Why You Need a Reboot Break

Why You Need a Reboot Break

Why You Need a Reboot Break

By Rita Foley

You’re admired for your work, your boss likes you and you feel respected by your peers. You consider yourself lucky to have a job in this economy, but inside you’re yearning for a break. How do you take time away from work while keeping your career on track?

I’ve taken sabbaticals where I’ve returned to the same workplace and others where I’ve used my “reboot break” to change careers. Each time, I came back a better employee, leader, wife and mother – and a happier person.

Taking a sabbatical will do many things for you, from renewing and reinvigorating your life and career, to reprioritizing what is important to you, to helping you better balance your life. Don’t be surprised if, as the burnout fades, your perspective changes about your employer and your work. You may decide staying right where you are is the best thing for you, and all it took was a break.

For the past four years, my co-authors of the book Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break and I have interviewed more than 200 people who have taken sabbaticals. They too, say that they returned to work more enhanced.

We also researched over 100 organizations that offer formal sabbatical programs. Twenty-one of Fortune’s 2011 “Top Companies to Work For” offer fully paid-for sabbaticals. Here’s how you can take time off from work when there’s no formal program at your workplace:

1. Start by giving yourself permission – Did you recharge your cell phone yesterday? What about your laptop? Have you taken your car in for a check up lately? When was the last time you took time to recharge your battery? Think of this not as ‘time off’ but as ‘time on’…investing in one of your company’s most important assets – you!

2. Plan well in advance – Believe it or not, planning for a reboot break can be as much fun as the break itself. Cathy, one of our interviewees, built into her schedule three hours a week to research options for her sabbatical. She says it was always one of the highlights of her week. The dreaming and planning was as much fun as her six months of traveling around Asia. The one thing that sabbatical takers told us they would have done differently was to plan more and earlier. One person finally went on his dream trip to Italy. Once there, he realized he wanted to enroll in a cooking school but it was full. You can even involve your family, children and friends in the planning.

3. Create a sabbatical savings fund – Beth, another woman we interviewed, did just that. She planned a full year in advance for her yearlong sabbatical traveling across the country with her husband and children in an old school bus that they had retrofitted. Before the trip, they had fun sitting around the table over a huge map choosing places they wanted to visit. Beth told her children they would each have to create a job so that they would have their own money to spend. They researched and created jobs, like lawn mowing, baby-sitting and catering businesses. It was fun, and the activity itself served as useful lessons for the children.

4. Get creative – To start saving for the trip, you can ask family and friends to contribute to your sabbatical fund in lieu of gifts for birthdays or holidays. You can also ask your employer to start withholding a percentage of your pay now so that they can then use that money to pay you while you’re on your reboot break. Other examples include renting out your home, guest lecturing on a cruise ship, working as a travel companion or teaching English as a second language. You can also save money while you are away. Sell your car or park it and cancel the insurance temporarily, Stop your cable service and cancel club fees temporarily. Explore ways to entertain yourself that are free while you are at home or on travel.

5. Write the announcement for your boss – Make it easy for your boss. When you go in to request the time off, have a recommendation of how your work will be covered and by whom. Make this decision as easy as possible by having the announcement that your boss will send already written.

6. Use your time wisely – As part of your break, unplug from the office and clients. Tell them ahead of time when you’re going and returning, but don’t stay tied to the office. (AARP actually requires their employees to unplug during their one-month paid sabbaticals.) Simplify your life so your load is lightened both financially and psychologically. The concept applies to packing light when traveling, to reducing the dependence on material things, to focusing on personal growth.

7. Live the lifelong sabbatical – Why would we take time off from work for a sabbatical if we didn’t expect it to somehow change our lives in the long run? To keep the benefits of your sabbatical part of your everyday life, schedule in every day, week and month, time for yourself by noting it in your calendar just as you would a business or doctor’s appointment. I started playing tennis on one of my sabbaticals. When I returned to work I asked my secretary that unless I was traveling to never schedule appointments on Fridays before 10am. My weekly tennis clinic was sacrosanct. I also picked up yoga on my reboot break.

8. Stick with it – Practice saying “no” to things you really don’t want to do.  Start by saying “I’ll get back to you” instead of “yes” and then get back the next day with an answer. Plan longer weekends and evenings out with friends and family. Plan longer vacations, for at least two weeks, and try to make them “mini-sabbaticals.” Pack light, both physically and mentally by doing one thing at a time, carrying less on trips, leaving “baggage” behind. Try to do one small thing new, take one small risk, each week. It can be cooking a new food, walking a new way to work, or trying a new sport. Expand your horizons!

Rita Foley is a co-author of Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break. She is also a corporate director and retired Fortune 500 Global President.

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