A sabbatical every 7 years

There’s an interesting TED talk by Stefan Sagmeister called The Power of Time Off.

(click here if you can’t see this video – as it is embedded in flash)

He closes his design studio every seven years and takes a sabbatical and by doing this, he actually increases his productivity, rejuvenates his interest in his work, and improves the overall quality of both his life and work.

I’ve seen a number of people recently write or talk about the benefits of spending some of your retirement years now, when you can enjoy it more completely. Most of us will work full time for at least 40 years – from 25 to 65 (some of started earlier than that). So why not take five of your retirement years and insert them into the main part of your working life – taking a sabbatical every seven years and then retiring at 70 instead of at 65.

My Sabbatical

I can really relate to this session. In 2005, my wife and I took a sabbatical. We had been working such long hours and noticed that the months and years were flying by far too quickly. After lengthy discussions, we decided that the only way to truly break this pattern would be to do something drastic. Taking a year out of our lives seemed like a good start.

Our goal for the year was to travel and experience what it would be like to live in different countries. We spent two months travelling to Australia via South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. We then rented an apartment and lived in Sydney for three months after spending a month travelling down the east coast of Australia. We then went to the US via New Zealand, Chile, Argentina and Peru. We then spent five months in the States – living in an apartment in Dallas for a couple of months and then travelled around the western states and Canada. On our way home we went to Mexico with friends and then spent a couple of weeks in Barbados (to recover of course).

This year changed our lives. It changed the way we viewed work. It allowed us to recharge and appreciate the time we are given in a much more fulfilling way.

Those of you who are employed – are you planning to spend more than seven years with your current employer? Most people change jobs every 2-5 years anyway – and so why not plan your sabbatical around your changes in employment? If you are good, I am sure your existing employer would hire you back on your return – and they would be getting a more creative, more energetic, more relaxed version of yourself on your return.

An advance on your retirement

I really like this idea of taking a sabbatical every seven years and in particular, in thinking about this time as an advance on your retirement. Let’s face it, everyone will need to work longer from now on anyway – why not use some of that time when you are in a better position to enjoy it (financially and physically). Plus.. it’s now been seven years since my first sabbatical and I am starting to get the itch.