Five Things I've Learned After Five Months On Sabbatical.
The early high from sleeping in, not going to meetings, and spending time your own way will wear off as your brain gets used to it. This is called the hedonic treadmill and it’s a way your body maintains homeostasis, which is useful when you’re trying to survive but annoying if you’re trying to be happy all the time. Enjoy the butterflies while they last, then take time to be consciously grateful for the opportunity to spend your time as you like.
I expected that managing my time would become easier when I didn’t have to worry about fitting everything into limited time outside of work. However, the opposite is true: when you have more time to manage, you have to spend more time managing it. Luckily, a break from work gives you time to work in your life as well as on your life. A sabbatical is the perfect time to learn, practice, and reflect on new habits and systems. Here are some of my favorite books about managing your time and attention:
A break from work won’t remove all of the external stressors in your life—just one big one! Prior to taking a sabbatical, I imagined that my time off would be spent floating from one cool thing to another without having to worry so much about administrivia, but quitting your job only removes one big stressor from your life. You’ll still need to pay bills, deal with people, have the occasional existential crisis, etc. I’ve found meditating and journaling to be useful tools for dealing with these stressors.
A break from work won’t remove all the internal stressors in your life. You may feel less pressure from work responsibilities, but you may feel more pressure from watching people succeed in their own work, or from the challenge of building a meaningful life from your current situation. I’ve found journaling to help with these stressors as well, along with reflections like remembering that you are only responsible for your own life and not the lives of others.
You don’t have to get it right from the start. I started my sabbatical with savings and a rough idea of how I wanted to spend my time, which has gotten much more specific over the last few months (and I’m still working on it). You’ll have time to learn, practice, and reflect on what your life looks like from different perspectives and at multiple scales.