Let’s talk about why you should take a break from your business…and how to get away.
A sabbatical can work wonders to restore your mindset and motivation.
It doesn’t help you or your customers if you work all the time and never take a break to recharge. Entrepreneur motivation requires time for new ideas, restoring energy, and creative thinking.
I decided to take a break from my business in 2018. I took seven months off and hiked 1800 miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was both the most difficult and most amazing thing I’ve ever done.
Not everybody can take seven months away from their business, but even if you can take a shorter break, you’ll reap amazing benefits. You’ll recharge your batteries and come back feeling more inspired, more creative, and with a more positive mindset than you’ve ever had before.
Too Much of a Good Thing
Are you wondering, “Why should I take a break? I’m a workaholic. I love what I do and I don’t want to be any place else except in my business.”
Well, as a child, did you ever have a favorite food that you ate so much of that you just couldn’t stand it? Did you actually maybe make yourself sick pigging out on Oreos or brownies or something else that you loved?
The same thing can happen with your business.
No matter how much you love your company, no matter how passionate you are about what you do, eventually that feeling is going to start to fade.
Even if you don’t feel your energy and enthusiasm waning, eventually you’ll start finding excuses not to do things that you really should be doing, procrastinating a little bit more. There will be days when you don’t really want to go to work or that once- coveted client meeting just doesn’t feel that exciting.
All of those things can happen to you as a business owner when burnout starts to creep in. It’s a sneaky thing because you don’t always see it coming.
What’s a Sabbatical?
If you’re not familiar with the term sabbatical, it’s basically an extended break from work that’s used to recharge and inspire.
Growing up, my father was a college professor and every six years he got a whole semester off work. It was a long-term break so that he could go off and do research about topics that were of interest to him, things that really fueled his fire.
That was my first exposure to the concept of sabbatical, and once I understood it, I wondered why everyone doesn’t take one!
Sabbatical isn’t just for academia anymore. Some companies provide a periodic sabbatical or a paid leave of absence as a benefit to their employees. But if you’re self-employed like me, if you want the benefits of a sabbatical, you’re going to have to create it for yourself.
How do you do that when everything is riding on you? You are the CEO of you business (aka the “chief everything officer.”) So how can you possibly walk away from your business for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at a time?
Your Escape Plan
The first tip is that you need to plan ahead. Even if you don’t feel like you want that break from your business right now, think how you might feel in two years or even three years. Start planning and structuring your business so that you can make that possible.
Who’s Got Your Back?
Part of that is learning how to delegate and finding people you trust who can manage your business while you’re away. Start now to build those relationships. Cultivate trust and knowledge about your business so you’re confident things will be handled while you’re gone.
You’ll want to check in once every week or two (NOT once a day). Whatever interval you choose, you want to trust that things are running smoothly so that you can get use your sabbatical to get the boost of energy and momentum and enthusiasm you need.
What Will You Do?
You need to have some kind of a vision for how you’re going to spend your sabbatical time. It doesn’t make any sense at all to take a break from your business to lie at home and watch reruns of whatever your favorite TV show is.
That is not going to recharge your batteries! In fact, it’s probably going to suck the life out of you, to be honest.
So think about how you’ll use your break.
- Do you want to learn how to do something like painting or drawing?
- Do you enjoy writing and want to write a book or write some articles or do some research?
- You may want to find new ways to deliver your talents to the people who can benefit from them the most.
What you choose to do doesn’t have to be business related to help improve your business when you get home. Even an activity that is completely un-business related- such as my long distance hike on the Appalachian Trail- can change your perspective. It was a real surprise to me that I learned a lot of lessons along the way that apply to my business!
Maybe you want to travel around the world, maybe you want to spend six months in Bali, laying on the beach and just chilling out. That’s completely fine, but I do encourage you to find a way to get away from home and change your scenery because that changes your mindset completely, especially if you’re exposing yourself to different experiences or different cultures.
When to Start Planning
About a year before I took my trek I decided that I wanted to do the hike, and I started serious planning right away. I talked to my family first to make sure that they were onboard and supportive because I would be going alone and leaving them at home.
I also wanted to start thinking about how to continue my business. I was able to do that with a subcontractor who could take care of a lot of work for me. I was also able to wrap up a lot of client projects before I left.
If you work on a project basis, it’s pretty scary to say, “Okay, I’m the one that does the work and my clients are depending on me to do work for them. How am I going to walk away from that?”
I gave my clients six-months notice that I was going to be taking a six-month sabbatical. When I started notifying my clients, I was terrified. I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is six months before I leave and I need to be making money during that time period. They are going to leave me high and dry and I’m going to have six months of no money before I go!”
That was not the case at all. They were all excited for me and very supportive. They actually brought extra work to me and saying, “We want to get this done before you go and then we’ll check in with you when you get back,” and it worked out perfectly. I was really busy with projects up until actually two days before I left for my trip.
Planning ahead so that you have your finances in order is a really important aspect of taking a break because you don’t want to take a break and then come back and feel like you’ve got no income coming in. That is a terrible position to be in.
Not only do you need to start saving and planning for whatever your adventure is going to cost, you should also be saving and planning for when you get back, so you have got some buffer, not only for continuation of your business, but also for any unexpected expenses that come up either during your break or shortly thereafter.
In my case, I got home and had to find a roofer and put a new roof on my house. That was not a cheap project!
Having some money in the bank to take care of those things is helpful in terms of not only giving you peace of mind when you’re gone, but also peace of mind in the transition back into your daily work.
There’s a good chance that you may come back a different person with different priorities or even different passions. That can happen, especially if you take on a transformative life experience.
Walking from Georgia to Maine is a very hard thing to do without coming out on the other end a different person. I learned so much about myself in terms of my mindset, how I dealt with adversity, how I found the strength within me to persevere and the courage to do things that I didn’t think that I could do before.
I am able to bring all of that new self-knowledge to my business, and and turn that into an advantage for my clients.
At the same time, I realized while I was out there hiking that I needed to actually shift my business, to change my model a little bit. When I came back that was the first thing that I set about doing.
Be prepared to make some changes of your own when you get back. It’s helpful to accept in advance that, “I may change on this journey. My priorities may change during this time of renewal and reflection.”
Embrace the change. It’s a great thing to grow as a person, that’s part of why we’re here: to grow and figure out how we can help others and deliver our genius out into the world.
Don’t be afraid of that.
Bite-Sized Breaks: Micro-Sabbaticals
If you’re thinking, “There is no way that I can take a month out of life, much less a few months, but I need a break desperately,” don’t be discouraged. There are ways you can take what I call micro-sabbaticals by planning time that you devote just to yourself.
We all need time dedicated to downloading, decompressing, and recharging our batteries. You can do this one day a week. You can even do it a few hours at a time if you’re very intentional about when that time comes and how you use it.
If all you’ve got is a couple of hours in a week that you can carve out, make is a regular appointment for yourself. Even if you only have a little bit of time, block it on your calendar and decide exactly what you’re going to do with that time so that it’s a benefit to you.
Maybe get out of the office on Wednesday at 2:00 PM and devote the rest of the day, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, to “you time.”
Use that time for reading, taking a walk in the woods, even exercising. Physical activity is wonderfully healing, no matter what shape you’re in. It’s good for untangling your brain so it can work the way that it’s supposed to.
Or try something creative or something that takes you outside of yourself, like volunteering. That can be physical and also emotional because you’re giving to the community and of yourself.
Things that just take us outside of the environment that we’re used to can be incredibly inspirational and restorative for our spirit and to our souls.
It is so easy to fritter away hours doing nonsense stuff and not have grown or not have benefited at all from the time we wasted. If you take a micro sabbatical, be intentional about how you’re going to do it and don’t let anything get in the way.
Take that Break
When you take the time to take care of yourself, it actually helps you to give more to your business. It helps you give more to your clients, to live more fully into your passion, and actually to make the difference in the world that you set out to do from the very beginning.