LeadershipPersonal Development

3 Lessons from a Monthlong Sabbatical

Real Time away Can Recharge Your Spirit and up Your Game

I began my career as a proud workaholic. I measured my contribution by the hours I clocked and the coffee I consumed. So the Michael Hyatt &Co. culture came as a bit of a shock. It was the best kind of shock, though.

With a core value of radical margin and an unlimited PTO policy, our leaders established that this was a different sort of place. There would be no gold stars for weekends worked or midnight oil burned here. Instead, they cast the vision of a sustainably strong team—sharpened by rest and steadied by healthy home lives. It was a radically better path, and I was grateful to walk it.

But just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Michael and Megan announced a new benefit: A month-long, paid sabbatical every three years. Michael has written extensively about how he benefits from sabbaticals and decided to make that opportunity available to the whole team.

Our heads exploded.

A remarkable opportunity

I was the first employee in line to partake of this glorious benefit. A Florida native, I planned a month of wandering from ocean to ocean: a week on the Gulf in Saint Petersburg, ten days on the Atlantic in Saint Augustine, and a week on the Pacific in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I figured I'd need a few days at home in Franklin, Tennessee, to conquer the mountain of sandy laundry I knew I’d accumulate.

As the trip approached, everyone asked where I was going, what I’d be doing, and how many books I’d bring. (An entire library!) But above all, they wanted to know if I was excited. Of course, I was excited! But to be honest, I was anxious, too. My old workaholic values resurfaced haunting me with unwelcome questions:

  • What if I couldn’t get everything done before I left?
  • What if my team resented me for leaving them with a pile of extra work?
  • What if they decided they could make do without me for good?
  • How would I ever catch up when I got back?
  • And, worst of all, would the vacuum left by work leave me feeling lost or insignificant?

But the ocean was calling, the month arrived, and it was time to go. After setting an away message on my email, deleting Slack from my phone, and reminding my team for the twentieth time that they shouldn’t hesitate to call if it was urgent (they never did), I finally embarked on my grand adventure.

3 findings from my time away

On that adventure, I learned that all those anxieties were unfounded. I learned that when in Mexico you should always order the tortilla soup. And I learned that, for recovering workaholics like me, a sabbatical is truly a lifeline. Here’s why:

First, it amplifies the whispers. A few years back, Pastor Ken Groen shared this revolutionary advice with me: “Urgent things shout, important things whisper. Listen to the whispers.” You know the experience: Something pops up—an unexpected deadline or an angry email from a client—and it somehow drowns out everything else. Urgent things are loud. They demand your attention and steal focus from more significant priorities.

It’s only when we pause and pay attention that a voice whispers from the stillness: “Maybe you should call your dad.” “It’s a beautiful day for a walk.” “Playing dinosaur toys on the floor with your daughter is the more important thing to do.” “Maybe instead of worrying, you should pause to pray.” In a noisy world, those whispers often escape us. A sabbatical helps still the noise and reconnect us to what really matters.

Second, it reduces the rush. When is the last time you weren’t in a hurry? Really think about it. When? The trouble is that scarcity makes us stingy. When we constantly feel rushed, we become greedy with our time and tend to shortchange those who deserve it most. We start to treat the most important people in our lives like items on a task list. Quality time with a spouse? Check. Weekly phone call with a parent? Check.

A sabbatical turns that around. With all the rushing reduced, I was able to offer my family the rare gift of unpressured time. Some of my favorite moments from the trip were deliciously unhurried: a lazy afternoon visit with my Italian grandmother, listening to her stories; hours in the sand building moats and castles with my adorable nieces; a rambling talk with my sister over glasses of red wine into the wee hours of the morning. A sabbatical allows you to not only hear the whispers but act on them.

Third, it restores the joy. This sabbatical was a wonderful adventure. So it may surprise you that one of the best parts was coming home. True, my gypsy heart adored new flavors and cultures on new shores. It even loved twenty-six straight days of living out of a suitcase. But absence really does make the heart grow fonder.

The time away lent a certain magic to the mundane. It felt like a privilege to be back home, cooking a meal in my own kitchen or using my own washing machine to tackle that mountain of laundry.

That novelty carried over to work, too. After a month away, my creativity was recharged and I felt ready to tackle anything.

Reconnecting with my team members was a blast. Even opening Slack gave me a little thrill. Not to mention that my work comes easier (and, according to my team, has gotten better) since I’ve been back. Time away on a sabbatical restores joy to your everyday activities.

It’s possible—and worth it

I’m grateful to work for a company that prioritizes sabbaticals. A month to decompress added more value to my life than I could’ve dreamed. I’m aware it’s a rarity, though. For those who are thinking, “That sounds great, but not all of us work for Michael Hyatt”—I get it. Most corporate cultures aren’t conducive to a whole month away. And for solopreneurs or consultants, time truly equals money.

But before you relegate sabbaticals into the realm of daydreams (right next to winning the lottery or pasta suddenly becoming the world’s healthiest food), let me offer you the same two questions Michael asked us.

First, what would a sabbatical make possible for you? As Michael would say, vision precedes strategy. So dream a bit and imagine what a month of recharging could do for your life and business.

Next, what would have to be true in order for you to take a sabbatical? Would you have to rearrange your consulting schedule or generate a certain amount of revenue? Getting clear on the hurdles is the first step toward conquering them. And if a month still feels impossible, try starting with two weeks.

The bottom line is this: You only have one self. Imagine how much mightier that self would be if you gave it a month to recharge. A sabbatical is possible, and it's definitely worth it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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