How to take a rewarding sabbatical…right now

How to Take a Rewarding Sabbatical...Right Now | Leaving the HerdCollege professors aren’t the the only ones who benefit both personally and professionally from a retreat.

The truth is…we all need breaks for mindfulness. Repetitive equates to boring and uninspiring. Just as teachers are much more engaging after a year in Tibet, we all find new depths in a dose of different.

When was the last time you said, “I can’t believe we don’t do this more often!”?

Spontaneous, different, and unique experiences infuse the reflection, awareness, gratitude, and creativity we crave into our lives.

You can’t curate a truly rewarding sabbatical; hence why 54% of vacation-goers report feeling drained after their long-awaited, cost-intensive trip to Hawaii. Most memorable and mindful experiences are completely unplanned and cost nothing.

Recently, I had a couple hours of time to burn near the now defunct Cottonwood Mall, which is a pretty amazing sight. It’s a post-apocalyptic landscape where nature has retaken the land, mixing water birds with concrete rebar.

I strolled through the fields that used to be parking lots and reminisced about the mall, including my inaugural dumpster dive for a box of fresh batteries and a scarf thrown out during the impending financial collapse. Not your typical evening adventure.

Open your eyes to the opportunities around you, jump on them, and enjoy the ride.

My Recent Sabbatical

Over the last week, I took Spring cleaning to a new level, donated a half dozen boxes of unnecessary consumeristic build-up, and reorganized my pantry to create extra storage space.

Sound a lot like chores that one normally avoids? It’s all about vision and attitude.

I didn’t just clean and organize – I let my brain take a break from the normal frenzied pace and stress of my work. I was free to daydream and be creative. I used my hands.

Plus, there are the inherent benefits. Life feels less cluttered, more focused. That stuff in my closets was taking up mental and emotional space – far beyond the physical space it occupied.

Ultimately, I came away feeling not the least bit guilty about my work absence and quite energized about the bigger picture – which is what all the routine and mundane need to add up to.

That infusion need not be reserved for tenured professors every seven years. You can sabbatical for a year, a weekend, or even an hour.

Take Advantage of Time

We have the same 24 hours in each day. You choose how you invest or spend it. Just like your bank account, spend it and you’ll have nothing left to show for it. Invest it, and you’ll reap ongoing rewards.

Of course, investments require more effort than mindless spending. You can wile away much of your life taking online quizzes, akin to tossing twenties out of your car window on the freeway. Or…you can invest that same amount of time into exercise, a free online course, or even just an inspiring TED talk.

Physically Create Something

There is plenty of evidence of how strongly connected emotional and mental well-being and physical activity are. Many of us, myself included, spend an unnatural amount of time sitting in front of illuminated pixels. Work with your hands. Create something tangible. Scale a mountain.

Standing back at the end of the day, swelling with pride, sweaty and dirty and bruised…this is the fountain of youth.

Change Your Attitude

With the right perspective, even the trip with the trash can to the curb can be filled with reflection (of course our trash can has a longer journey than most).

I get my best ideas while running seemingly mindless errands. The opportunities for creativity, memories, connection, or relaxation aren’t exclusive to a “getaway”.

Relax. Stop trying to force everything. Get dirty. Challenge yourself. Show up to work with an interesting head wound. Do the opposite of everyone else (they’re all miserable anyway).

Bottom line: Stop waiting for your two weeks off to recharge. Get out of your comfort zone right now and stretch your brilliant mind before it gets stuck in its current crippled shape (much like my posture).

Disconnect

The sheer availability of mindless distraction is directly correlated with your unhappiness, lack of productivity, insomnia, and weight gain (I’m sure of it).

You don’t really need to Google why men have nipples right now…or ever. Wait until your sabbatical has come to its natural end before you post pictures on Instagram. Commit to a no-selfie sabbatical. Check email once a day only if you must and let voicemail do what it was meant to do.

Your mind wants you back. Don’t let it overgrow with mindless radio ramblings, meaningless emails, and YouTube cat videos like the former Cottonwood Mall.

It’s now or never.

Take the rest of the day by the horns – do something a bit different with the time that you have and keep your mind open to the entire experience, even if it’s just a new recipe for breakfast or a visit to an old book shop on your lunch break.

  • Done by Forty

    Another classic, Emily. This was my favorite part, personal finance nerd that I am:

    “We have the same 24 hours in each day. You choose how you invest or spend it. Just like your bank account, spend it and you’ll have nothing left to show for it. Invest it, and you’ll reap ongoing rewards.”

    That is some wisdom. I’m going to shut down my computer and go to the gym for the first time in a month. Thanks for the perspective.

    • Thanks, DB40! I’ve been less than stellar about getting to the gym since the yardwork set in – “but I rolled a tree up the driveway six days ago” is losing its potency as a substitute.

  • marcie

    I have a new line, “your mind called; it wants you back.”

  • Jason @ Islands of Investing

    Hi Emily, I love this post! Over the past few months I’ve been taking more ‘mini sabbaticals’, like random days off work or an afternoon walk along the river during work days. I took a whole month off work in September last year, to spend house-sitting for our in-laws with my wife and 1 year old daughter. We just did simple things like going for walks every day, but it was one of the best breaks I’ve ever had. I’m really keen to do more and more of this, but it’s amazing how strong the inertia of society is to keep working and spending (“you mean you took a whole month off and didn’t go anywhere??”)

    • Jason, thanks for popping in and sharing your recent sabbatical opportunities! It is unnerving how programmed we are to associate rejuvenation with a tropical beach. I lived a high pressure career-oriented excuse for a life for too long. Congrats on noticing and creating breaks to actually live!

      I love your blog purpose – “a quiet place, away from the constant noise of the world…”