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How to Take a Sabbatical

Thinking of taking some time off? Here are six tips to actually make it happen.

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  • “Get clear on your judgments about productivity,” suggests Jungian analyst Katherine Olivetti, MSSW, noting that doing less really can lead to doing more. “It’s often hard for people to slow down and stop working,” she says, but her own experience suggests that it may be key to sustaining a productive career. Every summer for several years, Olivetti has taken six weeks off for deep rest and rejuvenation. As a result, she’s never felt burned out on the job. “Being physical and spending time in nature helps.”
  • “In general, slower is better than faster,” says Tsh Oxenreider, author of At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe. “Unless you know that being on the go all the time is restful for you, go fewer places and get to know them more slowly and deeply.”
  • “Go to a different country and seek transformative experiences,” says executive coach Clive Prout. “Immersing in another culture is one of the most powerful things we can do for our own development.”
  • “Balance making a plan with keeping things open-ended,” says Oxenreider, who suggests planning only the first three months of a yearlong adventure. This will encourage more spontaneity. Also, practice using public transportation so you will feel comfortable using it anywhere you go.
  • “Reverse engineer it,” Oxenreider advises. Say your oldest child is a few years from graduating and you want meaningful time together. “Plan activities that cultivate conversations as opposed to epic adventures,” she suggests. “Or do the opposite! Sometimes choosing things that get you out of your comfort zone, that stretch you, gives you more to talk about.” (For more tips from Oxenreider, read “The Best of All Worlds.”)
  • “Set some goals or outcomes,” says Prout. “The further you get into the exploration of what you want in your sabbatical, the better you’ll make use of your time.”

is a Minneapolis-based leadership coach and writer.

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