Over the second half of April and the first half of May I was privileged to be allowed an entire month of paid time off to enjoy a sabbatical from my job. I work for a great company that recognizes the need for employees to take a break from the daily grind, break away from the tangles of ongoing projects, tasks, and relationships and simply… rest.
They also throw in some travel money to encourage sabbatical-takers to get away from their normal “at-home” lives as well. All in all, it’s an incredible benefit and one that I had been looking forward to experiencing for a year and a half, ever since they first announced it.
The only requirement? In order to get “approval” to take your sabbatical you must submit a one-page form with your sabbatical plan, which is a wonderful idea. The time you spend away can’t be “couch potato” time only, there needs to be a purpose and a desired result given. In my plan I laid out 3 goals that I had for myself.
These 3 goals were the groundwork for how I structured my time:
When you take a sabbatical you typically have an assignment of some sort, or perhaps some kind of task that you wouldn’t normally have time to undertake. For myself, it was to take several days and research the latest software offerings for server backups. You may recall my adventure from earlier this year where my company’s server hard drives bit the dust, and our backups did not restore as well as I’d thought they should. Well, it was an easy decision for me to spend some time researching this area.
RESULT: PASS – I spent several days researching and tested some new software, and have written a proposal that has to get through the budgeting process.
I stated in my plan that I wanted to “get in better shape” over the course of my sabbatical, which was way too ambiguous. I did a decent job of doing pushups and crunches each day, but that didn’t translate into “better shape” very well. I found that when you’re not working you tend to eat out more with the family and spend more time with friends, which usually revolves around eating.
RESULT: FAIL – Here comes “no junk June!”
I enjoy Bible-reading, and one of my goals was to read through the Psalms (as much as I could) while at the same time reading C.S. Lewis’s commentary on the Psalms. (Being a very facts-and-figures kind of person, the Psalms have never been one of my favorite books, because they are very emotional, descriptive, and poetic, none of which are strong suits for me). It was very interesting reading a commentary by Lewis, because his logic really helped me to understand some of the themes and purposes of the Psalms, which made them much more interesting this time through. I only made it through about 100 of them, but that’s OK. I’m still working on the rest.
I also read the short book by Timothy Keller called “The Prodigal God”, which was awesome. The story of the Prodigal Son is very familiar to many people, but there is so much more to that story than meets the eye. As an oldest son with several younger brothers, I learned a lot from it.
I thought my schedule would be more regimented than it ended up being—spending all day with your family requires some flexibility—but overall I was happy with how I spent my time. I got to do several home-improvement projects like putting up new shutters, stripping and refinishing my wood front door, and getting all my bushes trimmed back (they were in bad shape). I was able to play golf 3 times with 3 different guys, and hang out with my wife and kids a good bit. One day we decided to go to a local state forest and do some hiking and picnic, which was really a half-mile walk through the woods, but to my kids it was quite an adventure! I was also able to spend a day upgrading a computer for our church secretary, which had been on my list for a while.
To keep track of what was going on I made a paper calendar with four pages, one for each week, so that I could plan my days out in advance. That tactic was extremely helpful, and allowed me to accomplish most of my goals in the first 3 weeks, so that the 4th week we could head to the beach and leave everything else behind.
With the sabbatical travel money we rented a beach-front cottage where my kids could head down toward the water to play while we slowly carried down gear, and allowed them to run to the restroom on their own (it’s the little things!). It was a very relaxing trip, and I came back refreshed, which is a rarity when you go to the beach with two kids under 5 years old.
The only pain point came about halfway through, when my wife and I had some disagreements about how I should spend my time. It revolved entirely around expectations and communication, and I’m glad we were able to improve those areas a little bit. If I’m ever able to work from home more, I can see that issue arising again, so I’m glad we addressed it.
So there you have it! That’s how I spent my sabbatical. It’s over now but I loved the experience. Now that I’m back at work I have a much better perspective on how necessary I’m NOT, and how capable the people I manage ARE, which is stress relieving on its own!
How would you have spent a month off of work? Please let me know in the comments!