In academia, professors have the option of taking a year away from their home institution for the purpose of expanding their intellectual horizons. They might spend this time doing research in the field, teaching at another university, or writing a book.
For those of us working in a world without tenure and tweed jackets with patches on the elbows, taking a step back from our professional lives and finding a little perspective isn’t as easy. But it’s still necessary.
Luckily, I’ve found that the quality of a sabbatical leave can compensate for a lack of quantity.
Introducing the Amazing 24-Hour Sabbatical.
Why take a sabbatical?At points in our professional and personal lives, we feel swept up in the flow of events. As milestones and markers fly past us, we promise ourselves that we’ll take a good, deep breath and look around as soon as things slow down. But they don’t. When one project is finally wrapping up, three more kick into gear. Forget smelling the roses, we forget to taste our morning coffee.
I’m in the middle of this myself: from my wedding through a promotion through the honeymoon through a move, I haven’t so much as looked up from my feet in 9 months.
To be clear, a one day sabbatical is NOT a Weekly Review. It is NOT an opportunity to catch up on less urgent tasks, re-prioritize our to-do lists, or brainstorm on projects. It’s an opportunity you grant yourself to get a little perspective.
Immediate benefitsA one day sabbatical will:
- Recharge your emotional and intellectual batteries
- Stimulate your creativity
- Suggest new directions for your efforts
- Highlight areas in your life that aren’t worth the effort
- Stimulate long-buried emotions and memories
How to Take Your SabbaticalYour first question might be, why 24 hours? In reality, you’ll only be gone for 8 or 10 hours. But the most important first step in taking a one day sabbatical is to get terrific sleep beforehand.
Get up bright and early the day before your sabbatical, which unless you’re a freelancer who can make your own schedule will probably be a Saturday or a Sunday. Then get to bed as early as you can manage. Set your alarm to wake up before dawn, before your spouse and kids, if any, and get on the road.
Pack Your Sabbatical KitPrepare a small, light bag. You’ll be on your feet a lot so you want to travel light. Bring:
- A paperback book
- A journal and/or voice recorder
- Bottled water
- Snack bars, fruit
- iPod (no podcasts)
Wear comfortable clothes and your best walking shoes or sneakers.
Choose Your PathIf you live in a walkable area like New York City, embarking on your sabbatical may be as simple as picking a direction and walking. The main thing is to walk someplace off your own beaten path. If you’re in a suburban area, drive somewhere long unvisited. Useful sabbatical activities include:
- Perusing a major library
- Visiting your local art or natural history museum
- Strolling along your nearest lake or, if available, seaside
- Eating unfamiliar foods
But once you step back from the immediate, practical concerns, you may start thinking about your job or life as a whole. Maybe it’s time to accept that your career doesn’t make you happy and never will. Or, it may occur to you how lucky you are to be in your position.
In the first case, you might start brainstorming ideas for a career transition. In the latter, you might decide to come back on Monday morning with renewed vigor and dedication.
The ReturnSpend the day out of the house, away from work, and without your gadgets, and I can guarantee that you’ll return home at the end of the day feeling, on some level, transformed. Your journal will be full of new ideas. You’ll be physically tired but mentally recharged.
Don’t worry about processing all those notes right now. A few will be gems; most will seem like they were written by a drunk person in the light of day. Get another good night’s sleep, which is an essential step in absorbing any new experience, and take a look in the morning.
There, you’ve taken a sabbatical, just like an academic. Now, to find a tweed jacket with patches.
Photo by dopesmuglar.