Five weeks ago, I embarked on an experiment to close my business for 9 weeks to take an extended break.  It is an experiment because I have never done this before, and I have no playbook for taking a sabbatical.

In case you’re asking why I would pause all my client work, forgo income, and potentially lose future business so I could take the summer “off”, my answer is simple.  I am human and I needed more self-care, and time for focus on my personal needs. 

After several years of demanding consulting work, I realized I needed a break longer than a weekend or a typical one week summer vacation.  I was mentally and physically tired, and overwhelmed with my home, work, and overall life responsibilities.  

You see, I have not openly disclosed this to many, but besides single-handedly running my own business since 2004, I am a caregiver for my husband, Steve, a 100% disabled veteran who requires more attention as he ages.  Caring for his needs includes managing his numerous doctor and therapy appointments, and daily activities.  In addition to tending to the love of my life, I run my household and look after our aging parents, who are in their late 80’s to mid 90’s. Not to mention, our 19-year-old daughter in college who still requires our guidance and emotional support.   While coaching other working professionals on home/life balance, I realized that I, too, felt the mental and physical crush of managing too many priorities, and decided to take my own advice while I still had my sanity.  After contemplating this dilemma for about a year, my choice was to take 9 weeks off.

I have been so fortunate to have developed a thriving consulting and coaching business.  Being a business owner means I am “the boss” and I’m the only one who can authorize my time off.   Some of the best advice my mother gave me early in my career was to be in charge of my own well-being – without reservation, because I am the only who knows when I need a break. 

For the self-employed, there is a cost associated with taking time off but, for me, the cost of burn-out was much higher.   I worked feverishly, no pun intended, throughout the pandemic serving my clients, constantly thinking, scheduling, managing projects.  I pride myself on being there for my clients, old and new, but over the past two years, I realized that I was doing so at my own expense. 

I am now more than halfway through my sabbatical.   At the end, I hope to share what I did to fill my 9 weeks, with words of my wisdom for others who might be seeking a similar break, or those just wondering what it’s like to step back from your business or job for an a extended period of time.  My goal is to have more clarity and more perspective as I return to work.  I hope to rejuvenate my mind, body, and spirit, and get more in tune with my needs as well as the needs of my family.   I can then go back to supporting my clients old and new, coaching more deeply, and advising more intently. 

Reflection for you:  Do you need an extended break?  What would be the purpose of a sabbatical for you?  

For more information on executive sabbaticals, read a white paper from one of my clients, Center for Nonprofit Excellence in Charlottesville, VA here