Blog #560 Sabbatical

Blog 560 Taking a work sabbatical

Okay, the blogs of the last two days – unplugged and the sabbatical manifesto – brought to thinking about the concept of a “Sabbatical”.  In today’s world, a “Sabbatical” is almost aligned with academics. Work for six years, take a semester off. But, I have also seen it in ministry as well – as ministry people take some time off for reflection. gives several ideas for sabbaticals:

-1 Shake things up.  I remember a cartoon poster.  A cartoon figure is in a long trench.  The figure says “Am I in the groove, or in a rut?”   Being in a groove can be good. A golfer who is in ‘the groove’ is really right on – each shot is precise; each putt is great.  Being in a work groove can result in efficiency and effectiveness. As a person does his or her work, they are solidly on track.  

But, being in a rut means you aren’t going anywhere.  You might be going around in circles. Think about a pony ride at a kiddies carnival.  The ponies walk around in a circle all day long. An attendant puts kids on and takes them off the ponies, who could care less about what they are doing.  Is that your life? Walking around in a circle, caring little about what you are doing? Every day is a repeat of the previous day.

A sabbatical can shake things up – give a new perspective – rest and refresh us.

-2 Sabbaticals can make a difference.  Some sabbaticals might involve working for charities or doing volunteer work – and can make a difference in others.  My previous dentist (thank you Bernie) took time off to go to third world countries and do dental work for free. A former graduate student (also in a health profession) went to the Philippines with medical teams.  Some people take ‘time off’ (sabbaticals) and do mission work in Haiti or other places. Others take time off to work on Habitat for Humanity or other charitable works.

-3 A sabbatical can help you gain experience and education.  Ministry people can go off to attend seminary events – or even to teach a class at the seminary.  For technical staff, a sabbatical can be used to learn new technologies. Is this the time to go learn about artificial intelligence – or SAP – or other technologies?  It also can be used to refresh one’s skills. The television show “Undercover Boss” shows executives going out in disguise and relearning the basic skills of their business and establishing rapport with low level employees – and learning how it is in the ‘trenches’!!

-4 Discover new cultures.  While I grew up in a WASP environment (I haven’t used that term in a long time – white anglo-saxon person), that world has changed.  A sabbatical can be a learning experience in diversity and understanding that we are different – that we are ‘all made in the image of God’ and that black, brown, yellow, green, purple, person is a human being as well.

-5 Get educated (see #3 above).  I requested a sabbatical (that was not approved) to learn about health information systems.  I envisioned additions to our curriculum in Health Information Management – as a great link between the health science professionals and the information systems / IT professionals.

-6 Improve your health.  Yesterday we talked of the ‘sabbath’ as a day of rest; today we are looking at a ‘sabbatical’ as longer period of rest.  Vacations are good, but there are times when a longer period of ‘time off’ might just be the refreshing that we need. At Quinnipiac University, the former President (John Lahey) took July off to refresh and recover.  He packed up a ‘suitcase’ of books to read (that he had been putting off reading); went away from most phone calls, most emails to relax and refresh. How about you – are you getting run down from work? Maybe a longer vacation (or sabbatical) can be that refreshing period to help you recover some health.

-7 And, finally this article from suggest that a sabbatical is better than quitting!!  Those everyday problems are gone, you can think and be refreshed. As an educator, June, July and August were my yearly sabbaticals.  In June, I KNEW that I never wanted to see another student again. By July, my brain started to turn on again, the new ideas started to emerge.  By August, I was almost ‘salivating’ to be back in the classroom again, with new ideas, new approaches, and a refreshed attitude.

As I’m writing I’m thinking about Dawn and Butch who took a sabbatical to move to Australia, enjoy a new culture, expose their children to the English language in a whole different way, and then after a year, return to the IT rat race!!   (And about Scott, who recently moved to a sailboat off San Diego!!)

So, how about you? Can your work allow you to take a sabbatical?  

Posted by Bruce White

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