What I Learned On My Sabbatical

What I Learned On My Sabbatical

This post isn’t necessarily going to be financial in nature. Well, in some respects, I guess you could say it would deal with my financial future because someday I would like to be financially independent. That independence would allow me to cut back on some of my duties at work that make me extra money. I am not saying that I will retire early (although that would be nice) but it will be nice to have greater freedom. I long for that day. The lessons from my sabbatical kind of play into having this extra time that I desire.

Lesson 1: Time Is The Most Precious Commodity We Have

When I was on sabbatical I had all kinds of time. I mean I could do what I wanted. I did structure my time somewhat, but a lot of it was unstructured and I fully admit that I didn’t like it. I have been so used to putting forward a heavily structured schedule that I struggled at first as to what to do with that time. I felt guilty when I wasn’t being productive (e.g. going to the gym). I still feel guilty about it today. When I veg out in front of the TV or don’t work I still feel guilty.

I saw a movie a couple of days ago and one of the characters said that “time is the most precious commodity in the universe.” When I reflected on that statement I realized that I need to start to value the fact that I veg out a bit. It is ok. The key thing, however, is that I create the time to do with what I want to do. I don’t want to be beholden to others. If I choose to spend three hours at the gym or watch a movie or whatever so be it.

Lesson 2: I Get Bored Easily

For whatever reason, I have always been pretty quick with my work. I can write fairly quickly, grade papers, get other work things done. I am not sure why, I just can do it fairly quickly. Maybe quicker than most. And because of that I have a bit more free time. Because I have a lot of structured time at work I don’t have time to really be bored. There is always something for me to do. I typically teach the equivalent of six classes, advising, writing for my next project, letters of recommendation, meetings, mentoring student research, etc. So my day is pretty full and while I complain about it sometimes I enjoy being busy. But during my sabbatical with not as many smaller things to do I found myself getting bored easily.

Perhaps that is why I didn’t finish my larger project. I focused on other things that could be done more quickly and seemed more interesting at the time. I did, I think, accomplish a lot on my sabbatical. I started a new book project, taught a course, wrote, revised and/or submitted three articles and a book chapter. Three of which will be published or were published. The other one was a revise and resubmit, which I haven’t been able to finish yet.

Maybe it is a grass is greener syndrome, but I need to be better at fixating on those longer-term projects, accomplishing them, and allowing that to take care of some my boredom. I need to figure out also how this would translate into me doing projects or work or something when we are financially independent. I just don’t think I would do well by sitting around all day.

Lesson 3: I Need To Be Social

A lot of academics love their sabbaticals because it gives them time to be alone where they can work on a larger project, recharge their batteries, travel, whatever it is. That is true for me as well I enjoyed it, but the most fun that I had was when I was social with others. During my sabbatical I traveled on a couple of occasions to a conference and to larger social gatherings regarding academia. I had a lot of fun in those environments. I realized I need people. I like people. I need to be social. That is when it seems I am at my best whether that is schmoozing, talking with others, having a drink with fellow colleagues and/or friends. I do best when I am in a social environment. That is why I taught a course to get out that isolation of sabbatical. To me it was a bit too isolating and I like to be social. (HInt: If anybody wants to be more social with me…I am in….well, after Mrs. ROB heals a bit more then we can all be social together).

Lesson 4: I Need To Take More Risk

I can be somewhat of a risk taker, but my idea of taking a risk is analyzing something over and over again and then coming to a decision. The object that I would be deciding on is the risky thing. For me, this blog was a risk. I talked about doing this for over a year and a half. I lurked and continue to lurk on personal finance blogs all the time and for whatever reason don’t participate. This was my way of participating in a conversation that a lot of people don’t talk about, but impacts all kinds of peoples lives.

I know that I have it a lot better than others and that I have a long way to go compared to other people. But one of the things that I have not done a good job about is taking a bit more risk in my life. I don’t know that really means. I think it is trying something new or breaking out of my comfort zone. For example, I write about a lot of the same subjects I have for the past 10 years. On the one hand that is great because I have a research agenda. I know what I am good at. I have become somewhat of an expert in that area. But I need to branch out more. Do more interesting and fun things. Figure out how to connect with others and work on other projects that I am unfamiliar with. Certainly, this blog is a bit of a risk because I don’t know, still to this day, what people think of it. If they think I am crazy, etc. But you know what, at some level I don’t care. This is my story. Not anyone else’s. It is my thoughts, feelings, etc. I hopefully don’t offend others. That is not my point. But I need to throw caution to the wind a bit more. Again, not sure what that means, but I do know that it is not a bad thing.

Lesson 5: I Really Like My Career

This maybe isn’t a lesson from my sabbatical, but I have to admit I really did miss teaching, interacting with colleagues, students, and others. Yes, I complain about some aspects of my job. A lot of those complaints I bring upon myself because I am the one that proposes to do the work. I don’t have to, but I do anyway. But the truth is I am person that likes to be needed. Maybe I am care-giver by nature or whatever. But when I would go into my office to get something and I would see people and they would say how much they miss me and can’t wait to come back I had a huge smile on my face. Maybe it is a bit of an ego thing, but it sure does feel nice to be needed and wanted. Again, my job isn’t perfect. There are a lot of things I would like to change. But all in all, I have colleagues who are my friends, good students, I get all kinds of travel opportunities, and I get paid to talk, which is something that I don’t stop doing anyways. I don’t know how long it will last (robots could replace me tomorrow) but I do know that I really like it and I missed it.

That is why I am probably a bit atypical with the early retirement, financially independent community. Lots of the blogs out there have people who can’t wait to retire when they are 30, 40, whatever. I want to be financially independent, which I hope to reach someday (50 is my goal), but I don’t know if I will ever truly “retire.” Which means to me that I quit my job and I do something else. If I could find something where I have more free-time, get to socialize, instruct, talk, etc then maybe I would (politician or consultant would be my ideas). But I really do love what I do. Maybe that will change when/if Mrs. ROB and I have a family (and we do want one). But I don’t think so.

These are the lessons off the top of my head. I enjoyed my sabbatical and if i am still teaching in seven years and get another one I think next time I will take a full year so that we could go somewhere abroad or another institution to teach, but that is a ways off. Until that time I need to learn what I have, appreciate what is front of me, and take some more risks in my life.

4 thoughts on “What I Learned On My Sabbatical

  1. Nice article, and I can definitely relate, especially to #2. Like you, I tend to be fairly quick with the things that I do and get bored or disinterested just as fast when pursuing a longer task, or even a longer term goal. To combat this, I have taken to breaking things down into much shorter accomplishments.

    For example, my ultimate goal is to retire by 40 in Sedona, AZ. To make this easier for me to manage, I have broken it down into its much more easily manageable parts, like budgeting every cent we send, reduce our car and home owners insurance rates, begin saving for a down payment on our Sedona town house…

    Whatever it is, break it down. Address each part with all of your energy. After all, I’ve found that it’s the little wins in life that keep people hunting for more.

    1. Thanks for the response Steve. And this is a really good strategy. It is actually something I do when I am writing my larger academic projects. I write things in pieces, but I haven’t necessarily done it when it comes to other small things. I make lists and love to cross things off, but it is the small things that get crossed off right away and the bigger items take longer when they shouldn’t. Perhaps, I start doing the pieces part with my larger projects.

      And as an aside I LOVE Sedona! There is something about the energy there that is great. Not sure I could live in the Southwest because of the heat, but Sedona is great (my brother lives in Las Vegas…so maybe someday). And little wins are psychologically proven to work. Thanks for reading!

  2. Mrs. Even Steven has talked about being an adjunct professor when we reach FI for many of the reasons you mention above, lots of opportunity to make a difference and be apart of a community…….with summers off;)

    1. She should definitely look into it and/or do it. I love teaching and I don’t think that I will ever quit, even when I reach FI. I just love being in the classroom. It keeps me rejuvenated. Summers off are nice, although I don’t think I have ever truly had one summer off. Someday…someday.

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