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Is Taking a Sabbatical a Good Idea? How My Sabbatical Has Almost Gone Wrong

Sabbatical is definitely worth trying. However, there are things that should be taken care of, in advance if you want to take most of your sabbatical.
Is Taking a Sabbatical a Good Idea? How My Sabbatical Has Almost Gone Wrong

Sabbatical is definitely worth trying. However, there are things that should be taken care of, in advance if you want to take most of your sabbatical. Plan first what you would do and only then leave.

Why I Decided to Take a Short Sabbatical

Three tough years

Though freelance is usually referred to as a relax-mode part-time way of doing a job, in my case it has always been almost full-time and often even tenser than any full-time.

Frankly, I worked without any break and got a little bit tired during the last three years.

In fact, I had only 1 month of a so-called "break" when I was looking for a suitable project. And I also had a month of a not very loaded working time. That's pretty much it.

I took short vacations regularly, but it has always been just a short breath between deep dives.

When I used to have short-term ~4 months projects at the beginning of my freelance career, there was usually a time buffer between them, allowing me to complete all outstanding non-work-related tasks.

My latest project has been more than 1,5 years of super tough continuous development that was quite exhausting.

I Let My Work Take Over My Life

I feel bad about my time management, multitasking, and ability to switch between contexts. As the result, I dropped a lot of essential things and tasks related to my health, life in general, sports, relations, and housekeeping.

All in favor of work.

I will never forget that Sunday evening when I didn't manage to find time to meet with my Dad, being too busy at work. Two days before his sudden death...

I've disregarded my weakened eyesight, my broken car, and all my plans for side projects, my blog, and open-source crafts.

Sabbatical Requires Careful Planning and Management

When my later project was finalized, I decided not to look for another project immediately, but spend time having a rest first, then finish all outstanding tasks and only then get back to work, fully refreshed.

Before going on sabbatical I had planned a ton of things: release the first version of Portfolius App, the release of a couple of open source things, finish several long articles for the blog, and a lot of non-work-related things.

Unexpectedly, it turned out that a sabbatical requires times more accurate planning and time management than my usual working time schedule.

Usually, when I work I try to stay in a single context at a time and switch contexts as rarely as possible.

My plans for sabbatical included a dozen of different unrelated contexts. Much more than I could bear with my time and task management tools.

I've Upgraded My Task And Time Management

Looking at my progress for the first several weeks I saw that my task And time management requires an urgent fix.

I tried and re-tried different productivity frameworks, task and time management tools, but I never did it systematically.

This time I took my notes, links, tasks, goals, and projects organized in a single place to be able to use it as a kind of my personal dashboard - control panel for all my processes.

I've picked Notion as a tool to handle all my stuff, spent a couple of days to set up my notion-dashboard-super tool and now I use it almost every day. Here is my tasks and project management template.


Mainly because of New Year and X-Mas holidays I decided to make my sabbatical a little longer. Initially, I planned roughly about 3 months for the sabbatical, but now I think that it will take one more month.  

What was done

  • Finally, I've managed to find time for ophthalmological research of my eyesight. Luckily it's not as bad as I used to think. I'll repeat it in a year and probably perform surgery.
  • I've performed all repairs to my car: maintenance is done. Furthermore, there were many small scratches, so I've repainted almost all the front of the car. The fenders, hood, and bumper are in perfect condition now.
  • I've finally finished all improvements and furnished my home office. Now it's an incredibly cozy and comfortable workspace.
  • I've had an amazing recovering two-weeks trip to Austria.
  • Started to post here regularly.
  • I'm still far from the release of Portfolius App, but at least I've managed to make things move forward.
  • Opensource crafts are also in progress. It turned out to be much more work there than I expected

Summarising all this I have to admit that nothing significant can be considered as done from what was initially planned. That all means that I've got a long way ahead. A way of teaching myself how to balance my work, life, other projects and activities.

Key Takeaways

I have to admit that the main takeaway is the following.

A sabbatical is not a way to wrap up all the outstanding tasks. It's more like a practice showing the weakest points in your work processes and allowing to understand that the whole approach should be different.