I took a long break last summer, and I promised to follow-up on what happened with my experiment.    My last blog, which was too long ago, shared a personal decision to take 9 weeks off in the summer of 2022.  I shared that without a break, I risked my own health (sleeping, eating mindfully, managing stress, and exercising). I also felt I was missing that vital time to reflect, plan, contemplate my life and business – things like the next phase of my business, and how I wanted to focus the next years of my business.

During my time off, I asked myself some questions: What would make me feel more complete and happier at this point of my life (now 55+ years old)?  What does “retirement” look like for me?   I had shared my caregiver journey with husband Steve, and for the first time, I openly declared my status as a caregiver for my husband, a 100%-rated disabled veteran.   I realized most of my clients didn’t even know about Steve’s status, and they were shocked.   Perhaps I was covering this aspect of my life up so that my clients always felt #1.   Now everyone knows they are not.  My family and my well-being are more important.   I now talk openly about it all the time, so that I can be transparent and humanize the relationship with my clients.

I learned on my own how to do a long break (a sabbatical, long vacation, whatever you may call it).    I want to share some advice and insights if you’re ever thinking that it’s time to take a long, intentional break from work.

You might be thinking how can I do this?  Most companies do not offer an accommodation for sabbaticals.  Here are some ways you can create your own personal break in your career:

  1. Use your leave. Many professionals don’t use time that is already a benefit. Take a 3–4-week vacation at once. Plan for this 6-months in advance. If you don’t have that much paid time off, combine vacation with unpaid leave. Ask for it.
  2. Quit. Sounds severe, but you can just stop working for a while and come back into the workforce. Of course, you must be in a financial situation to do this. Again, plan at least a year in advance for this and review finances with your family.
  3. Take a less strenuous, work from home, or part time job for a year. This can allow for some continuous income while you reduce your responsibilities, hectic schedule, and stress level. Being able to work 40 hours or less can be just the break you need. This can also be a great pre-retirement plan.

I am taking another long break this summer. This time not quite as long, because I have some amazing new clients that I am enjoying, but I’ll take at least 6 weeks off. These longer breaks are now my permanent strategy to extend my working life by protecting my well-being and health so I can serve my clients longer. I hope more professional women (and men or any caregiver) will join me in the revolution. Why retire when you love your work? Stretch it out by taking a sabbatical – or two or three!

Join Center for Nonprofit Excellence (www.thecne.org) for a panel discussion on sabbaticals on May 17, 2023. Free and open to all.