A learning experiment – 7th-week sabbatical

There are a couple of areas where I’m not performing as I want to:

(1) I often end up working too hard. I really enjoy the work I do and I care deeply about the impact of it, so this is an easy trap for me to fall into. Early in lockdown, I found a really good balance but this has slipped a little.

(2) One thing getting in the way of me achieving all of my goals/ambitions is that I very rarely make enough time for research and writing. (I’m saying ‘make’ rather than the usual ‘find’ as I’m owning this).

Given that I spend my working life helping leaders get the best of themselves, I’ve been a little frustrated that I haven’t been fully practicing what I preach so I’m addressing that and I’ve decided to work out loud in what I’m doing.

I’m experimenting with a ‘7th week Sabbatical’ (this is my first day) inspired by a few ideas:

1 – Resting and recharging: I often remind people that rest isn’t the opposite of (or a competitor to) work1 but I don’t always live that advice myself and I want to try some ways to build that into the rhythm of my work.

2 – I took away a lot of ideas from Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’2 and having tried some of the other approaches, I’ve decided to try a proper experiment with his ‘bimodal philosophy’ to Deep Work, by scheduling a decent length of time for research and writing.

3 – I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m driving, and a mention of ‘7th week sabbaticals’3 really got me thinking

4 – I often struggle with writer’s block when I blog, but there was an idea that Anne-Laure Le Cunff shared on a panel discussion4 where Anne-Laure said “I’m writing what I wish existed when I was at a stage when I didn’t know how to do this….. Teach for your past self”. That sparked lots of thoughts for me.

5 – I’m a big fan of learning experiments because we often don’t know exactly what will work for us. So, I’m doing a ‘7th week sabbatical’ as an experiment. The purpose is to see whether it works for me and to learn how best to do it, so the experiment can’t fail as it will produce valuable learning.

I’m trying a pattern of 6 weeks work then a sabbatical. Then another 6 weeks work and then a holiday. It is Monday, the first day of my first sabbatical week. I have had the week blocked out for ages and I have no commitments in my diary. With one exception: I have a regular Friday catch-up with two fabulous people – Kelly Swingler and David Faulkner – and I’m still going ahead with that on Friday as I think I’ll need it at the end of the week!

How has it gone so far? I’ve had a lie-in, we’ve walked the dog in Lyme Park, and I’ve had some solid research time. There’s some learning already; I had a couple of things hanging over from last week that I felt guilty about not doing so I’ve done them and – in an ideal world – I’d fully clear the guilt list on a Friday afternoon before my sabbatical week.

But – finally – I’m writing. Not for everybody on the planet, but for me before I knew what I now know. For those who might find this helpful. And that feels good! 😀