(The following is a transcription from a video Linda and I recorded. Please excuse any typos or errors.)
My wife Linda and I just got back from our sabbatical and it looked a little bit different for both of us. But for me, I didn’t do any work for 30 days, no email and no social media. We learned some really important and surprising lessons. If you ever want to do something like this, we hope this article will be helpful.
A lot of people ask us questions about taking a sabbatical. And, we’re going to go over some of the most common questions that everybody wants to know.
Well it’s really like the same two or three questions over and over again. And we’re going to answer them after we go through the Top Five Unexpected Lessons that we learned.
Before we begin, if you would rather watch our video on this very subject, just click the video below to view our discussion:
1st Lesson Learned
Okay. So the first thing we learned is you really have to leave your common surroundings, the things that you see every day. You need to get yourself away from them. And, I hate that this is true or has been true for us at least.
Because to me it seems like you should be able to do this at your house, but we have tried in the past and it just does not work as well. There’s something about getting out of your everyday routine and breaking that. And for us it has always meant going to an Airbnb somewhere else in different surroundings. And that has made a world of difference. When we’ve tried to take our sabbatical at our home, in our regular surroundings and just changing all of our habits and routines, it just hasn’t worked.
You just don’t actually have your sabbatical when you’re at home. What ends up happening is you’re like, “well, I’ll just put away this laundry really fast,” and you just slip into your every day routine. You find yourself in the exact same habits that you’ve just been doing day in and day out. And so you don’t really get the benefits of actually stepping away from what you’re trying to step away from.
What we mean by your common surroundings are people, places and things. Your house and all the things in your house and all the projects that you want to do. Stuff like that.
People, like maybe your best friends, who are just going to really always have something for you to do and always are excited to see you. Which is really fun. If you’re going out with the same people every single week, hanging out every single day, you’re not actually cutting away. Familiar places even. I feel like there’s just something special about leaving your common surroundings.
And now the obvious thing in which we struggle with, is that it’s expensive to go somewhere else. But the way that we’ve done this is figuring out, okay, where can we go that’s actually a little bit cheaper? And so that’s what we’ve thought through. Because there are certain places you can go rent an Airbnb for next to nothing.
I’m sure you can go to some random place in Idaho or something in the middle of nowhere, which is perfect for a sabbatical. The goal isn’t to be in a super busy area with tons and tons of stuff to do. It’s the opposite. You want a retreat place, where you can just get away and be alone. Typically places are a bit cheaper if they’re out of big urban areas.
This idea of getting away from the common surroundings, was just really surprising to us. We have thought this time and time again. Try to pull this off, and you might be able to make it work, too. But in our experience, and a lot of other people I’ve talked to that have done sabbaticals, it’s just really difficult to do.
2nd Lesson Learned
The second thing that really surprised us is that you can actually still get a lot of benefit out of a sabbatical, even if you have a bunch of little kids like we have right now. We’re in the craziness season where we have a six year old, a two year old and an 11 month old.
It looks so much different than when we first did this. Because when we first did a sabbatical, it was just Linda and I. We would go and we’d rent a place. And, we just would spend the entire day reading or praying.
We didn’t allow TV. We didn’t watch any TV, so we were just very isolated. But that’s how we did it and how we made the most out of that time when we were single.
Setting A Routine
But now that we have little kids, we’ll go into the day and we have all these things to do because there’s no vacation when you’re parents, there’s no real breaks. How we have done that, is we just kind of set a routine to help give us some breathing room to kind of get alone and decompress.
What that looks like for us as we switch off days, she gets a day and then I get a day. We get up, get the kids up and eat breakfast. And then who’s ever day it is to leave, gets to leave. We agreed that we can be gone as long as we wanted. For us, it normally worked out to be gone until about lunchtime or a little after.
We were fortunate to be able to stay at the beach this time, which was great. We stayed at a nice condo on the beach. And so what I would do on my off day is I would either go somewhere out on the beach and just read or walk and pray. Or I would go over to a coffee shop and read a little bit. Or I would go to the library, anywhere around there that I could find where I could just kind of hang out and just spend some time thinking or praying or reading. And I would do that until I got my fill for the day, which normally was about four or five hours or something like that.
Linda and I were able to spend some good time in the morning praying together. But in general, the way that we found to get the most benefit individually was to basically for us to each take a day off and just alternate. What we’d found out a couple of years ago, actually when we first did this, is that if we didn’t do that, it was like nothing was going to happen.
We were just going to go on sabbatical for 30 days and it was just going to be like life as usual because the kid world that we’re immersed in. Even though we were in a different environment, with the craziness of kids, we just weren’t going to seem much better.
Linda’s time off looked different than mine, because she’s a stay at home mom. But obviously she does work with me now, but her typical day is to just be with the kids all day. She did do some reading. And did a lot of just listening to books or messages. She also did a lot of driving and worshiping in her car. That was really beneficial for her.
I was like, I’m going to read 50 books while we’re here. But that was not her thing. So I got a lot out of the reading aspect my days off during our sabbatical. She would start reading and literally start falling asleep. I don’t know why. She said it was just too calming, like she needed a little bit more.
I think figuring out what’s going to refresh you is a big part of this whole thing too. A lot of the things that refreshed Linda, was going to target by herself. Even if it was just for diapers. She even would take laps at Target. Or, her walks on the beach didn’t hurt either.
3rd Lesson Learned
All right, number three. It was a little bit surprising when I figured this out. There’s multiple layers of benefits to this whole sabbatical thing. And the first one is just having concentrated prayer time. Where over this period of month, you’re just hopefully ideally praying more and being able to spend more time with the Lord. And that is just really, really great.
Then there’s a reflective component that is super beneficial where, as you take this time and step away from work and step away from distractions, you can see your life at a 10,000 foot view a little bit better. You can get out of the weeds and you can see, who you are and who you want to be when you grow up. And who is God calling me to be? To ask these questions and be able to actually sit and think and see if what you’re doing on a day to day basis is actually leading you to where you want to go.
Dedicated Time To Plan
And if it’s not, this is your time to start planning. You can just start mapping out what you want the next year or so to look like, or however long you determined.
Just having that dedicated time to plan. Because I know for me, my every day is pretty busy. Taking time to think and plan out the year is just really big challenge in the midst of the craziness of day to day life.
Another one of these layers of benefit is the concentrated time to read. I love reading. And so during a typical sabbatical, I read 10 to 20 books and I love that. I cherish that time, that concentrated time to learn a whole bunch and get inspiration from a whole bunch of books. So that’s another benefit.
But lastly, even if there’s nothing else, just not working or not looking at social media. Experiencing any of these benefits for the length of the sabbatical, it just restores your soul and it just does something that is inexplicable. And there’s no real way to describe it without actually having done it. There’s just many, many layers to it. And so I think initially for me, I just thought a sabbatical might have one of these benefits, but it actually has so many layers of benefits.
4th Lesson Learned
Number four is that life goes on pretty well without you. I’ve been surprised how well my business can go on without me, which was the reason I fought taking a sabbatical for so long. I just thought my business will go under if I’m not there. And I’ve come to realize it’s like, “Oh, I’m not as important as I thought, in terms of my business.”
Not that I’m going to quit or anything, this is not what I’m saying. But you just think about different things. Like Linda really loves Instagram. She loves following people on Instagram. It’s a little bit funny when she logs on and finds one of her favorite people. That person will be like, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve been so MIA today.” And she’ll see that they have like 40 stories on their account and they’re talking about how they’ve not been around. And she didn’t notice the person was MIA, and not in a rude way.
Life Just Goes On
I think the point is that a lot of the things we’re doing are not nearly as important as maybe we think they are. Or maybe that we want to think they are.
The first year I took a sabbatical, I checked email one time a week. And I really thought the business would explode. Then we came home from sabbatical I was like, “Wow, we made it!”
And then now this last month of our sabbatical, I went the entire month, I didn’t check email the entire month. I never thought I could go a day without checking email, but we can actually do it. And the business still stands.
Our family and friends, they’re happy to see us when we return. They’re happy we’re back, but life went on without us.
I’m not saying to drop all your family and friends or just don’t care about anybody else, or anything else in the world. But it is amazing that some of the things that we think are so important that we do, actually just make us feel like we’re important but aren’t really as important.
It’s just really good for your mental health and it’s really good to know where you actually stand and how we are all needed. But we are needed in probably different ways than we want to think we are. Does that make sense?
5th Lesson Learned
All right. Number five is to have some fun! But don’t let it turn into a vacation. Some people have different definitions of vacation. But for me a sabbatical is a very different thing than a vacation.
Don’t turn your sabbatical into a vacation, you’ll just waste the entire time with just fun stuff. And especially when you have a big family like we do. We would spend some of the afternoons occasionally doing fun stuff with the kids because we want them to enjoy this. We don’t want this to be torturous for them.
But it had to be in moderation because if every single day we had a big event planned and we were taking a day trip over here to do this fun thing, it would quickly just suck out all the benefits of a sabbatical. And all the time of actually decompressing, you’ll just stay on the treadmill of just constantly doing stuff.
A Time Of Rest
There would not be any real rest time. Because that’s the point of your time away. If it’s a sabbatical, it is to rest, it’s to decompress. It is to allow your brain to be able to think. And to just kind of operate in that state.
I also want to address, we were able to do this for a month. We’ve done it for a month several times, which is a huge blessing. We understand that, we know that taking a sabbatical is a huge blessing and that most people don’t get to do this. But I think that you can get the same benefits with a week or a weekend or a day, just planning out that time and making it extremely intentional with whatever time you do have. If you get two weeks vacation a year, maybe spend one week doing this. I think you will find the benefits of it are as good as a vacation, maybe even better in some ways.
Even though it’s kind of a different thing and it sounds a little bit like, “well, I just want to go on vacation and chill and do nothing.” But making this time really intentional instead, brings a new refreshing… instead of just kind of being a couch potato. It’s better, it’s so much better. To me a sabbatical is just absolutely better than a vacation.
The other thing I would add is to start with a one day sabbatical. It’s amazing how many people don’t go a single day without work. And so just starting with the regular Sabbath, on Saturday or Sunday, whatever you would prefer. And just make that day something that you start doing regularly. Just that right there, you will benefit from that one day.
When the opportunity presents itself, that you can do a couple of days or a week or whatever, start with that and then just continue praying for more opportunities to do longer stretches. And I think you might be surprised how God might open those doors for you.
All right, let’s get to some FAQs, frequently asked questions, that we get all the time regarding sabbaticals.
What if I can’t take a month?
Okay. We just kind of answered that.
I couldn’t do that. I would get so bored – right?
You might get a little bit bored, but that’s kind of the whole point. That’s literally the whole point. Our brains are so constantly entertained and so wired, nonstop. I think a little boredom is actually healthy. I just finished reading this book, the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, which is a fantastic book that I highly recommend. And even in the first chapter is how he’s talking about the history of the clock and how just having a clock has changed our world so much. And then the addition of the electric light bulb and how much less we actually rest because of that.
Anyway, all that to say, we live in a world that’s so nonstop. To be bored just a little bit, and to give your head a little bit of space, is an incredibly healthy thing. I think there’s far more of boredom that we need, that we as a society just need.
This was kind of a struggle for Linda because for a little bit she was getting pretty bored. But what actually ended up happening is she was able to start using her imagination again, imagining what would it be like if a problem was solved. What would it be like to do some of the things that she wants to do in life that she has not had the head space to think about. She just started using her imagination towards things like that.
Honestly, when we moved, six or eight months ago, we put up some of the decorations that we have. But Linda hasn’t spent energy decorating the house. During the sabbatical, she had the time to think what she actually wants to do to the house. She was able to brainstorm a bit. “How could I actually decorate in a way that would be really fun? And could I move this over here?” Prior to the sabbatical she had no head space to think about these things before. In her day to day routine, she’s busy homeschooling and trying to work and all the things that keep her busy every single day. Thinking about dinner and lunch and breakfast and… even being on Instagram and Marco Polo.
It’s just one of the amazing benefits of having a little bit of head space. Getting bored sounds like something that is scary. But it actually is so, so good because it just brings you back to vision.
How do you not check email for a month? How does your business survive?
I wrote an article about when we had a sabbatical a couple of years ago, that you can read here. But basically, I had an auto-responder that I set up. And we structured our business to allow us to be able to do this.
Excited For Things To Come
All in all, we are really glad to be back. We are really excited about things to come. We’re not even getting into any of the details of some of the stuff that we got from God on this trip.
We did get some clarity as we were praying about direction that we’re going to go with the business. Some of the exciting things coming up this year, which we’re really pumped about that we’ll get to share with you soon.
But it was a really great trip. We’re really thankful for the opportunity to get have a sabbatical. I pray that you get to do something like it or just do it. And if you have ever done anything like this, let us know down in the comments below. I’d love to hear your experience.
I have just as a little bit more inspiration for you. I’ve never heard anyone who’s gone on any kind of sabbatical and regret that decision to do so.
So if you have the opportunity to, by all means, you should run with it, it’ll be good for you. Try and create the opportunity for yourself if you can. It’s highly beneficial.
All right. That’s all for now. Have a good day!