Do You Need A Sabbatical?

Kyle Smith

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The concept of a sabbatical has nearly been lost in our modern culture. Our technology allows us to stay connected 24/7, and many of us can do our work anywhere there is an internet connection. As a result, we have forgotten how to rest.

Sabbaticals are still a reality in some academic settings. Likewise, some lucky pastors also get a sabbatical. But for most everyone else, a traditional sabbatical is a dream that will probably never happen. That’s why it’s important to find creative ways to take one.

What is a sabbatical?

Before we go any further, what is a sabbatical, exactly? The term itself is related to the concept of a Sabbath, or day or rest. The Sabbath happens once a week, and a sabbatical ideally happens once every few years.

For instance, my church in Troy gives our pastors a month-long sabbatical every five years. (Personally, I think it should be at least twice as long.) The purpose is to give them a chance to take an extended vacation, or just rest and relax.

Professors who teach in academic settings that grant sabbaticals are eligible for a semester-long (or even a year-long) break from their regular teaching duties. However, it’s not a vacation. The purpose is usually to give the prof the time and space to do research in his or her field.

The process can vary widely, but the purpose is the same: to give the person a break from regular duties so they can move the needle forward in their personal or professional lives.

Why I’m taking a sabbatical

Over the next couple of months, I’ll be taking a sabbatical from regular blogging and podcasting in order to do intensive work on my next book. I am also carrying a heavy teaching and administrative load this Fall at my college, and need extra time to prepare.

Over the next couple of months, I’ll also be refining my business direction and strategy. I’ll be honest–I’m not naturally a “business” thinker so this does not come naturally to me.

But I do know one thing for sure: I need to narrow my focus. I write mostly about creativity, but I need to narrow it more and have a clearer idea of who I’m writing for … in other words, my ideal reader.

I am currently reading Donald Miller’s excellent book, Building A StoryBrand, I was fortunate enough to get an advance reader’s copy, and it has been super helpful in forcing me to think about who my ideal “customer” is (i.e. reader/audience), and what problems I’m solving for them.

After a lot of thought, and some fantastic input from my awesome wife, I’ve narrowed down my focus to this:

I help overwhelmed and distracted artists be more productive so they can live out their creative calling.

The biggest problem I see with writers, creatives, and artists of all kinds is that they have great ideas and goals, but they lack the systems and the proper mindset to make those ideas and goals a reality. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I am passionate about the value of systems and processes in achieving your dreams. You’ll hear more about this in the months to come.

Do you need a sabbatical?

Back to the headline of this post: “Do you need a sabbatical?” I’d encourage you to think about that as it relates to your own creative work.

If things aren’t going like you want, maybe it’s time to push the pause button for a bit and figure things out. It’s much better to stop and clarify your direction than it is to keep doing something that may not be working. That’s a tough lesson to learn, but an important one.

But it’s not just about the work. It’s also about your quality of life. You can’t keep pushing, pushing, pushing with no break in sight. We artists and creatives are prone to burning ourselves out because we’re so passionate about our work.

But what happens when you burn the candle at both ends? Eventually, you go down in flames.

There’s an old saying that goes, “I’d rather burn out that rust out.” I’ve always thought that was a stupid way to approach life. Either way, you’re out!

Burning out and rusting out aren’t your only two options. There is a third way, which is called “taking care of yourself.”

I hope this summer, you will find ways to take care of yourself. It might mean putting your creative work on hold for a while so you can pay more attention to your family. It might mean shutting down your blog or podcast for a couple of months. It might mean saying “no” to more people, more often.

The world will not stop turning if you say “no.” The internet will not shut down if you don’t post for a while. Twitterbook, Facechat, and Pinstagram will still be there when you get back.

It doesn’t mean you don’t value your commitments or you hate social media. It just means that you have a limited amount of time, energy, and attention. So use them wisely.

I hope you’ll take these words to heart. The best gift you can give to yourself and the world is a healthy, refreshed, and focused self.

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I write about writing, productivity, and creativity.

St. Louis, MO

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