Looking Back at a Sabbatical – One Year Later

Last year at this time I was nearing the end of my sabbatical. I’ve been using the Timehop app on my phone to look back at the past and I’ve noticed the tweets and pictures that I had from last year popping up. I decided it was a good time to look back at a year in the past.

Here was one of my projects, and the one I was most proud of: a flagpole made of wood.

If you’re interested, you can read the journey I went on.

Looking Back

It’s been a year since I had six weeks off to do whatever. I think I had some memorable experiences from the time off, but I wanted to first look at how I feel this year, with no long set of time away from work scheduled.

First, I don’t miss the sabbatical. I didn’t develop this craving to not work any longer, or work less. I didn’t think I needed to change my life around. In hindsight, it felt like a summer vacation between semesters in college. A fun time, and a break between the more serious work of building a career.

That’s how I see it now. I’d like to do it again, and I’m not sure I’ll wait five years to do it again. I’ll have to see how our family finances go, and probably wouldn’t self-finance 6 weeks, but I am thinking to take a week or two again, separate from vacation, and just get away from work. However, like my sabbatical, I’ll want a plan of something I do that’s different than sitting around or vacationing. I’ll be looking for some self-improvement.

Growth

What did last year teach me, or how did I grow? Those are good questions. I’m a little torn on how to answer them. Let me tackle the teaching first, since that’s easier.

I learned quite a few things about building, Habitat for Humanity, and woodworking by tackling projects. Those were easy skills, and things I picked up. I have more work to go and more to learn, but I’ve documented some of that stuff. The other thing I learned is that I can still learn and grow and make an effort to improve my life in numerous ways.

I also learned some confidence. By stepping back, tackling some physical projects that might have intimidated me a bit prior to last summer, I know I can do more. This has helped me in having a bit more confidence to tackle other projects, both in an outside of, work in the last year.

In terms of growth, I had the chance to reflect and appreciate what a great life I have, and what a great company I work for. Both of those definitely helped to recharge me and have made it a bit easier to manage life and travel in the last year. I’m a bit more mature in how I watch my schedule.

Perhaps the biggest thing I learned is that time truly is my most precious asset. It is hard to set aside time for large projects, and I have a few half finished ones because I can’t get to them with a busy family life. In some sense I’m willing to let them go for now because I’m busy, but it made me appreciate the time I had last year to just methodically plod along. Even on weekends it’s hard to find that now.

The Future

Andy Warren has always said that we don’t get enough thinking time at work. Many of us are so busy moving from project to project, from work item to work item, that we fail to stop and consider the bigger picture. I doubted how much value there was in that, but the sabbatical helped me re-consider my thoughts.

I have a clearer picture of the value of being able to step aside for a day or so and just think about things. I still find it hard to find the time, but when I can spare an hour or two and think about SQLServerCentral, or how Redgate works, or how some part of the world could be better, I appreciate that more.

Finding this time also has me considering self-financing a shorter sabbatical sometime in the next year. At some point I want to be able to take a few days to myself, thinking about life, and career, and how to improve them for me.

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