Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break

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I oversaw 40 plants around the world and employees reported to me. I loved my job, but I was constantly traveling, which meant I had no time to do volunteer work, which is very important to me. I decided to leave my job. I couldn't have had a better job, but I also knew there were other things I wanted to do in life. I lived on a plane but I never got to see the places I went.

A: At age 50, I started to plan for a career break at But my company moved its headquarters when I was 53, so I moved up my plans by two years. I recommend that people schedule time — say, four hours a week — to do some planning. This might involve surfing the web to look for cooking schools or researching places you want to visit or writing emails to track down old friends. I paid off my mortgage at a relatively young age. I have only had one car. I deliberately lived frugally so I could take time off if I ever wanted to.

A few years before my career break, I started to set aside money to fund my time off. There are ways to hold costs down during sabbaticals.

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If you want to travel, for example, you can do a house swap. I know people who have lectured on cruises and one person who drove someone's car across the country. If you announce to people that you are going to take time off, you can ask them to contribute to your sabbatical fund in lieu of Christmas and birthday presents. A: I did lots of dreaming about places where I wanted to travel.

Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career and Life by Taking a Break

I read a lot of books and called friends who had switched from the corporate world to the not-for-profit world. I determined that I didn't want to work full-time for a nonprofit and could add more value if I served on a board. I started looking at not-for-profit boards. Before leaving my company, I chose to get involved in Pro Mujer International, a nonprofit that makes microloans and provides health services to Latin American women.

This gave me an anchor for my gap period. Still, we tell people not to book up too much of their time. There is no right answer, but don't over-plan.


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Leave some time for things to unfold. I say this because during a gap year, you can rediscover yourself. Many of us have been working since we were 16 or 18 years old. We work insane hours. We rarely get to take more than two weeks off at a time. For the same reason, we encourage people to put limits on how much time they spend on their iPhones and other devices.

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When I took my first sabbatical, I had email withdrawal. I went from emails a day to nothing. It felt like something had been taken away from me. Then I learned that if I go on email once a day instead of 20 times, it's OK. It is important not to be plugged in all the time so you can do some contemplating, the way artists do.

Reboot Your Life: Energize Your Career & Life by Taking a Break

A: When I left the company, I went away to my summer place in the Berkshires and did very little. For four months, I had downtime. I was by myself and deliberately didn't invite many friends to come stay. I wrote in a journal every day.

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I did what I call an artist's day once a week. That involved going to a museum or taking a walk or doing something artistic or creative. I read a lot. I did some gardening, hiking, and cooking.

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I sat on the porch and went to local places I had never been to [because] I was always too busy. It felt like vacation. I played tennis and golf and did yoga. I nurtured myself. I also did a lot of thinking. I determined that what I wanted was a portfolio career that would be roughly one-third not-for-profit work, one-third corporate board work to pay the bills, and one-third fun, including a lot of travel. I decided I wanted to join one more board.

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The one I joined is called Healthcare Chaplaincy, which trains multi-faith chaplains for many hospitals in New York City. I also did a lot of volunteer work. I volunteered at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market to train artists from around the world on how to achieve greater commercial success. The boards I am on meet four times a year, which gives me the ability to work and live anywhere.

That was another priority for me. I traveled extensively and still do. I sat at a table with three other women who have turned into my business partners. It was serendipity but it turned out we all had either had taken time off or were thinking about it. We kept in touch and got together at the same conference a year later. We realized it was really lonely out there for people who decide to take career breaks.

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We decided to write a book about sabbaticals. We ended up interviewing a couple hundred people for our research.


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  • The book includes real-life stories and exercises to help the reader figure out how to plan for and take a sabbatical, or how to use unexpected time off. Your Career and Life by Taking a Break. Metalwork for Craftsmen. Funny Cide. Crackle Glass Too : s Live and Work in Scandinavia.



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