Got the February Blahs? Ever Think of Taking a Sabbatical?

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Got the February Blahs? Ever Think of Taking a Sabbatical?

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It's that time of year. With short (cold) dark days and a long haul between the Christmas and Easter holidays, we all go a little bit stir-crazy. Although many of us take vacations to clear the cobwebs, there are many other Americans who can't or won't.

But time away from the office is quite necessary, and can even be financially beneficial (as counter-productive as it seems). You'd be amazed at how rejuvenating a sabbatical can be for your life and career.

Business Owners Do It

It starts with the top-down in Stefan Sagmeister's design business in New York. Sagmeister sets the precedent for employees by closing the office down for oneGot the February Blahs? Ever Think of Taking a Sabbatical? year out of every seven. During this time, he doesn't check messages (he literally programs his voicemail asking customers to call back in a year), while he dedicates his sabbatical to creative projects and personal interests.

You can see him speak about his approach to sabbaticals at the following inspirational TED talk, entitled The Power of Time Off.

Employees Can Do It Too

Sadly, not all bosses are as cool as Sagmeister. America is the only advanced economy that doesn't guarantee paid vacation for its employees, so it's no surprise that "burn-out" is common. Some employees won't take all of their allotted vacation time (for fear of losing their jobs), and others actually cancel their vacation for work.

Wrestling with issues like job security in this tenuous economy is nothing to sneeze at. So far be it for me to suggest that you throw caution to the wind and take a sabbatical in the name of it improving your quality of life, if you don't have a job/home/life to return to.

However...

If you do have an opportunity to take a sabbatical, it can rejuvenate your relationships, inspire positive changes in your life, and even promote better health.

Reasons to Do It

Better Health: Don't wait for the wake-up call of deterioration in your health beyond the point of no return. Taking a sabbatical will help you recharge your batteries, gain perspective, clear your head, and make better decisions.

Positive Changes: Many people who take sabbaticals spend at least part of their time traveling. By physically removing yourself from your routine and familiarity, you will start to see things differently. This new perspective can inspire many positive changes in your life.

Improved Relationships: Although we are creatures of habit, a life of routine can be hard on relationships, especially if we're running on auto-pilot. Through sabbaticals, you can rediscover your friends and family in new ways. These strengthened relationships can in turn help you make future transitions in your life with support and ease.

When to Do It

This is the tricky part. If you are an employee, taking a sabbatical isn't always looked on favorably by employers. Having said that, there are a number of techniques you can employ to negotiate for time off; where there's a will, there's a way.

Alternately, maybe the opportunity for a sabbatical has come to you. Laid off? You can turn a career tragedy into a sabbatical opportunity. Changing jobs? Try incorporating a transition period that includes a sabbatical.

What to Do

Although many of us dream of spending a sabbatical relaxing on an exotic beach, it's not always possible to get away. That's okay too; you can employ the techniques of a "staycation" to remove yourself from routine without removing yourself from home. Just be sure to adopt a few projects or interests that are unique to the sabbatical so you can differentiate the sabbatical experience and have something to "show" for it.

How to Put it All Together

Dan Clements took six months off after school to go to Mexico, and ever since has been a devout fan of sabbaticals. He regularly takes time off (enjoying sabbaticals 1-10 months in duration), and travels with his wife and daughter.

Having become an expert on sabbaticals, he penned the book Escape 101: Sabbaticals Made Simple, which helps you plan and execute your own sabbatical.

I burnt out after too many years of not listening to my dreams, and took an opened-ended sabbatical which inspired a life change in which I'm considerably healthier and happier. Although not everybody could (or should) be as drastic as I was in selling everything to become a Professional Hobo, you never know what inspiration could arise as a result of thinking outside of the box. A sabbatical could be just the impetus.

Disclosure: There are affiliate links in this post.

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Nora DunnNora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under our Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated CareOne Blogger. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora.

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