By Bev Bachel
Ever been on your way to work and thought, “I’m not sure I can do this anymore”?
If so, you’re not alone.
That’s exactly what happened to Andy Zimney, a consultant who helps companies improve their cultures.
“It was 2019, and I was in Alabama on a work trip when the Uber I was riding in was hit from behind by a drunk driver,” explains Zimney. “I spent the next eight hours in the ER. Although there were no visible signs of injury, the doctor told me I likely had a concussion and gave me a list of symptoms to look out for in the days and weeks ahead.”
Zimney flew home, spent the evening with his family and got up the next morning and headed back to work. “Within a week or two, I was experiencing some serious concussion symptoms,” says Zimney. “I had trouble concentrating. I didn’t have much energy and was mentally and physically spent at the end of each workday, if not before.”
Three months later, when Zimney’s symptoms had not resolved on their own, he requested a sabbatical so he could step back from work, re-evaluate his priorities and determine what being successful moving forward meant to him.
“I knew I needed to focus on my health,” says Zimney. “I also knew that if I didn’t do so right away, I’d end up feeling and possibly even burning out before I reached retirement age.”
So, with the support of his partners and his family, he unplugged for one month to sleep, exercise, improve his diet, enjoy the outdoors and spend time with family and friends.
Here are some of the lessons Zimney learned along the way:
- Put your health first.“Don’t postpone taking care of your health,” says Zimney. “While doing so may enable you to be productive in the short term, it can be costly in the long run.”
- Listen to your body. “When you’re tired, your body is telling you there is some un-met need, whether its rest, exercise, creativity, fun, healthier eating or something else,” says Zimney. “Pay attention.”
- Identify your guiding values. Health, relationships and creativity were Zimney’s guiding values, so he listened to more music, cooked fun meals and relaxed with a paint-by-number kit.
- Let go and unplug. “We all have lots of ‘stuff’ in our daily mental diets that does not need to be there,” says Zimney. “Even if you can’t take a month-long sabbatical, try unplugging for a day or two just to change things up.”
- Change your patterns. If your morning routine typically includes a 90-second shower and a mad dash for the door, can you wake up earlier and enjoy what author Hal Elrod refers to as a “miracle morning?”
Using a sabbatical to test drive retirement
A sabbatical was definitely the right choice for Zimney. Could it be the right choice for you? Regardless of how close you are to retiring, a brief sabbatical can give you the chance to test drive retirement. So, whether you’re looking to reclaim your health, write a book, explore another culture or something else entirely, here are some tips:
- Do your research. Find out if your employer has a sabbatical policy. Many employers including Adobe, Charles Schwab and Deloitte do. So do some public entities such as Chicago Public Schools. Even some nonprofits offer sabbaticals. For instance, AARP employees receive a six-week sabbatical after seven years.
- Talk to other employees who have taken a sabbatical. How long was their sabbatical? Were they paid? If so, were they paid their full salary or only a portion of their salary? Did they maintain their healthcare and other benefits?
- Be prepared to explain how your sabbatical will benefit the company. For instance, will taking a bit of time off now to rejuvenate enable you to return to work with more energy and new ideas? Will you use the time to learn a new skill or …?
- Determine what you’d like from your sabbatical.How much time away do you feel you need? Do you want to unplug completely or are you be open to working part-time? What if you could work from home vs. having to go into the office?
Have you taken a sabbatical? If so, what advice do you have?
Bev Bachel is a Twin Cities freelance writer who does her best to take a month-long sabbatical each year. She’s also the author of What Do You Really Want? How to Set a Goal and Go For It! A Guide for Teens
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