The idea of taking a sabbatical captures many people’s imaginations. But, it doesn’t seem to capture many people’s actions. In this post, I’ll walk you through the 6 simple steps it takes to go from dreaming about taking a sabbatical to doing it.
I’ve recently posted about why taking a sabbatical is important. People are quick to agree that taking a sabbatical is a great idea.
But, not many people actually take the plunge. Perhaps it falls into the too hard basket or the too good to be true basket. If you’ve caught yourself saying either of these things as an excuse for not taking some time for personal development, I want you to set those notions aside. It is not too hard and it is not too good to be true. Today, I’m going to demystify the process of taking a sabbatical – by showing you the 6 simple steps you need to take to go on sabbatical.
We are in control of the choices we make in life. Choosing to let that be a source of positive energy is the key to living the life you want and not being overburdened by the huge amount of responsibility that is. Before our sabbatical, I didn’t feel like I was in control of the choices I made in life (I don’t know who I thought was in control of my life, but I suspect I was resigned to the idea that everything was just a little bit random).
I wish I had realised this when we were planning our sabbatical. Instead of enjoying the planning, I was a little ball of stress. There was a part of me that just felt like the whole thing was going to fall over and bury me in rubble. The beauty of hindsight is that I now realise we were in control of the whole process and us wanting to make it happen was all we needed to be able to make it happen. No one was going to jump out of the shadows and take this away from us.
1. Make the decision to just do it
This is the hardest step you’ll take. I don’t think that I committed to our decision about taking a sabbatical enough when we were planning. Not locking that decision tight in my head stole all the joy out of planning. Doubt hovered in my mind and it wasn’t empowering at all. For every difficult task – telling my boss, finishing up at work, packing, moving things into storage, buying a caravan and tow vehicle – a little part in my head was softly saying, “You’re not really doing this, are you? You can pull out if you want”.
Don’t let that happen to you. You’ve got to push past all of your doubts to make this happen and to enjoy making this happen. Your journey of self-development starts now – with the biggest step of all. If in doubt, remember why you are taking a sabbatical.
2. Set a date to leave on your sabbatical
Taking this one, simple and practical step forward on your journey will make it easier for everything else to fall into place. Open your calendar and lock in a date. It may be two years away, or three months away. What matters is that you’re making an appointment with yourself. You have a due date now, so all the project planning has a frame of reference.
We made the decision and were suddenly living in a caravan within 4 months. It was fast. That’s how we live our lives though – once we decide on something scary – we tend to rip the bandaid off to get to the good part as fast as possible. After 6 months of dating, we moved in together, inter-state, and never looked back. We were only engaged for 5 months before we married (I couldn’t stand the idea of living with the stress of planning a wedding for any longer than that).
That is how we make things happen in our lives, but that doesn’t mean you have to move that fast. Set a date that plays to your strengths and works for you. Just remember though – there will never be a perfect time. There will always be some reason why it’s not a good time to take a sabbatical. So really, just a pick a date and keep moving.
3. Pick a place to take your sabbatical
You could take a sabbatical at home. Take a moment to picture yourself doing that. Is there a risk that you would get tied up doing mundane things more than self-development things? Would the people around you understand the journey you were on? Or would they think you were at home all day, so surely you can babysit their kids or help them move house? Would you be exposed to enough inspiration to facilitate your growth? Only you can answer these questions.
We chose to travel around Australia for our sabbatical. It has worked out well for us, because we are constantly seeing new things which inspire us. Another plus, was that this option fit our budget. For us, this style of travel turned out to be cheaper than the cost of living we experienced whilst working and living in Canberra. We were working long hours, paying high rent and treating ourselves for working so hard with expensive dinners out and forms of retail therapy. Now, we frequently camp at free camps, I do all the cooking because there aren’t many options out bush and I can’t buy anything, because we literally have no where to put anything new. One of the downsides of this option is how time consuming travelling is, so we’ve had to balance that out by moving slower.
Moving to South East Asia or the Pacific Islands or Europe for a period of time might be the right option for you.
There is a fine balance to be struck between your budget, your destination and how long you plan to be on sabbatical. If it seems overwhelming, just remember, this part is fun. Pick a place that will lift you up and inspire you. That might be your back yard with regular trips to your local national park or it may be on the other-side of the planet.
4. Open a dedicated account and start saving for your sabbatical
Doing the numbers is never fun. This is the point at which you may want to remember why you deserve a sabbatical. I’ve said it before, but it is worth repeating:
Sure, it can be hard work to save enough money to make your sabbatical happen. But, chances are, you’re working that hard already. Think about your priorities and consider how much you value yourself.
Taking a sabbatical is an investment in your future, remembering this should help you to work out how much money you can afford to set aside. Do set it aside. If it isn’t going into a special account, it will be much easier to stray from your saving goals.
5. Brainstorm all the things you’d do on sabbatical
Now is the time to buy a special notebook. Every time you think to yourself, I’d love to..insert cool thing.. WRITE IT DOWN! This will become your sabbatical to do list. Journaling all of these wonderful things will help to keep you motivated. If you’d like, you can devote one side of the notebook to practical to do lists that say things like: ring movers, call insurance company, and find someone to take my plants. Only do this if the other side of your notebook says things like: learn to juggle, try fire-breathing, do yoga on the beach at sunrise, read How to Win Friends and Influence People, learn to crochet and then make lots of blankets.
If you are anything like me, you’ll need to look at the list of great things you are going to achieve on your sabbatical often to keep motivated. You don’t need to show anyone this journal – so knock yourself out and put some crazy ideas in there. You might not do all of these things on your sabbatical, but that isn’t the point. The point is to open your mind to all the possibilities your sabbatical holds.
6. Tell everyone you know, including your boss that you are taking a sabbatical
Some people are going to think that talking to your boss is the first thing you should do. If you work for an organisation which encourages sabbaticals and might even finance one for you, than maybe talking to your boss is the first thing you should do.
But, for everyone else, I’d definitely not talk to your boss until you’ve done the other steps on this list first. And, I wouldn’t be telling anyone else before the other steps were done either.
Why? Well, because people have this knack of saying insignificant things which spore doubt in others. Once you’ve locked in the decision and started some basic planning, you are going to be so much more resilient to nah sayers. If you do the other steps first, you’re going to be in a strong position and you’ll just know how to tell people what you’re doing, in a way which has them cheering for you rather than looking confused about your choice.
I didn’t do a great job at telling people, because I wasn’t 100%, beyond a shadow of a doubt, committed to our sabbatical. I said things like “we’re thinking about buying a caravan and going around Australia”. This was inevitably met with statements of oh yes, and wouldn’t that be nice one day. Then, when we had bought the caravan and I had handed in my resignation, people seemed a bit shocked. Some friends looked us dead in the eyes and called us brave in a way that unnerved me. Others questioned our rash decision. I didn’t give people any context, really. In hindsight, I wish hadn’t been so sheepish in how I told people. I wish I’d owned the decision and was less prone to feeling unnerved when people questioned the plan.
The one great thing about telling people though, is that once you do, you can’t go back.
So, my advice is, to get your head straightened out and certain on the fact that you are taking a sabbatical and what type of sabbatical you’re taking and then tell people with enthusiasm so that you can garner a cheer squad to help with logistics in the last push towards your looming sabbatical start date.
What do you think of these steps to sabbatical? Are you inspired to take a sabbatical? Is there anything holding you back? I’d love to chat about it with you in the comments below!7 Did you like this?