SSAB·BAT·I·CAL: A PERIOD OF TIME DURING WHICH SOMEONE DOES NOT WORK AT THEIR REGULAR JOB AND IS ABLE TO REST, TRAVEL, DO RESEARCH, ETC.
The concept of a sabbatical has always intrigued me. It’s a common practice in universities and even gets an honorable mention in the Bible & Torah (Leviticus 25:3-5).
The idea of taking intentional time to refill our cup logically makes sense, but taking more than a few days (many universities offer a full year for every seven years of employment) feels incredibly counter to the hustle-culture pushed in America.
But isn’t the freedom to choose our own path, our own work hours, our own way of doing business part of why we started our companies?
I’d come to a realization in 2019 that I had projects I was putting off and never completing because I simply didn’t have time for tasks that weren’t critical. And as someone who values growth and novelty, the lack of space to bring these ideas to life was beginning to stifle me and sending me headlong into a burnout spiral.
So I decided I’d organize all my client work so there were no deliverables for them during one month and allow myself the space and freedom to stretch and grow so I could return refreshed and ready to serve them even better than before.
I planned to have my first sabbatical July 2020 before the world decided to make my whole spring & summer an unplanned sabbatical. 2021 was my first time experiencing a planned sabbatical. It was messy and I learned a lot of lessons (which I shared publicly in my newsletter for planners.)
Today I’m sharing how I prepared for this intentional time “away” using the advice of my coaches & mentors who have all had successful sabbaticals.
Preparing Your Finances
Beyond the fear of how my clients might react, the financial impacts of taking a sabbatical ranked high on my reasons why it wasn’t “possible” for me.
Enter my finance coach & all around ray of sunshine….
Jillian helps creatives scale their businesses and build wealth in a fun and shame-free way as their virtual CFO.
I seriously adore Jillian. Beyond teaching me how to spend money without shame (I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder of those dollar bills), Jillian helped me to reframe & plan financially for my sabbatical.
My only regret – that I didn’t start this conversation with her sooner!
Here’s the plan:
Determine how much you need to cover your monthly expenses (including your salary!)
Subtract your scheduled revenue for the month you’ll be OOO.
Divide this amount by the number of months between today and your ideal sabbatical month.
This is how much you should be setting aside each month to save for sabbatical so you can cover your expenses and enjoy your time off stress-free.
And for those of you who just panicked… here’s the reframe:
Let’s say you aren’t making an extra $500/month that you can just toss into a savings account to cover your planned expenses. It’s time to think about what you can do to make this possible.
Yes, you can see if there are monthly expenses you can cut (i.e. if you have any subscriptions you don’t use), but think more about how you can bring in the extra money to save for your sabbatical.
This could mean trying a sales push. Like sending an updated sales brochure to your favorite venues & photographers and asking them if they have any specific clients who might be looking for a planner or coordinator right now.
Or it could mean checking in with your planner or photographer friends and seeing if they need any reliable, experienced day-of assistants at upcoming weddings.
Or you can reach out to current coordination clients and upsell them an additional planning support meeting.
Once you can make a financial plan for sabbatical (and reframe how you’ll make it happen), you’ll have one less obstacle between you and intentional time away.
Prepare Your Clients
When any sort of disruption from the usual happens, it’s important to keep clients informed.
Although you may have planned all deliverables around your time away from the office, you don’t want to ghost clients.
Communication is the key element to making your clients feel supported while you take time to rest & recharge.
I’ve personally crafted two emails for informing and supporting clients as I prepare for sabbatical. The first one went out a month before I started my sabbatical and the second was sent right before I headed out of office.
Prep Email #1
- Inform them the planning break is coming
- Support them by double checking what they want completed before I’m OOO
- Show I have a plan for urgent communications
Prep Email #2
- Remind them I’ll be OOO soon
- Support them by providing a scheduling link for our first meeting back
- Remind them of the plan for urgent communications
I’ve created a downloadable template of these two emails for you to save for future use.
P.S. Don’t forget to set up an auto responder with updated response time expectations and an urgent communication reminder for current clients
One of my fears heading into my first sabbatical was that I’d either (a) go full tilt on all the projects and end up feeling less rested than when it began or (b) be so directionless that I ended up binging all of Forensic Files (again) while stuffing my face with Cheez-Its.
So, like I often do when I feel stuck, I called in the experts. In this case, I scheduled a call with my coach and big supporter of sabbaticals…
Kristin helps creatives find more clarity, joy, and purpose while bringing home the bacon (like the really fancy organic bacon.)
Kristin has the fabulous gift of asking the right questions that guide you to the best solution for your problems.
And that’s exactly what I needed to work out a sabbatical plan that was aligned with who I am and where I want to be at the end of it.
How can you focus on community during your sabbatical?
See, Kristen knows that community is one of my core values.
She also knows (as someone who shares this core value) how hard building and maintaining a community was during the pandemic.
This simple question led to a list full of ideas of how I could connect (and re-connect) with my community during my month off.
I then broke my giant whiteboard into 3 sections: Community, Growth, Creativity. From there, I wrote down all the projects, tasks, & goals I had for both me personally & for the business that I might be interested in working on during July.
But, Skylar, aren’t you setting yourself up for scenario A (aka going too hard on the to-dos)?
This list isn’t a list of to-dos and more of a list of CAN-dos.
The list allows me to start each day and say, where is my gut/heart/spirit leading me today? Do I want to work on updating my planning guide? Refresh my marketing materials? Go read in the sunshine? Try out a new workout class?
It gives me some structure, while really providing me with the freedom to practice listening to what my body wants in that particular moment.
Prepare to Be Messy
What I learned from my 2021 sabbatical was that, like life, sabbaticals aren’t perfect.
Staycation (great way to kick off the month)
Coffee Dates (core value: Community)
Phone on Do-Not-Disturb (practicing presence)
Product Creation & Admin Work (core value: growth & creativity)
Practiced flexibility in daily schedule & life
What Didn’t Work…
Underutilized my VA (wish I’d given her control of my inbox & deleted it off my phone & computer)
Boundaries Crossed (still did some client work because I “felt bad” instead of sticking with my boundaries and utilizing my VA to complete)
Unconscious spending (between eating out on trips & “treat yo’ self” online shopping I was less mindful of $$ than I wish I’d been)
I don’t know if you’re like me, but my survival mode is action. It makes me a great planner day-of, but it easily leads to burnout and exhaustion in my life. I’m so busy moving in survival mode I don’t allow myself to feel and therefore don’t see the burnout until I’m in the very thick of it.
This sabbatical made me aware of how draining the last year & a half of postponements, replanning, client stress projection, and general stress over the safety of myself & my family truly was.
But it also highlighted what excites me currently and implemented some healthy habits of self-care. It created really good conversations with my therapist and rekindled friendships.
All-in-all my 2021 sabbatical was a success. I’m looking forward to making 2022’s even better.