As I wrote in my year-end recap, the biggest change I implemented to my work-life balance (for lack of a better name), is the Seventh Week Sabbatical. In case you’re not familiar with it, I first wrote about in my 2021 recap and then followed that up with the first two posts in this 3-part series:
Reading at least Part 1 will give you a sense of what the Seventh Week Sabbatical (SWS) is and why I decided to implement it. So now that I’ve done a full year of the SWS, the big questions are:
- Was it worth it?
- How did it impact my business?
- And will I continue to do it?
Was it worth it?
The short answer is a big, fat YES. It was very good for me. I was unsure about it in the beginning as I wasn’t sure how taking that much time off would impact my business. It made me uncomfortable. But it didn’t take long to get used to them and there were a few times during 2022 where I really needed the week-long break.
If you’ve read my other posts on SWS then you’ll be familiar with the idea that the week should be completely devoid of any scheduled activities, especially work-related ones. There are exceptions like doctor appointments and the like, at least in my opinion, but for the most part, you head into the week with absolutely nothing planned. The key word here is “planned”. You can certainly work on stuff, but it should come naturally because you just happen to feel like doing it in a given moment, not because you planned for it on a Tuesday.
Admittedly, going into a week without having anything planned was a little overwhelming at first because all of a sudden I had all this freedom to choose to do whatever I wanted, which included the option of doing nothing at all. There were a couple weeks where I did actually work on some personal or side projects. There were a couple of occasions where a client with a monthly support contract had an urgent issue while I was on my SWS. I just rolled with it all. And for the most part, I often disconnected from work entirely which left me feeling refreshed and looking forward to work again the next week.
So again, yes, it was absolutely worth it.
How did it impact my business?
First, let’s take a look at how much time I actually took off. There were six weeks that were planned SWS weeks in 2022. Then there were major holidays here in the US that I also took off, such as MLK Day, July 4, Labor Day, etc. And last, but not least, I also took off a day here and there for travel purposes. Adding those all up, my best guess is that I had close to eight weeks off in 2022. Roughly two months off in a year. For most Americans that sounds insane and impossible. And, because we’re so used to not having much time off, the “natural” inclination is to think that my business, or at least my productivity, took a major hit.
Turns out, the negative impact on my business was zero. Not only did I not lose revenue, I actually surpassed my revenue goal for 2022 and ended up with my best year ever breaking a major milestone.
I also did not lose clients. I believe this came down to communication. I made it a point to provide a notice of when I’d be out as far ahead of time as possible without getting lost in the shuffle of every day work. Additionally, I have a process in place for addressing truly urgent issues for clients with a monthly support plan when I know I won't be in the studio. Part of it is making it crystal clear what is considered urgent and the other part is providing a way for them to reach me on the off-chance an urgent issue does come up while I’m away.
On a personal level, the negative impact was also zero. The time off I had was at just the right pace so that while I was working I could just focus and try to get stuff done while looking forward to a week off. And when I was off, it was nice to just not think about work. The break provided the right amount of time away from work that I would look forward to getting back to it. Perhaps as an unintended bonus, work time felt much more intentional than before.
That all said, I’m not going to pretend like everything was rainbows and unicorns. I had a couple of challenging projects and a couple of project with fixed/hard deadlines that required me (and my team) to step things up. That did result in me working longer hours than I would’ve liked from time to time, especially in the latter part of the third quarter. But I think that’s also normal in this type of work. Sometimes you just have to put in a little more time than you’d like. I’m okay with that so long as it isn’t and doesn’t ever become the norm. And let's not forget those days where things are just rough for one reason or another. Those days just happen sometimes and you gotta roll with it.
Will I stick with it?
Yes, absolutely. The positives just outweigh the negatives. Combined with other tools and methods I use for staying productive (such as time blocking, task management, project management, etc.), the Seventh Week Sabbatical helps keep my life balanced, which in turn just makes me do better work and be better outside of work.