This question is not academic for me. I have taken several sabbaticals, including a six-month sabbatical with my wife in Europe when I was between startups in 2001, a three-month sabbatical with my wife and two kids in Europe in 2007, and now we are about to launch into a one year sabbatical in Barcelona, Spain for the 2013-14 school year.
I also know many other people who have taken sabbaticals, anywhere from a month to a year. Some with kids, some without. Some rich, and some poor.
Sabbaticals are a paradox. To go into them with a to-do list of items to improve your life and career turns them simply into another form of work, one spent checking items off of a to-do list, or, more likely, feeling guilty that you aren’t checking those items off.
Sabbaticals are instead about unstructured time wandering and exploring without specific goals in mind. But (this is the paradox) this is often exactly what you need to improve your career. Simply getting away from your day-to-life can lead to:
- Appreciation – many things about your day to day life may be awesome as they are, but you need to get away from them to appreciate them. Each sabbatical I’ve taken has made me enthusiastic about coming back to my hometown (San Francisco) and rejoining the tech community, which I love.
- Realizing you need a change – or, the opposite can happen. If you dread returning to your normal life, that is a signal that you need a change. If you aren’t enthusiastic about your career even when you are most refreshed and recharged, you never will be again. Read more here: Forbes Leadership