Sabbatical Stories: Making Time Off Count

Sabbaticals not only recalibrate your physical and mental well-being, they also renew passion and purpose. When harnessed properly, sabbaticals can propel existing careers to new heights or even leapfrog you into an entirely new industry. But not all sabbaticals are created equal. Here’s how to get the best out of it. 1. Set expectations right Both for yourself and your support system. If you’re taking time off from your job, ensure clear communication with your team so that they know what to expect when you’re gone and when you return. Clarify any practical aspects regarding your employment contract and develop a well-communicated return plan complete with clear dates and specific job responsibilities. 2. Plan ahead Your sabbatical needs to be purpose-driven. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your mojito on the beach, but you need to figure out what you want from the time off. Chart your objectives and research the ways to make that happen. 3. Don't forget to manage your finances While 25% of Fortune's 100 best companies to work for offer fully paid sabbaticals, not all of us have the luxury of fully paid leave. Remember that sabbaticals are an investment in yourself and furthering skills can sometimes be costly. Planning ahead will help defray living costs - make sure to cover your ground by planning for additional costs aside from everyday expenses like medical bills and travel baggage costs. Sabbatical experts say that a two-year window is needed to save for a sabbatical - especially if you're travelling without a paycheck. 4. Structure your time Routine can lead to a creativity rut, but that doesn’t mean it all goes out the window. Stefan Sagmeister was only able to get the most out of his sabbatical once he broke his days down into activities that fulfilled his interests and helped hone his craft and methodology. Manage the time out. 5. Experiment You’ve outlined your goals and enrolled in courses to make them happen. You’ve planned trips to broaden your horizons. A fair amount of experimentation will occur with activities that are well within your comfort zone, but it’s useful to push the boundaries and experiment with activities you wouldn’t normally try. Hallmark has cleverly adapted the conventional sabbatical into a ‘creative renewal’ program where writers, illustrators, and designers can use a farmhouse space to dabble in blacksmithing, woodwork, and other craft. The idea is not to be great at this new activity, but to give yourself a new field to play with, a new creative or technical language to learn, and new boundaries to play with. Have you taken a sabbatical? Share your story with us at Image: Daniela Hartmann