You've put years of dedication into your job and the time has come for a well earned career break. With the retirement age and life expectancy going up, and recession cutbacks still looming in many industries, a sabbatical has become an attractive prospect for reflection, renewal and the recently redundant. But how do you plan a successful sabbatical? In this month's How To, we look at the Dos and Don'ts of taking your dream break from the work place.
Plan ahead of schedule
Getting your ducks in a row before you take a sabbatical is not an option: it is a MUST. To be away from your day job or business, you need to make sure everything can run efficiently without you around. This means serious planning. Whether its training a new manager to hold down the fort while you are away, sorting out your finances, making travel plans or any number of extra tasks. It takes time to get organized properly, so make sure you give yourself enough of it to do so.
Choose what kind of sabbatical you want
People take sabbaticals for all kinds of reasons. Its a good idea to establish why you want to take yours: to pursue other interests, or just to spend some time with family, away from the corporate rat race. Just having an understanding of why you want to take a sabbatical will go a long way in establishing your own expectations.
Set realistic goals
Do not allow yourself to get lost in a sea of fantastical goals. No one can write a book, learn to speak Portuguese, learn to play an instrument, volunteer in Africa, save the whales and backpack through South America in six months. Make a list of achievable goals and stick to them - but don't close yourself off from being spontaneous. Think hard about how much time you have and then plan your goals around that.
Set a time frame
Set a reasonable and realistic time frame for your sabbatical. It's pointless rushing, when you know you will need at least a year to complete your goal. Heading back to work too early will only render the process pointless. On the other hand, if you know you will get bored after six months, why take more? This all goes back to the first point: PLAN AHEAD OF SCHEDULE.
The opportunity to take extended time off work comes but once or twice a lifetime before retirement kicks in. Grab it with both hands and make the most of the opportunity. Read the classics, the supermarket pulp fiction or the celeb magazines you've been longing to page through. Build model airplanes or vintage cars if that's what is on your list of things to do. Paint your furniture, fly a kite, redecorate your home. The point is, it's your sabbatical. Own it.
Be in contact
Stay in contact with your employers or employees - at a safe distance. This is in case of emergencies. One phone call from the office too many, and you will find yourself wasting precious sabbatical time with problems that are no longer your responsibility.
On the other hand, cutting yourself off completely would be unwise. Staying on friendly terms with your former employer during your sabbatical may keep valuable opportunities open for your on your return to the workplace.
Plan your finances
Unless you've hit the jackpot and earned a paid sabbatical, financing your break from the working world is going to be costly. Make sure you put enough research into planning the financial logistics of your extended leave. Set up and budget and work with that. This also related to your time frame, mentioned in point number 3. Make sure your budget can see you through the sabbatical.
Get out of town
Whether you go to Indonesia for a month, or to Cardiff for the weekend, take some time to get out of town - at least once. You don't need to go far to get out of your comfort (or discomfort) zone and refresh your mind.
Make sure you have a job to come back to
Make sure your employers understand that you are taking a sabbatical for their benefit as much as yours. The ultimate goal is for you to come back to work with renewed energy resources and fresh ideas. But there's no point in gaining those things if you have no job to come back to.
Leave anything till the last minute
99% of the time, things are cheaper when you book far in advance. If you are planning to spend 6 months of your sabbatical abroad, try to book your tickets and accommodation early.
Last Updated: January 2011