After becoming a successful entrepreneur, DJ DiDonna found himself burnt out. He decided to take a sabbatical. His life took a 180 after he lived internationally, traveled, wrote his first song, and spent time with family. Since then, DJ has made it his mission to educate others on how to do the same and help companies implement sabbatical policies through his work with The Sabbatical Project.
During our convo he gave tips on the best times to take a sabbatical, how to plan financially, and how to approach your management about paid leave. Get ready to learn about all things sabbatical. And don’t worry, I’ll send you the notes on future conversations if you’d like – sign up here.
I have to admit, DJ is the first person I know who has taken a sabbatical. I wondered if the need for sabbaticals is a result of burn out. Would we need them if we had the work-life balance we talk about?
DJ explained that sabbaticals aren’t usually publicized because people fear backlash. But, the pandemic has allowed us to say, ‘I’m taking time off for me and that’s enough, I don’t have to justify it.’
You may be saying, ‘Ok, Kim. Sounds interesting, but how will I pay for this?’
Fun fact: one in seven companies in the states have a sabbatical policy! Some companies even give special dispensation to high performers.
Use DJ’s tips when talking to an employer about a paid sabbatical:
If your company isn’t willing to give a paid leave, start with a 5-year savings plan. Work your numbers to figure out how you can be prepared for your sabbatical.
I was curious to know if there is an average sabbatical length. DJ says 6 months is universally sufficient.
“If you take just a month off you’ll think, ‘That was incredible, man that time flew by. No one noticed I was gone, and I didn’t get to do 90% of things I wanted to.’ An extended leave, that’s more than a vacation, is the gateway drug to realizing life is more than work,” he explained.
Imagine going into a meeting with red sneakers and a hoodie while everyone else is wearing suits. You’re sending the message that you won’t conform, but the key is doing excellent work so the crowd will judge you on that instead.
The same theory applies when negotiating a sabbatical with your company. You have to be a high performer in order to ask things of your employer. Show up confidently with your results, not just your words.
DJ shared that Clay Christensen has a great example of this in his book How Will You Measure Your Life.
I was curious to know if DJ thought sabbaticals would take the pressure off ‘The Great Resignation’ currently happening.
“Yes, there’s a portion of people who if they had regular time off to regroup would stay at their jobs. But there’s also a backlog of people who are already burnt out, and if given the option, would definitely leave to find something they believe is better,” he shared.
Building a strong network to support you through life’s pivots, sabbaticals and resignations included, is my number one career tip. Supercharge your networking through LinkedIn and my Career Capital Course to get started.
Before a baby, before marriage, during a gap year, as an empty nester, and when your kids are old enough for an international trip are examples of golden times for sabbaticals according to DJ. He explained we should honor the moments when we can do what we want before a big life change.
Homework: Everyday during the next work week write things you’d like to do before you die. Then, set quarterly calendar reminders for the next two years to look back at the list, think about how you’ll do them and what your life would be like if you did.
If you’re thinking “yeah Kim a sabbatical sounds great but financially I’ll never be able to swing that.” I totally understand. Before you write a sabbatical off though I want to invite you to sit with Codie and me next week to talk about financial freedom. Codie has all the latest tips on investing, business and thinking outside the box on ways to earn some extra income.
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