Are you starting to think about your plans for the new year? Perhaps you’ve been working really hard for a while now, and you’re wondering how you’ll keep up (or speed up?) the pace next year. (That can be scary to think about, right?)
Perhaps you’re feeling about your biz the way I do in the midst of a fight with my forever guy (“Honey bunny I love you, but I don’t LIKE you much right now…”), constantly daydreaming about your next vacation or feeling like jelly when your friends with jobs talk about their carefree weekends. If you can relate, I have a question:
Have you thought – seriously – about taking a sabbatical?
I know sabbaticals might sound kind of stuffy because traditionally they apply to academic and religious settings, but they aren’t at all. Let me break down for you exactly what I’m talking about here.
A sabbatical is a delicious hiatus from your usual day-to-day. Its length can vary, but I reckon at least a month is a good start. Rather than a regular holiday where you lay in the sun eating Mexican food (surely not just my current go-to holiday fantasy?), a true sabbatical usually centres around some kind of self-directed overarching theme or purpose brought to life through study, exploration, contribution, hobbies, and contemplation.
For example, on their sabbatical someone might learn Italian, or set up a local community garden, or write a book, or explore and go deep with their yoga practice, or help Habitat for Humanity build houses, or learn how to care for local wildlife, or hike the Pyrenees, or intentionally nurture relationships with friends and family, or raise funds for their favourite charity, or become a master wine taster, or….
Done well, sabbaticals result in personal growth, fulfilment, and fresh perspectives. Surely you can immediately see how cool these babies can be – not just when it comes to loving life more – but how damn great they can be for your business too.
Time away from the daily grind can lead to some profound insights about, and creative ideas for, your business. Even the mighty Sir Richard Branson sings the praises of ‘inspiration holidays’ (as he calls them). In fact, those that take sabbaticals report higher productivity once they’re back at work. It might be counter-intuitive to think that time away can help you do more, but there you go.
And that’s not all. Rather than everything going to shit when you step away, sabbaticals can actually make your business stronger. Think: professional development and confidence building for team members; having solid systems and policies in place, and this: Removing yourself from the day-to-day running of your business. That means that once you’re back on deck you’re able to focus exclusively on your main zone of genius rather than everything you do now (which I’m betting includes a bunch of admin and other tasks you don’t personally need to be doing).
Months off to fill your personal well without your business falling down around you sounds awesome, right?
There’s just one catch. When you’re an entrepreneur, incredible sabbaticals don’t tend to spontaneously materialize. If you want to take one next year (and seriously, why wouldn’t you?) you’ve gotta start planning and preparing for it now.
I was lucky enough to take a 2.5-month sabbatical a few years back to explore Japan. It was hugely fulfilling and refreshing, but… I definitely could have prepared my biz for it better.
Now I’m planning on taking another one next year. This time around – inspired by a very clever mastermind pal who’s on a sabbatical from her thriving biz right now – I’ve been doing some research and thinking through the lessons I learnt last time.
From about 6 months out (maybe earlier), here are 14 steps I’ll be taking to prepare for my sabbatical:
Picking a theme/focus for my sabbatical, and researching how I could explore that theme in my time off (I think it’s important to plan out exactly what I’ll be doing before the sabbatical begins because I’ve learnt from experience how easily days off without action can slide away.)
Personally committing to actually having the sabbatical by booking something in (no matter how small) ASAP.
Speaking it into being by letting my team members/suppliers/bros know about my plans.
Blocking out time in the calendar NOW.
Identifying all my responsibilities and tasks, and then grouping them into broad categories (for example, operations, marketing…).
Identifying available bandwidth from existing team members to take on extra responsibilities/tasks.
Identifying roles that I may need to hire and train in advance.
Making sure there’s a solid knowledge base in place (think: standard operating procedures, policies, organised info management system). (BTW, I know this can be a daunting task. Even if you’re the only Knower Of Things in your biz at the moment, you don’t need to create this knowledge base yourself. You could, for example, task a team member with interviewing you, extracting the gold from your brain and then documenting your current systems and policies.)
Creating and following a 12-month marketing plan (including preparing content in advance).
Allocating time each week for training and generally mind melding with key roles.
Holding at least one risk management planning sesh with key team members to brainstorm and document things that could go wrong and plan out how to best deal with them in advance.
Setting up and agreeing to clear boundaries and policies around when and when NOT to contact me while I’m on sabbatical.
Leaving a single, specific trusted team member with clear oversight in charge.
Having a few test runs (aka mini-breaks) in the lead up to the official sabbatical, where for example, I’ll step away from a week at a time and then have a monster debrief with the team when I’m back.
You’re welcome to copy my approach to mastermind your own 2016 sabbatical.
A sabbatical could help you fall more in love with your life and biz in 2016. But that’s not all. It could also create the perfect impetus you need to set up and hand over all the systems and tasks that have been keeping you from stepping into the true leadership role your business needs to grow.
I’m excited to start planning mine. Have I inspired you to take a sabbatical next year too? I hope so! Let me know.
P.S. Excited by this idea, but it’s just you in your biz for now? No worries! You can still apply most of the steps I mention (for example, you can set aside time to brainstorm risks and how you’ll mitigate them yourself or ask your mastermind crew to help).