For more Selfish Sabbatical images, see end of post
July to August 2020 I took a Selfish Sabbatical (SFSB).
TL;DR synopsis and takeaway— after copious Oh shits in March 2020 when COVID caused my in-person events business to lose $30,000 of expected income in a week and a barrage of cancellations, refunds, undoing and uncertainty followed by months of pivoting, I gave myself permission to say no, not worry about money, and cease creation, accessorized by a fluid, no pressure structure to get out of my own way, accomplish the big and small, recharge, and be unapologetically selfish.
It was glorious, I highly recommend stealing and tweaking, and can I retire yet?
Why the “I needed this?”
At 42, I’m a few years from a professional swan song but my Selfish Sabbatical is what I imagine retirement to be. And I want it now.
The bulk of my pleasure came from doing what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Which was a surprise just as the idea that I needed this was a surprise. For the most part, I’m already able to do what I want when I want. So why did July and August feel different? Why the relief? Why the “I needed this”?
When I birthed Mac & Cheese Productions℠ in 2004, I kept looking forward to the day when the Cloud of Money Concern & Guilt would finally blow away. Seventeen years later, it’s still overhead. Some days it’s barely noticeable, other days it shoots lightening bolts. I’ve realized and accepted that the Money Cloud is omnipresent in an entrepreneur’s life and that it impacts even on clear sky days. Even when I’m doing ok financially, there’s a twinge at the Starbucks egg sandwich or the Friday night downtime. I don’t need this overpriced deliciousness. I should be tweaking my website or tinkering on a creative project. This is why I so look forward to my free birthday Starbucks drink every year — I can afford the $5.26 venti latte but because there’s not one smidge of guilt and because of the feeling you get when you wave on alllll the extras, if there ever was a “priceless” scenario…
When I self-permissioned to cease offering creation and thinking about money, for the first time since 2004, the sky was cloudless. I expect that when I head out to the horizon — that’s how retirement works right? You pack a light bag of snacks, wipes, and laptop, and in flip-flops and linen pants misty-eyed meander towards the sun while waving at the people who’ve lined the streets to clap you out? — when I get to wherever I’m going, I’ll still do this and that but the difference will be that the this and that will have no impact on my ability to afford life. I’ll continue to occasionally treat myself to first class and airport lounges and large sized fries and Hulu and pedicures and premium versions of software but this time, without an asterisk.
The space the SFSB provided was incalculable. Calendar space. Brain space. Soul space. It’s illuminating to reflect on what uses your resources that you don’t even realize until the resources are suddenly in abundance.
The most freeing nix for me was the apologetic no. When saying no to someone, I often feel bad and the need to explain, before which of course I carefully craft my rejection so it’s less rejection’y, read it over a few times, let it sit in the inbox even though every time I see it, it zaps me with negativity, then I change a few things, poll and ask for advice from my network from which I’ll save, curate, and create a project with said data, tweak my response once more and then send only to immediately realize I left something crucial out or used too many exclamation points or sounded bitchy so spin into an over-analyzation, “What will they think?!” soul tornado until they reply back but I won’t open the email for days even though every time I see it, it zaps me with negativity, or if they never reply, I know they’ve deemed me dead to them and I wonder why I even exist in the world.
As opposed to —
“Can we hop on the phone for a quick chat?”
“I’m on a Selfish Sabbatical (link to my post). Feel free to circle back to me after September 1st.”
(Note how I didn’t say “Sorry, I’m on a Selfish Sabbatical…” We apologize for too much. Stop apologizing. I’m not sorry — I’m gleeful.)
I had a few asks for phone calls, meetups, and scheduling to which I gave the above response. Some circled back, some didn’t. Life of Yes℠ tip: Baby Adult Saya would’ve said “I’ll be in touch after September 1st.” That puts another item on my To Do list. And whatever people want me for sometimes disappears over time, whether they’re able to figure it out on their own, they forget, or the moment simply passes. If I reach out, not knowing of this disappearance, they may feel obligated to meet even if unnecessary or at the very least, there’d be back and forth. A primary goal in my life is to lessen back and forth. If I put the onus on them, if they reach out, great; if not, great. I’m for sure not sending a “Wanted to circle back and check in about the email you sent me; still want to chat?” ping.
It was the most delicious to have free time that didn’t get filled up. By me. By others. I want nothing going on in my nothing going on.
While I’ve never enjoyed scheduling, I wouldn’t have identified it as a source of stress in all the sources of stress I have feelings about. But once it was removed from my life, date and time chatter unveiled itself to be a fountain of suck; time suck, energy suck, general “This sucks.” A friend reached out to plan a get together and the goodness I felt by immediately being able to refuse opening up my calendar and Slacking with Best Friend about possible dates and replying with options and adding a calendar entry was palpable. We’re not talking root canal or tax returns; it was getting together for food which I like with people whom I like. Yet still, blerg. I imagine scheduling will be a part of my life till the end so I’ll continue to travel the “make it easy/easier” path where I lessen as many specific icks as I can when it comes to filling the calendar — Reply All etiquette; back and forths; expecting others to ASAP for you.
It’s evident I’ve completed my reverse metamorphosis from social butterfly to curmudgeon caterpillar who simply wants to be at home alone with her husband, occasional foster puppy, fireplace, cute mug of coffee, and couch vacuum lines.
I both stuck to and deviated from the plan, and I both reached and fell short of expectations. I claim 0% SFSB failure and 110% SFSB success.
My Tangible Accomplishments
• Door project: undo an art project that went awry
• Baseboards: clean
• Car interior: clean
• Ceiling fan: clean
• Coffee station: clean, organize, and enjoy
• Storage containers: clean
• Dishwasher: clean
• Lightswitches: clean
• Track lighting and HVAC: clean
• Under bed: clean
• Windows interior and exterior: clean
• Personal hygiene: floss, tongue scrape, brush teeth, wash face, moisturize feet, DIY manicure
• Health: single serving sweets, standing desk use, move every day
• TV: mindful watching, no background TV
• Read: “Untamed” and “I’m Judging You”
• Red pen: redefine a correction tool to be an empowerment tool (I red pen my storytelling students’ creations)
• Local explorations: the lake, Bahai Temple, & Ping Tom Park
• Hiking trips: Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, Starved Rock
• Dock and browser bookmarks: clean and reorganize
• Dusting: nooks and crannies; underneath furniture; ceiling
• Flowers: treat self
• Thank you notes: write and send
• Doodle: tangible and analog creativity
• Outdoors: every day
• Coffee: guilt free home coffee and coffeehouse coffee
• Eating out: guilt free
• Use the “china” regularly — sheets, candles, mugs, dishes, notebooks, pens, stickers, coffee, toiletries…
• Evening wind down: quick organize and clean before bed, mostly home office and kitchen based
• Morning wind up: light candle, brush teeth, and plant care while coffee brews
• Tracking: physical representation of accomplishments and weight
• Sleep: 8ish hours a night
I did not clean the bathroom vanity interior as other home-improvement projects took up more time than expected. Doing “regular core” was more like “random core.” I failed at “notes transfers,” digitizing handwritten notes from meetings, conferences, and books read. I did not implement the Secret Project idea I had (er, have…). I bought a multi-class pass for online yoga and only went once. I didn’t volunteer.
I thought that short term mindful action would transform into lifetime habits. But after a dedicated two months, I am not a face washer, water drinker, someone who eats healthy portions, tongue scraper, flosser, or online yoga devotee. Grateful for the experiences and the attempts, totally ok with shrugging and moving on.
In terms of financial impact, one of my no’s lost me $300. Someone asked me to be a speaker at the end of August to which I gave my SFSB response to which I got “THIS IS BRILLIANT. I’ll reach out when you’re back from the Sabbatical. Enjoy. What inspiration!” I never heard back. It helped that it was an honorarium and much less than my speaking fee. Had there been another zero at the end of the offer, I might’ve entertained a yes; I definitely, I think?, would be kicking myself and scurrying to follow up. Perhaps I lost out on other money because I wasn’t offering offerings or promoting as much. I don’t one iota regret that $300 I don’t have or the perhaps money I don’t have. Worth it worth it worth it.
On the other end of the spectrum, oodles stuck with me.
Outsideness and sunshine continue. The desire and benefit to being outdoors was so impactful it made us move to Chattanooga December through January since those months in Chicago don’t lend themselves to being outdoors.
We created a SFSB spreadsheet of local hikes and didn’t make a visible dent in the rows and columns due to all the options, so are looking forward to more nearby exploration. If you’ve tired of where you live, if exploring a place you’ve been for 5, 10, 15, 20 years doesn’t appeal, ask yourself why. If boredom or “I’ve done that” gurgles up, consider taking a different route and not going to the same area you always go to. Ride a train line that’s not your train line. Instead of the highway, drive the side streets. Recently I went to an area of Chicago, my home since 2000, that I had never been on my way to a client’s and spent the majority of the drive exclaiming “I didn’t know there’s a brand new Target here!” “Is that a forest preserve?!” “Is that a river?!” “I had no clue that cemetery existed, it’s gorgeous!” “Ermagod, look at those adorable homes!” I’m excited to return and show Best Friend and meander in a city who still unveils herself to me twenty-one years later. If I stray from the beaten path.
Walks with Best Friend or with a podcast are still a thing. We already had a strong relationship; our wanderings bonded us even further as we chatted all the things. Days when I ventured solo, whether I went in silence or in podcast, I had some of my best musings and brainstorms. In his book “Mind Management Not Time Management,” friend David Kadavy writes “Malcolm Gladwell says ‘the first task of a writer is to create enough space and time for writing to emerge.’ “Catch 22” author Joseph Heller would often lie down and ‘just think about the book all afternoon — daydream, if you will.’ George Carlin recommended that everyone do a little daydreaming. ‘Just sit at the windows, stare at the clouds,’ he said. ‘It’s good for ya.’ … As “The Color Purple” author Alice Walker said, ‘In order to invite any kind of guest, including creativity, you have to make room for it.’” Various offerings of mine were birthed on my walks whether it was inspiration from allowing my screen free mind to roam or from the insightful entrepreneurial stories on How I Built This.
While I didn’t continue sixty minutes of daily uninterrupted writing, the goodness I felt where I have long felt frustration and whyyyyyy do I even bother, should I just let go of my book dream, was absolutely back of mind when I did a SFSB Round Two a few months later in December. I’m ecstatic to report that today, April 2021, I’ve written consistently since and while some of it is crap, a quality amount is quality content. Down the road, I see a rumination on how to succeed where you’ve forever failed (hopefully accompanied with a bookstore selfie with my NYT best-seller 😂). For now I’ll just leave it at I committed, I show up for myself, I extend self-grace and now I actually have structure, chapters, and an end of tunnel light. Most importantly, I feel good.
I wrote at the start of the SFSB that I wanted to return to reading for pleasure, and I did and still am, reading beyond articles and blog posts and with having to do something with my intake. My Kindle and a book-book gets prime real estate on the fireplace coffee table. And though counter to my initial plan of simply ingesting, my ottoman has a basket filled with post-its and writing utensils. I sit down with a book to simply read but I allow myself to do more if so desired — I found that I often want to underline or add to my “Dig deeper” list and that not permitting myself to take those actions results in frustration. So I’ve found a balance. I read to read; I read+ if I want. I still like hand scribbling notes and have found digitizing notes as soon as I finish a book helps me process what I just consumed and keeps that task from becoming a task. Another coolness result, I created a “Written By Friends” area where I showcase books authored by folks I know cause I’m proud of them and for inspiration to add myself at some point.
While I used to keep candles for hostessing, my space has smelled like pine forest for nine months. “Use the good china every day” has spread to all corners of my life. While I used to hoard firewood for guests, we treated ourselves to a winter of fireplace cozy. While I used to keep special markers, special post-its, special stationary for special occasions, now Tuesday the 3rd is a special occasion. To die with a chest full of unused specialness is not a death I want.
The evening wind-down continues. In July I mused: “I found that right before bed, after doing some late night work or TV consumption, I’d have no mental energy but a bit of physical energy. That combined with my love of cleaning and my love for cleanliness, a-ha! That’s a recipe for utopia. Most evenings before bed, I do a quick sweep of the house. What’s out of place? What’s disgusting? What will bother me tomorrow morning and cause me to ‘take care of it’ which’ll cause me to get started doing what I want to do late which’ll throw my whole day off which is not how I want to live life?” My bedtime routine is second nature and energy giving.
A surprise continuance was my accidental morning wind-up. One AM as I was waiting for coffee to brew, the lover of efficiency and beneficial multi-tasking I am (much multi-tasking is shit and just has you doing multiple things crappily), I walked around to prune, adjust, and water my plants. Tending to my babies gave me pride as I’d notice growth and marks of health. As I plucked dead leaves, sprayed stalks, and cut unwieldy culprits, I entered a meditative state. While I didn’t think about what was ahead for the day, on Saya Greenthumb days, I found the rest of what was to come to be more focused and tranquil; plant care wound me up to be grounded and fog free. When I sat down to work, I already felt accomplished — I had brought beauty to my space and kept living things living. Not a part of the plan but because I found it so satiating my morning routine became part of the plan.
Speaking of sitting down to work, I’m so much better with that. Initially I wrote: “Too much desk sitting. And I even have a standing desk! This isn’t just about how bad it is for me to sit at the computer screen for hours, it’s about how we have a beautiful home with a variety of fabulous seating areas that I don’t use.” While I had a standing desk, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like my entire desk area. They say that if you’re going to spend money on an area in your home, it should be your bed since you spend so many hours there. Agree! And extend that to your office! I did a complete overhaul of my space (see Spotlight: Home Office) — I purchased a standing desk that allows for spreading out and better fits my large frame; I reorganized and repurposed furniture and office supplies; I added plants, a cute pen holder, cute coasters, art from a friend, a pine candle. I also now change up where I sit — living room couches; yard; fireplace rocker — and embrace that sometimes I need to work but the idea of doing that work at my desk is one that shuts me down and if I could watch Law & Order: SVU while doing brainless tasks, I’d accomplish what I need to accomplish. So I allow myself a couch or armchair with Olivia and Elliot in the background.
There were surprises beyond my plant parenting.
On our Starved Rock trip, I found my wedding ring I lost months earlier (when I was on the Life of Yes℠ Caribbean Cruise and wanted to make sure I put the ring somewhere safe; ha. That’s always how it goes, ain’t it?). For those of you who know the story of how I have, er had, three rings, well, this was the last of ’em. So I was sentimental sadddddd upon ring loss. But eureka! No longer.
I was an influencer! 😂 Best Friend saw me huddled at the dining room table over my art supplies so naturally inquired. Suddenly he too had his own version of a chart, a spreadsheet, and became my partner in checkboxes. Beyond our walls, I was heart warmed to see so many others create their own SFSBs, some for the weekend, some for a few weeks. It was fascinating to see what people chose as their yes’ and no’s. People’s actions as a result of my SFSB also had me LOLing — the amount of people who posted from the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve the weeks after we went was an “I lost count” number; I made a gaggle of “[insert name] is also there! Keep an eye out!” Facebook and Instagram comments. As a result of my duct cleaning, there was an uptick in calls to HVAC professionals. As a result of my getting after it of my baseboards, as people proudly shared with me on Instagram, the world had less low to the ground grime.
I wasn’t expecting how many asked for SFSB instruction and further explanation. You can do this on your own! You can make it whatever you want! I don’t know how to further break down “Do what you want to do and don’t do what you don’t want to do.” Someone even asked for an “I Can’t: Selfish Sabbatical.” Did not realize the want or need. Seed planted.
Some of the most frequent comments centered around time —
“I’d love to do this but can’t commit such a long period.”
“I wish I could do this!”
“Gonna try a mini SFSB!”
A push back here. That last comment makes it sound like my two month SFSB is the right way to do an SFSB. “Mini” to me equals “not as good” or “abnormal.” Y’all, I made this up. This is no right way to selfish sabbatical. I chose two months because “the rest of the summer” felt a natural way to chunk it. Financially, that’s how long I felt comfortable not adding to the bank account. Maximizing summertime freedom felt good. Building upon summer often being a time when business slows anyway felt good. Enough time to dive deep but not too much time that it was unsustainable felt good. Returning during “back to school” season felt good.
The “I wish I could do this!” has me all YOU CAN. Maybe not exactly as I did but why would you want to? Are you a 6’ biracial small business owner, raised by a single mom only child who hates jazz and moon rising talk and loves fancy hotels and watching people use skate parks? Chances are your needs, skills, and abilities are different than mine.
SFSB’s are not one size fits all; as I say with everything, steal and tweak.
On this topic of duration, of course as soon as it became a thing in my mind, it became a thing in my life and I saw it everywhere. Kadavy wrote about his own version of an SFSB: “When I am between projects, I sometimes declare what I call a ‘Week of Want.’ When we get into the thick of projects, we start focusing on things we feel we should do. The purpose of the Week of Want is to reconnect with the things you want to do. When I do a Week of Want, I clear as many obligations from my schedule as possible. I cast away any sense of trying to accomplish anything in particular. I give myself an entire week to pursue the answer to one question: ‘What do I want to do right now?’” One of Kadavy’s Weeks of Want resulted in the creation of Timeful, a time management app, and four years later, Google bought Timeful. Okkkkk David, gauntlet throw — what can I get Google to buy from my SFSB?!
When Kadavy asked neuroscientist John Kounios about the benefits of taking an entire week, Kounios replied there were two potential ways a week could improve creative thinking. “You’re just not going to think about all these other things that are nipping at you. You put them out of your mind — you do that which you want to do. It gives you pleasure, puts you in a positive mood, and it’s something you can sustain over the week — and then it can lead to creative thoughts. This insightful state of mind is very fragile, and it doesn’t take much to make it go away. It’s easier to get into an analytical state of mind than it is to get into a creative, insightful, state of mind. So if you can create this whole block of time for a week, it allows you to really sink into that state.”
Adjacent to my summer break mentality, Kadavy notes “There are cues from the outside world that lend themselves to encouraging Creative Cycles beyond the length of a week.” He talks about his experience of, after living in Chicago for years where the weather is unpredictable and varied and where the sun’s appearance fluctuates, living in Colombia, where the weather and the length of sunlight is constant January-December, made steady and repeatable routine easier. Holidays and the overall holiday season are times I’ve found to be wonderful get stuff done pockets; people are off work, away from email and phone, and places are closed so the normal disruptions dissipate. When I was 9 to 5, I used to get permission to go in and work over the “break” as I loved being in an empty office and got so much done that week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Friend Kristyn Ivey of For the Love of Tidy takes an annual Mindful Unplug — “Each year, around the winter holidays, I plan 15 days to relax, reflect, and recharge. The beauty of this exercise is it helps me reserve my best energy for myself, and start the next year with a spirit of gratitude, clarity, and fresh energy.” Of course I may be biased in my love because it’s during this time she hires me to clean her home but I think we can all agree, reserving energy for self is good.
In July, Tricia Hersey, founder of the Nap Ministry, shared “Slowly emerging after a 3 week Sabbath”: “I have claimed the Year of 2020 as ‘The Year of Grief. The Year of Rest.’ I took an impromptu 3 week Sabbath during the height of the uprisings for Black Lives that spilled millions onto American and international streets… I am sick of rushing and the obsession with opening back up and getting back to normal. I never want to see normal or the way it was again. It is time for a new way. Rest and slowing down will be the foundation for this liberated future that many are screaming about online via memes, in the streets during the uprisings for Black Lives and in our hearts…Rest is a form of resistance because it disrupts and pushes back against capitalism and white supremacy.”
Emma Gannon, host of the top career podcast in the UK, Ctrl Alt Delete, shared in her September newsletter “7 things I did recently to reset myself.” I loved that we Venn diagrammed so well: an Emma section, a Saya section, and a Emmaya section. She journaled, paused social, and worked on breathing, none of which appeal to me. She also walked and read, both of which appeal and I did. She hired a life coach; I life coached myself (part of my SFSB was following my own preaching). Different, same; diff-me. I like diff-me.
Selfish Sabbatical Round Two
I alluded previously that I did another SFSB in December. It was diff-me from the first one.
While I would’ve loved to not care about money and be able to nope all the things I wanted to nope, I didn’t have that luxury. I didn’t talk about the SFSB. I did no prep. I only had two tasks. There was no time frame. I just decided one day that I was going to try to write and move daily. I liked the concept of getting a head start on New Years’ness and of sliding into Chattanooga already in a groove.
So I treated myself to an analog planner from a small business and to inspirational artwork from another small business (this and this; $5 off for first timers with my link). Whatever I wrote for however long I wrote was good. Whatever I moved for however long I moved was good. Because I’ve never done digital tracking and because it’s so easy, I decided to try the apps Repeat Habit Tracker and Writer Tools. With the former, I simply give myself a check for writing and a check for movement if I do them. I get a reminder at 7AM for writing as I’m a morning person when it comes to being a NYT best selling author. I get a 3PM reminder for movement as I like to move when my brain is afternoon mush but before my body is evening it’s too late. I was attracted to Writer Tools because I’m just now starting to pay attention to word count for large projects and while I don’t really care at this juncture, I thought there’d be a possibility at some point that I will care to know how long it took me to write X number of words. Repeat Habit Tracker goes up to 70 days as that’s the amount of time they claim it takes to form a habit. I’ve already restarted and am on my second 70 days. I like simplicity and the minimalist and sleek design. Writer Tools is eh as far as design and functionality; if interested in writer tool capabilities, I’d poke around a bit to see if something better exists. I also analog tracked by coloring a calendar square upon success and replicating one of my favorite penned musings from the day in my planner along with a note of how long I wrote and what movement I did and for how long.
While it’s still ongoing, and I guess perhaps because it’s still ongoing, I claim SFSB #2 a success.
Eight months after my first selfish sabbatical and three months after my second selfish sabbatical, I have thoughts.
Be ok with detours and revision. They don’t represent failure, they represent mindfulness and growth. You can change mid-sabbatical. You can change from one sabbatical to another. For example, I decided that I’ll keep the arts & crafts portion at the start but instead of making charts, I’ll do something more free-form that’s for use in the moment, for brainstorming. I found checkbox tracking to be motivating and enjoyable the first month. The second month though, it felt like a chore and that it highlighted failure more than illuminated success so I stopped the physical checkboxes at the start of August. I think the chart creation was the most valuable aspect to the tracking tools, the ol’ “it’s the journey not the destination” adage. Poster board, markers, and stickers helped me get started and articulate what I wanted to include, not to mention being eight years old again was ridiculously fun.
Having task variety worked well for me; checkboxes were both “I’m excited to do this!” and “I need to do this.” This helped subtract ick from my life in that I finally crossed off the list things like “Make your front door look less shitty” and it helped me inject squeeeee into my life in that my tan lines were poppin’ and muscles I didn’t know I had were hurtin’.
A peer forwarded me a newsletter titled “Got a lot of reaction to pausing my inbox…” along with a note “Holy crap, Saya! This made me think of you! …you’ve always been ahead of the curve when it comes to owning your time, but this approach seems truly revolutionary. And freeing! I wanted the send this your way in case you wanted inspiration for your next Selfish Sabbatical, whenever it may be.” The gist is that the author had an automated message that told people his inbox was on pause until a certain date. Effectively all emails were in cloud jail until said date when they then showed up in his inbox. If intrigued by the idea, check this out; I personally was not intrigued. I don’t mind email. I actually like email; it’s my preferred communication method. I just hate dumb email like having to remind grownass adults to do grownass things or people using it in dumb ways. I manage it well, don’t feel overwhelmed, don’t feel I have to get back to folks right away or that it’s taking over my life, and I celebrate Inbox Zero because I like it, not because it’s uncommon for me. My SFSB was set up in a way that fit me perfectly when it came to email; any that didn’t serve me, I said no along with a brief why and went on my merry way (usually to much cheering). The emails I wanted (speaking gigs! Consulting clients! etc) still got to me. It reminded me of my preferred vacation scenario where not only do I check email even though my vacation responder is on, I respond; the trick is that I use the Send Later function, so my reply isn’t sent until a day or two after I return. This way I don’t miss anything I don’t want to miss and I don’t have an overwhelming inbox upon re-entry. This mentality is hard to grasp for some, those who feel it isn’t a real vacation unless you completely unplug. How fabulous that there are so many options and solutions to the noise — enough for us all to find something that works for our particulars and to not judge how others live.
This is part of the most important takeaway: create a selfish sabbatical that serves you — length, tracking, when, preparation, type of tasks, number of tasks, types of yes’ and types of no’s, public or private, alone or with others — and learn and be inspired from others yet avoid negative comparison. Comparison of the “I’m inspired to change what isn’ working” kind, a-ok. Set yourself up for success and joy.
Before my first SFSB, I thought I had to getaway in order to get the full benefit. Same for writing my book. Building upon his Week of Want, Kadavy wrote “While he was running Microsoft, Bill Gates took ‘think weeks,’ in which he went off to a secluded cabin to immerse himself in piles of books and articles and to think about the future of the company.” Upon realization that a paid-for Lake Como sabbatical home was not going to fall into my lap, I also admitted to myself that part of that thinking was rooted in excuses —
“Of course I haven’t yet penned my memoir; I don’t have the luxury of escaping to my Vermont Writer’s Cabin a month at a time.”
“How can I take a sabbatical if I’m unable to walk away from my otherness for six months?”
Plenty of people have done the thing with much less; less time, less money, less savings, less Vermont —
- An “in your own backyard” luxury hotel weekend (fun way to redeem points or free nights)
- A coffeehouse Sunday
- A home office few hours with a closed door, mug of mulled wine, jammies, candle, $7 Trader Joe’s flower bouquet, and other people’s problem kids and pets
Your Selfish Sabbatical doesn’t have to be a production.
Like my getaway mis-thought, I also used to think I was existing wrong because I don’t mediate nor enjoy mediation. Sitting in silence while focusing on breathing sounds horrid to me. But I like the idea of encompassing a tool of focus and reflection into time for self. Instead of forcing myself to fold my legs, close my eyes, and be still, I found ways to mediate that fit my puzzle — a walk, reading for joy, yoga, listening to a podcast, cleaning, plant parenting. Those are my doing nothings, my meditation.
I’ve gotten pretty good at the unapologetic, immediate no but my SFSB clued me into the fact that it’s still angsty. Work in progress to keep lessening the angst. The easier it is to say no, the more likely you’ll say no. I’ve practiced this for years, mostly rooted in “Can we grab coffee?” requests which I wrote about in “How to say no to a nice request.” The gist is that I have a “No” Canned Response within Gmail that I quickly customize and send. Having the copy that I used to agonize over ready to go makes all the difference. It was validating when I recently stumbled upon Josh Spector’s “How To Use A “No” Template To Make It Easier To Say No” and James Altucher’s “The #1 Rule of No.” Being a simplicity nerd I am, I adore Altucher’s formula —
“Two out of these three have to trigger for me to say YES:
KNOWLEDGE: Will I learn something
FUN: Is it fun
MONEY: Is it financially worthwhile.”
My SFSB extended the “easier to do, more likely to do” mentality from coffee to everything in my life. I don’t and don’t want to subscribe to the idea that I need a SFSB to nope. If I were a tattoo person “No is a complete sentence” might be on my lower back.
The invisible accomplishments are important to count and share as well, as they have equal if not heavier weight. I can see my car and whether it’s clean or not, so that’s easy to feel and celebrate. Not creating offerings isn’t something I can walk by and be reminded of its goodness. But hot damn, was it good. In order to feel progress and thus stay motivated, you have to acknowledge it. Make sure you acknowledge all of it.
While I can’t retire right now, I can continue to design my life to be as selfish sabbatical’y as it can be. How freeing it is to no longer be someone who feels wrong, bitchy, self serving, narcissistic, narrow minded, bad-selfish in loudly proclaiming “No” and “I’m on a Selfish Sabbatical.” I outlined back in August that “the main driving force behind a Selfish Sabbatical is that there are desires we desire in life but for whatever reason, perhaps for a myriad of reasons, we don’t possess the desires. Yet we could. With a bit of planning, honesty, and reflection, with self-permission, we could transform desires into accomplishments. And while the end results are a huge part of the experience, the journey to the end results is just as important. The SFSB journey in and of itself is an accomplishment. We are weird creatures, us human beings. We continually get in our own way and stifle our own greatness and joy.” Glennon Doyle in her book “Untamed” observes “I burned the memo that defined selflessness as the pinnacle of womanhood, but first I forgave myself for believing that lie for so long… Selfless woman make for an efficient society but not a beautiful, true, or just one… What we need are women who are full of themselves.”
I. Am. Full. Of. Myself. And proudly so.
Imagine a mug (like this particular one that gives me and others so much elation every time I share my giraffe taking a coffee bath). The mug is you. Every time you live for your eulogy instead of your resume, pour in a tablespoon of your favorite drink. Every time you make space for what you want to make space for as opposed to what you have to make space for, tablespoon. Every time you say no immediately to something you know immediately you want to no, tablespoon. Every time nature re-energizes you, tablespoon. Every time you support someone in living their best life by modeling living your best life, tablespoon. Every time you fail and keep on going, tablespoon. Every time you celebrate a tiny win, tablespoon. Before you know it, you’ll be brimming at the brim, about to spill over, and if all goes well, will spill over.
A planet of overflowing humans is a place I’d like to live.
If a pause sounds good, if free time sounds good, if quiet sounds good, if progress sounds good, if space sounds good, give a Selfish Sabbatical a try. But make sure you do it the right way — any way that serves you.
If you’re interested in learning about Time Management from me, I’m running a virtual I Can’t: Manage My Time. If you’re looking for help with a specific goal, check out the virtual Life of Yes℠ Set One Goal. Both offerings are about supporting you in living your best life, specifically around getting things done in a way that feels good and where you’re in control.
Have you taken a Selfish Sabbatical? What’d you do and not do? Any surprises? Would you do it again? If you shared about it anywhere, I’d love to see it!, drop you link in the comments.