Lessons From My Sabbatical

In the fall of 2018, my wife and I took a three-month sabbatical from work. Here's what I noticed:

  • It's hard to overstate how much burden is lifted by not having any work that needs to be done in the evenings. It's been years since I didn't have some looming deadline caused by "sprints". Maybe a week here and there, but always to return to a new sprint schedule.

  • I enjoy the ability to completely unplug from tech. We spent about a month abroad, and during that time we had no screen time. We had a phone to be able to correspond with Air-BnBs, but that was it. I love podcasts, but I didn't listen to a single episode on our trip. Old fashioned books were our best friend. We weren't depriving ourselves or being stoic in any way. It just wasn't needed. That was eye-opening.

  • I needed distance from my coworkers. I have nothing against my coworkers, they are great people whom I enjoy immensely. But, we spend a ton of time together, and I didn't realize how much of a break I needed from the same group of people day in and day out. I don't think I would have known this going into the sabbatical. Since I ended up being in town for part of the sabbatical, I could have and thought about joining them for drinks, or activities, and just decided not to. It felt better. I'm sure they need a break from me too.

  • I was still in "go mode" for about three weeks. I was still determined to get a bunch of stuff done, make the most of every moment. It wasn't until about three weeks in that I noticed that I had finally relaxed a bit. It's one of those things that is only noticeable in retrospect.

  • Having the ability to travel without coming home to go right back to work was a completely new experience. It makes coming home so much sweeter. I was able to truly enjoy returning home. Being able to cook, being able to wear different clothes, having a little bit more space.

  • Though I largely unplugged from technology, I did use the opportunity to follow a few curiosities. I redesigned my personal site, which was long overdue. I spent a bit of time playing with React, and made some good progress there, reimplementing a simple vocab builder app, as well as porting my 543 game to React.

  • I have questions about whether or not I can go right back into the grind. A part of me is looking forward to getting back to creating something and having a goal. I worry that attitude is just a coping strategy, knowing that is my reality in a few weeks.

  • I'm already thinking about how to structure my life so that we have extended periods off at regular intervals. I don't know if that's every other year, every third year. A full month every year? I've been giving that quite a bit of thought as I'm convinced that with a bit of creativity, we can make that happen.


Alex Brinkman

Written by Alex Brinkman who lives and works in Denver, but plays in the mountains.