Sabbatical leave

There is plenty of information on the web about sabbaticals but most of the time the articles are too generic and/or with little detail. This article so far comprises some ideas I got from reading and some experiences I had so far.

Over the past years I grew substantially from research intern to team lead. I travelled and worked around Europe in small and big companies. I then decided to take a break and have self-funded Sabbatical to consolidate some of my own career path decisions and learn a few new skills.

I will be writing another post after my 6 month mark and analyse the results of my endeavours: what went wrong, what I should have done and so forth in order to ultimately provide a great article for people interested on extended leaves.

Why?

Sometimes I feel the decision about taking a time off should be explained in similar fashion as making a tattoo. Most people argue that if you are not sure what you want tattooed then you shouldn’t do it. I come to agree with the implications of this argument. Taking a time off for a sabbatical should be something you should do because you feel you NEED to do, not because you woke up one day and thought “maybe I should have one”. With this said it’s obviously important to have objectives / goals for your sabbatical.

My main goal for this leave is to prove to myself I can set up a product on my own and market it. Not that I feel unconfident about my skills, but I do feel it’s been about 3 years without actually developing a complete product and I feel I can do a lot better than last time.

Time

Deciding how long the sabbatical will be can be tricky, it depends on your objectives and how much you are willing to spend. This can be done as well during the next phase outlining the plan. Whatever your choices are be sure they are feasible and that you have either a time limit or at least a few milestones.

For my own sabbatical I decided to pick 6 months with one milestone at 3 months, first, because it was the most economically feasible for myself and second because I prefer to reassess and analyse my situation before committing to something bigger.

Outlining the plan

If you want to travel, become fit, start a business or any other reason you deem great to follow, now is the time. I decided to give a shot to Sort, Label, Integrate, Prioritize(SLIP)

[3] to help me manage my priorities:

Sort

Writing down priorities and rough grouping by topic.

Health Insurance
City hall registration
New tenant
Housing
Bank

Thailand
Prague
Madeira
Madrid

Peter’s birthday
Charles’ wedding

Apps
code & unicorns
Freelance
Piano
Ops & back-end

Visas
Vaccines

Label

Name the groups and rearrange to the needs.

Almost Done
New tenant
City hall registration
Health Insurance

Now
Housing
Vaccines
Visas

Near Future
Thailand
Prague
Bank

Far Future
Madeira
Madrid
Peter’s birthday
Charles’ wedding

On going
Freelance
Piano
code & unicorns

Research
Apps
Ops & back-end

Integrate

Eliminate similar groups and relabel.

Now
New tenant
Housing
Vaccines
Visas
Apps
City hall registration
Health insurance

Research
Ops & back-end
Piano
code & unicorns
Freelance

Near
Thailand
Prague
Bank

Far
Madeira
Madrid
Peter’s birthday
Charles’ wedding

Prioritize

Streamline priorities and relabel.

Focus
Vaccines
Visas
Apps
code & unicorns

Todo
New tenant
City hall registration
Ops & back-end
Piano
Freelance

Health Insurance
Housing
Thailand
Prague
Bank

Next
Madeira
Madrid
Peter’s birthday
Charles’ wedding

* People’s names are fictitious

The whole point why I decided to use SLIP was simply to try and think which objectives to focus first, the weird thing is that the result came together (almost completely) to what I had thought beforehand so I am not sure if I can call this a success or not, the method is a bit too vague in my opinion.

Handling bureaucracy

Best time to deal with banks, insurances and other forms of taxation is by starting early. This way you’ll have plenty of time to dodge the bullets and act appropriately.

Here are some of the things to look out in specific:

Base Registrations. Most countries in Europe require proof that a person is registered prior to allowing service. The proof can be for example town hall registration for living which in turn may require also a legal contract of lease. These can take months to cancel, be wary or plan returning to the city in the future to finish clear them.
Early Termination Fees(ETFs) are not frequent for services such as insurances and banks but can very well be common for services such as Internet subscriptions and telecom contracts in Europe. Be sure to know how long you have to be loyal to the contract and how long is the notice period.

My plan at the moment

I would say 5-7 objectives should be enough. More than this it becomes hard to plan accordingly [4]:

– Set Up a product involving mobile technologies and market it
– Expand my mobile skills by learning Swift / Objective-C
– Expand my back-end skills by setting up continuous integrated development and a scalable environment on my own
– Blog about my experiences and new skills
– Travel to Southeast Asia and meet other nomad entrepreneurs
– Refresh my musical skills on piano

Some $references that helped me plan my sabbatical:

1 – Joel Spolski on sabbaticals

2 – Stack Overflow on sabbaticals and career advancement

3 – The Laws of Simplicity

4 – Wiki – The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two

By |January 27th, 2015|Categories: ALL|

About the Author:

joaohrpereira@gmail.com'
Software engineer passionate about the web and mobile technologies. On my free time I usually read, code and travel.