Don’t let the wide open schedules of a sabbatical or leave go to waste. Find out how to approach this time to get the most out of it!

It’s something we all dream about—a sabbatical or research leave when you can spend all your time writing. Then you’ll really be productive!

But ask anyone who has actually taken a sabbatical and you’ll soon discover that the big blocks of time that you’ve been craving can actually make you feel more guilty and less productive than you feel in a regular semester. 

The solution is to get very clear on your priorities, plan and prepare well. Here are 3 things to do to get set up well and stay the course.

 

1. Clear the Decks

You may be tempted to keep outside projects and responsibilities because you will have “so much time”, but this is a mistake! A sabbatical is meant to be a time to step back from regular duties to allow deep thinking on your chosen project. That is very hard to accomplish if one foot is still in the world of your day-to-day duties. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Get very clear on what your focus will be (what is in your proposal?)
  • Remove yourself from every committee, project and commitment not related to your sabbatical project.
  • Set up boundaries to protect your time, like out-of-office notifications on your email and phone. This won’t make all of those communications go away, but it will help change others’ expectations for your response time and availability.

2. Create Structure

If you are thinking you can work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week on your project, let me assure you that is a complete misconception. If you try to do too much at once, it will backfire, and you’ll be sure to lose focus, energy, and productivity. But you do want to have a plan! Here is what I suggest for structure:

  • Plan to take one extra day off: 4 days of work, 3 days off. Choose whichever day of the week you want, but commit to it. It can be some extra time to rest and connect with family, and it can also be a place to schedule all that “life” stuff like Dr. visits so that it doesn’t derail your work days.
  • It just doesn’t work to create well for 8 hours at a time. So, plan to work during soar sessions that are no more than 4 hours long. (Remember: soar sessions are times that you are in your own highly focused and energized soar state, or are writing in community to get that boost.)
  • Rest. Plan it in and don’t neglect it! You are doing deep, critical thinking during this time to bring something new into the world. The create-restore cycle gets lopsided if you try to create for many more hours than you restore. Find something you find relaxing and restorative, and plan on doing it.

“You need to ramp up restoration if you’re expecting yourself to ramp up creation.” -Cathy Mazak

3. Stay on Course

Remember, this sabbatical is for you. It’s a time to work on something important, that matters for you. So, enjoy it! Don’t feel bad about reveling in this time. Don’t let yourself be drawn off course. If something comes up that you have to deal with (a revise and resubmit that gets you to publication, for example), don’t let it derail you. 

  • Consider using a sprint.  A writing spring is a two week period where you go all in on a project, using your soar sessions everyday for only that project. Use that sprint to get that other item off your plate as soon as possible.
  • Whenever you can, approximate working on one thing at a time. This is good advice for any time, but especially during a sabbatical or leave. Most of that time it’s going to be your sabbatical project, but if something unavoidable comes up, turn to that for a short time if possible, then come back with focus. 

 

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Navigate: A writing roadmap for academics who want to use writing to create the careers they want. This program is for academics at any stage of their career who want to push back against overwhelm and make writing a priority. Navigate will open for enrollment in the first week of May 2021. 

Momentum: Momentum is always open for enrollment for academics at any stage, from graduate student to post-tenure professor. We’ve expanded the program to include more scheduled co-writing sessions to support you in the new year. We also have a weekly 30 minute “momentum mindset” meeting to start your week off right.

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Pulled in a thousand directions and can’t seem to carve out time to write? Download my   10 Ways to Make Time to Write cheat sheet for ideas to implement today!

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