How to Plan a Sabbatical

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Taking some time off is good for body and soul. Whether you tromp
through the Amazon rain forest, stay home to write a novel or just play
with your kids, you're taking a break from work to refresh yourself and
expand your horizons. Careful planning will make it easier to arrange
a sabbatical--and to return to work seamlessly.

  • Start laying the groundwork at least a year before you go on sabbatical. You may need that much time to arrange things at work and plan for your time off.

  • Do some soul-searching. Set up your sabbatical to investigate something you're passionate about--whether you want to take a class, explore all 50 states or build a school in rural Mexico (see 404 Build a School in a Third World Country).

  • Assess your practical needs (see 228 Design a Savings Plan). Once you set your baseline, you'll know how much time you can afford to take off. Find out whether you retain any pay.

  • Use your sabbatical for a positive purpose, not to avoid things you don't like. If you can't stand your job or your boss, these things won't get any better just because you're away from work for a few months. Instead, ask for new duties, apply for a transfer or try to get a different boss. See 167 Prepare for a Career Change.

  • Request your sabbatical, and present it in terms of how it will benefit you and your employer. A cookbook editor would gain tangible skills by attending a cooking school, while a health care worker could learn another language to better serve a multicultural population. Your sabbatical can also save money for the company, since they may not be paying you during that time.

  • Be flexible about the time frame--don't ask for six months off at the same time your company plans to launch an important project. Offer to train someone to cover your job while you're gone.

  • Find out whether you're guaranteed the same position when you return after your sabbatical. If you're not, ask whether you're entitled to equivalent work.

  • Schedule regular check-ins during your sabbatical--and leave a way your employer can get in touch with you. This will keep you up on major changes that may affect your job.

  • Stop in at work a few days before you report back to duty. Spend the time catching up with your boss and fellow workers.

  • Give yourself time to fit in when you return. Expect to prove yourself as if you were a newcomer when you return and be prepared to accept new faces and new ways of doing things. On the other hand, don't spend hours talking to colleagues about your time off. They won't enjoy it--and neither will the boss.

Tips & Warnings

  • Ask other people who have taken sabbaticals what to do and what to avoid.
  • Check out Lisa Rogak's Time Off From Work: Using Sabbaticals to Enhance Your Life While Keeping Your Career on Track for tips and ideas.
  • See 160 Go Back to Work After a Long Absence.
  • Some businesses offer paid sabbaticals. Find out how they work, and propose one to your boss.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to make arrangements or you'll waste precious time off.

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