The Value of a Sabbatical

2011 February 7
by Joe Johnston

For a creative person, there comes a time when the noise of everyday life starts to crowd out time devoted to creative endeavors. It tends to be a slow buildup of both worthy and meaningless other tasks and duties. This is result of not saying “no” enough, not having disciplined focus on the most important things, and not valuing time correctly. At some point, it becomes apparent that you’ve reached the tipping point where you cannot effectively do the creative work that you want/need to do. At this point, a sabbatical is needed — distancing yourself from the excess stuff, the noise of life, so that you can do a creative reset and move forward.

Full Sabbatical

The ideal sabbatical is one in which you take time off from work (work is the largest block of committed time for most people), reschedule all appointments, eliminate attending meetings, and begin to reflect on life. I did a one year sabbatical of this type after my time at The Coffee Plantation. It was perhaps the best year of my life. I was able to think deeply about where I was at and how I got there. There was no noise to distract me from real thinking, not just reacting. There was no noise to cover up the issues in my own life and the need to deal with them could not be ignored. It was a time of huge personal growth and enabled me to see how I should structure my work going forward. A full sabbatical, even for a few weeks, is a very freeing thing (most of my important personal discoveries happened in the first month). I encourage anyone who can take a full sabbatical to do so (students, people between jobs, business owners, teachers, etc.).

Partial Sabbatical

For most people, taking off work for an extended period of time is not practical for reasons of personal finances and job security. A partial sabbatical is the next best thing. In a partial sabbatical, you do your best to move all appointments out for a few weeks, cancel meetings and reduce commitments to a minimum. Try to take an extra day off each weekend and go away to a quiet place as much as possible (library, park, outdoors). Avoid people, e-mail, text messaging, making phone calls, television, the internet, and all such distractions. Start thinking about life. I suggest prayer and reading passages from the Bible as a catalyst. Write notes. Also, start enjoying some creative projects. Solitude is your friend in this endeavor.  Move forward with the observations you have written and make meaningful changes in your life.

Roaster Project Sabbatical

I am currently enjoying a partial sabbatical. For the month of February, I am following my partial sabbatical guidelines. My creative goal is to move the Roaster Project ahead in one huge leap, by clearing away most of the other things that compete for time. I’ve already had several break throughs as a result of hours of silence spent sketching and thinking. My hope is to generally design the whole thing in one month.

4 Responses
  1. Andy W. permalink
    February 7, 2011

    That’s awesome! Needless to say, I’ll have to come find you the beginning of March.

  2. February 8, 2011

    very wise plan joe. looking forward to the fantastic ideas sure to come of all this. 🙂

  3. February 8, 2011

    Best of luck. See you in March. Scott

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