4. Don’t let others put their “what if’s” and fears on you.
Other people, even with the best of intentions, will places fear all over your dreams. They will project their own insecurities, fears, or personal doubts onto you. Most will never even notice that they are doing it. This may include co-workers, family, friends or even neighbors. Just remember that we are all in different stages of life, our children’s ages and needs are different. Our own health, personalities, abilities, and jobs are different. Some people are in a stage of life that a break may feel like an impossibility in their world. So much so that they haven’t considered that it is a possibility for others. Don’t spend any time feeling angry, or wishing for their support. Set the intention to not let it bother you and don’t give it your precious energy. Keep your eyes on your goals.
Another percentage of people will be excited for you yet never acknowledge it to your face. (they’ll cheer for you in their head and think about what you’ve done, and maybe even years from now it will give them permission to maybe do something like that for themselves).
Even fewer people will be openly excited for you, remember those people and be grateful for them!
Here is a great video all about aligning your life with your dreams (and not letting other’s fear stop you).
5. Don’t shrink. Instead expand into all of the fullness your sabbatical can be!
After I first made plans for taking time off, there was a part of me that thought, maybe I’ll take time off yet schedule out posts and social media to make it look like I’m still working throughout. This may be an excellent solution for some people. For me though, after I really thought about it, it felt like that was an excuse for me to hide out and not fully embrace all that I’ve worked for. Since my time off also includes a vacation that I’ve dreamed about for decades, I have to work extra hard to find the balance between being excited for it and proud of our hard work, and also not talking about it endlessly. The inspiration I get from the places we see can also bring gifts of inspiration to others. So I will walk the line of fully being in the moment and absorbing all I can and also being open to sharing so others can also feed of the inspiration and gifts of travel as well.
I also decided that my transparency will do three main things. First, allow me to have heartfelt moments of connection with both my clients and also friends. I can learn from their past travels, times they have taken time away from a business, and also open myself up for their prayers and good energy.
Secondly, it allows me to share this experience with others in a way that maybe it will help someone else listen to their own heart more fully and have the courage to take time away if that is what they are being led to do. I can pass along the gifts of the various cultures we are guests of including the people, the art, the landscapes.
Third, I cannot explain this one adequately but I know that I will come back from this experience changed. Even the process of planning for this trip and time off has forced me to get clear, set tighter boundaries, cut of unnecessary things from my life. The traveling, the sights, the inspiration will only deepen the life lessons and inspiration.
How can you get all you can from your time off? Have you always wanted to write a book? Travel? Spend time with the Grandkids? Maybe it’s simply time to rest and replenish.
I am wishing you nothing but goodness and peacefulness as you carve your own, true path in your life. Whether it’s soon or years from now that you decide a sabbatical or break is what is needed; I’m rooting for you.