I first learned of mini-retirements from reading The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. The concept of multiple mini-retirements throughout my career has been an interest ever since. So when Chromatic began offering a sabbatical program I was eager and very thankful to have the opportunity to take some time away from my traditional work.
Some people are planners and I love a good plan too, but I place a great value on freedom and enjoying the journey. Living out the idea that “life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans” was part of my goal. I did go into the sabbatical with some plans, but I was largely looking to enjoy the ability to have unstructured/unplanned time and see how I chose to use it.
I was well aware that I have a difficult time sitting still in my free time, but I was curious to see if an extended period of time would change that. The short answer is no. I found something to work on nearly everyday. I woke up each day and was excited to get going on whatever the project at hand was.
I had several trips to visit friends planned during my time off. However, many of them didn’t end up working out for various reasons, but they are already being rescheduled as ways to get out of the Midwest when it’s brutally cold this winter. Illinois also had a rare long streak of incredible weather, with sunny days in the low 80’s, which is perfect in my book.
What Did I Do?
I took several trips to my favorite lake for some long weekends enjoying long days in the sun and bonfires on the beach at night. Coming back sunburnt and tired and not having work the next day made it that much better too. As a very casual St. Louis Cardinals fan, I’ve always wanted to make it to Wrigley to watch the Cubs lose. So when some friends asked me if I was free for an afternoon game in the bleachers, I told them I just so happened to have the day off and would join. Having the free time to jump at these last minute plans was a great feeling.
Reading was another focus of my time off. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** was probably my favorite book I read. It reinforced some thought patterns I already had and challenged me with many new ideas too. It also helped me with making peace with enjoying my time off on my terms and not doing stuff just to have impressive stories or Instagram posts that would get a lot of likes.
Being able to help others and invest in friendships was perhaps one of my favorite things. I helped friends cut down trees, rewire light fixtures, build chalkboards for a kids room, build a display shelf, move boxes and many other things. I also got to spend a lot of time with a buddy and his daughter. We took a midweek trip to the local apple orchard and visited their petting zoo and then watched her play in the children’s area that I remember spending countless hours running around in when I was her age. While simple, these experiences were very meaningful and the kinds of things that I want to continue making more time for in my life.
What did I learn?
I can conclusively say that I confirmed the value of mini-retirements/sabbaticals/extended free time for myself. Having the time to more fully invest in other areas of my life that are often neglected with the demands of working full-time was incredibly fulfilling. I also reaffirmed the value of work in my life. Whether the work is personal projects or building websites, I have found that hard work and the sense of accomplishment that a job well done provides allows me to enjoy leisure time more fully.
So what was the most valuable part of my sabbatical? I would say the whole thing. The entire time off whether it was a day packed full of activities and friends or a day spent by myself, it was all part of learning what is valuable to me and seeing where I invest my time. Whether you have a full month, a week, or just a weekend morning, I would encourage you to examine how you invest your free time. There is no wrong answer, but regardless there is something to learn about yourself. As it’s not so much the destination, but the journey.