Two years ago, Chris was able to take a semester long sabbatical from work. As a tenured university professor he has the opportunity to do this every seven years. During his sabbatical he explored new creative interests, including sewing!, had lots of time to exercise and eat really well, and to generally to recharge. He returned to work invigorated and with new directions to explore in his research.
As we talked about what the summer after I quit my job might look like Chris had an idea: "You should treat the summer like a mini sabbatical." I loved the idea of having a span of time to recharge and enjoy having fewer responsibilities before I dive into the writing projects I want to do. So I'm designating late April after I finish working through the end of July as my mini summer sabbatical. When school starts for the boys on August 2 I will consider it the start of my work year, too.
I won't have a consistent schedule the entire length of my mini sabbatical but I will have days each week while the boys are in preschool, except while we travel to Texas in May. We have three days of preschool in June and two days in July. My days with the boys will be fun but generally I'm considering the days when they are at preschool to be my recharge sabbatical days.
I never seem to have a shortage of ideas of what I want to do, write, or create. And I've realized that unless I make a plan I can end up feeling indecisive about what to do and like I haven't made the most of my time. For me, having a plan is what helps me feel intentional and present. Ironically, I need a plan to relax (can you relate?).
I'm planning a separate post about my ideas for a summer schedule when the boys are home but I'd love to share some of the ideas I have for how I'll make the most of my mini sabbatical.
Clear mental space
One of the objectives during a sabbatical is giving yourself time to think and daydream. Maybe even find yourself a bit bored. I hope these practices will help me clear some space for that.
+ Prerecord and schedule two months of the Girl Next Door Podcast episodes. Erica and I are fitting in extra recordings so that we can keep publishing the podcast on schedule but take a two month break (don't worry listeners, you won't even notice!) – the longest we've ever gone without recording in over four years!
+ Check email twice per week and never on my phone. A director at my former job said something that has stuck with me: email is always the easiest and worst answer. BOOM. Checking email can become be a reflexive, procrastinating habit and I don't want that to sap my time to relax and create. So I'm planning to check and address all emails on Mondays and Thursdays using my laptop. I buried the email app icon on my phone deep in an app folder so it doesn't tempt me. The only exception to this rule will be related to any freelance work I'm doing this summer, and I know I'll have at least one project. But then I will only respond to project-related emails if it's not my Monday/Thursday email check.
+ Limit social media. My favorite social media, like much of the world, is Instagram. And mostly it's a force of good in my life. I capture moments and emotions that I love to revisit. It connects me to a wide circle of friends near and far. But we also all know what a time suck it can be. My plan is to let myself scroll and respond to friends' posts and comments once a day on weekdays and to stay off on the weekends. I don't mind letting myself post more frequently, even on a weekend, but I need to post and get out unless it's my once a day scroll and interact. Other than Instagram I don't check other social media with any regularity and don't feel a need to set specific limits.
Around the house
The phrase "outer order creates inner calm" is deeply true for me. And I consider putting on a podcast or audiobook and diving into a home organizing project is relaxing. This summer, I'm hoping to tackle a few home projects that I've had on my list for a while.
+ Set up my home office. Oh, our "office" AKA the persistent junk room. We tidy and organize it but then it always devolves. Now that this will be my work and writing space I'm determined to get it into shape since this is where I'll be working.
+ Clean and organize my closet. My two closet shelves are a messy landscape of jewelry, insurance cards, face cream, and other things without a place to live. Now that I don't need office work clothes I also want to audit my wardrobe and see what I can get rid of.
+ Laundry room shelf. We have a tiny laundry room, really just a short hallway, with room for a washer and dryer and a shelf above. The laundry room shelf has become disorganized and is the landing place for random things that don't have a home.
+ Key ring audit. This sounds silly but our key ring for our car and house keys has accumulated random things and keys to who-knows-what. I want to take everything off and put back only what we need. And maybe get a nice key ring while I'm at it.
+ Clean out the car glove box. Another spot where random things land that could use a once-over.
+ Recipe organization. With a little more time on my hands plus with marginally more adventurous eaters (Cedric actually ate roasted sweet potato fries the other day!) I'm looking forward to cooking more. I still love my small recipe binder but I need to revisit the organization and give it an update.
I think nurturing any kind of creativity is good for the greater creative spirit. So I'd love to use some time to stretch my creativity in a new way.
+ Take an art class. I've been looking at a watercolor painting class at a local art center or might check out an online Skillshare class. (I'm not sure if the discount code is still valid, but Tracy shared one for Skillshare earlier this year.)
+ Write blog posts. I've missed keeping up my blog and writing with any kind of consistency. I've already been enjoying falling back into it and it's a great way to keep up the practice of writing.
+ Read. For as long as I can remember, any time an information sheet asked for "hobbies" I've always put reading. It's still my favorite. I'd love to go to breakfast or lunch with a book or current New Yorker as my date a few times or just spend a couple hours reading in the middle of the day with a glass of ice tea. (If you'd like to know what I've read or what's on my to-read list, keep up with me on Goodreads.)
+ Take a couple creative field trips. Whether it's to a museum or just to a new place where I set an write in my journal.
As I've thought about designing a mini sabbatical for myself I've been wondering how I can give myself sabbaticals in the future. Stepping out of routine and obligations for a while, even if it's a short time, can offer perspective and new energy. I was chatting with a friend about this recently who, because of an illness, had to take a short leave of absence from work. Although her break was not entirely pleasant she said stepping back from all of her commitments made her realize that there were some she no longer enjoyed but kept up just because they were part of her routine.
My friend and I decided we want to try to check in with each other and remind ourselves to really examine everything on our plate and ask what we could or would want to take away. Sometimes it's not terribly hard to add of take something away if we can first identify what we want more or less of in our lives.