Simple Steps to Plan a Summer Sabbatical

5 Simple Steps to Plan a Summer Sabbatical

In the end, you are not a renewable resource. You can burn yourself so far down, you have nothing left to burn.

Do things that will renew you. Take a day. Take a week. But take a sabbatical. Everyone you know will thank you.

Sabbatical comes from the term “sabbath.” The Israelites were told in the fourth commandment:

“Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.”

On the seventh day of the week, they were to restrain from work of any kind. They were to stop their labor. Be still. Worship. Reflect.

The Sabbath is becoming popular again. Many productive people in Silicon Valley are adopting the Internet Sabbath. (Some call it a digital sabbath.) “Black hole” resorts are becoming a fad. When you check into the hotel, you check your smartphone at the desk.  (Some even block all Internet signals)

The dictionary defines sabbatical as:

”A period of paid leave granted to a college teacher for study or travel, traditionally every seventh year.”

Do things that will renew you. Take a day. Take a week. But take a sabbatical. Everyone you know will thank you.


A Heart Cry for Stillness

Last summer was too busy. At the end of last summer, I looked at my son and realized that he had grown, and I hadn’t been there to see it. This summer, I'm taking a different approach. (See 8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Plan Your Summer Calendar to see if you need a sabbatical too.)

No matter your career, there are times you need to prepare yourself as a person. What if we have our mind, body, soul all healthy and ready to achieve?

How Plan for a Sabbatical

Sabbaticals don't have to be a long period, but they can be. Here's how I've approached mine.

STEP 1: Plan Your Calendar in Pencil

As you plan your summer, put everything on your calendar in pencil.

Look at your plans. Notice your physical reaction to your schedule. When I'm upset, I feel it. Dread feels like little bumblebees flying just at the top of my stomach. I can handle the stress. But if I feel those “bumblebees” about mundane things, I scale back. What is your physical reaction to what you've planned?

What is your physical response to what you've planned?

STEP 2: Reevaluate, Reschedule, and Remove

If you have realized you need sabbatical time, reevaluate everything.

  • What can you reschedule?
  • What can you remove?
  • Can you back away from anything to give yourself some time?

Erase and move things around. It is OK. What is not OK is canceling a commitment at the last minute.

STEP 3: Plan “SD” Days

I put the initials “SD” on my calendar on my “sabbatical days”. These are days with no appointments. Nothing to do. These aren’t days that I just sit and watch past episodes of Blue Bloods. On SD's, I:

  • Read what I want.
  • Write whatever I want.
  • Spend time with family.
  • Spend time thinking with pen in hand.
  • Don’t check email.
  • Get off social media.
  • Put the phone in airplane mode.

For me, SD days are not Netflix marathons. I do watch videos sometimes. This summer, I am re-watching a fantastic leadership series by my pastor, Michael Catt. But even just buying a new pen and a blank piece of paper can be restorative to me. I’ll doodle, sketch note, and ponder things. I’ll write about things shooting between my neurons. I’ll sit down at the piano and play music and sing. I might pull out Les Miserables and sing along as I wash dishes. Sabbatical days can look like anything, but they should be restorative.

Use SD's to restore. What things revive you? Reading, exercise, eating healthy foods, stillness, or thinking? Drinking lots of water? Family time? Singing? Working in the garden? Sewing? What heals your soul and helps your heart beat a little stronger the next day?

STEP 4: Stop Talking About Work

If you go on vacation and take your psycho-baggage with you, you've ruined your relaxation. You can't leave yourself at home, but you can choose to leave behind your negative thoughts. If you go on a guilt trip, you have to pack your own bags. The same is true for ego-trips and stress-trips.

Last week after I got out of school, I told my husband,

“I just don’t know how I’m going to go back to school in the Fall.”

And Kip says to me,

“Why don’t you wait and see, this is only your third day out! It would help if you would take a break from school in your mind – it is all you talk about.”

I have periods of time when I ask my family to help me stop talking about school. Now is the time. I do have a budget due next week, but I can handle that Monday. Meanwhile, I’m on a word budget about school. Kip and I agree how much I can bring it up — sometimes not at all.

STEP 5: Be

There are times to be and not do. Say:

“OK, me, no pressure – you are off work today. Just be.”

Take Time to Be Kind…to Yourself

Happy Summer Sabbatical, friends. I will miss you at ISTE and all the events this year, but while I miss you, I won’t miss me. And that, dear friends, is a person none of us can afford to lose. For as it says in the Bible,

“What gaineth a man if he gaineth the world and loses his own soul.”

[reminder]Have you ever taken a sabbatical? What works for you?[/reminder]


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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Liz Phillips June 6, 2015 - 7:51 pm

I won a trip to England–a prize for teaching excellence! Even that was all about work because I turned the trip into a research adventure for curriculum design (like a novelist doing on-site research for a manuscript). That could have been a sabbatical, but it wasn’t. To answer you question, I have never taken a real sabbitical. I had my first official summer day yesterday, and today I am blue because I will not be in my middle school greeting students next week or for many weeks to come. I got your tweet and went right to your blog. I am in serious straits! Tossed the calendar because of all the pen marks. Looked things over and saw only 20 “off” days including weekends in June and July. I followed your advice and used pencil. Maybe it was fear of an empty nest, but I have cleared weeks! I am teaching one week of scholars camp for middlers, one week of writing workshop for teachers, and presenting twice at a literacy conference. SB days to visit my grown daughters, to garden, to work on a novel, and to reacquaint myself with egg tempera And water colors. I will go to my classroom only once a week and design curriculum once a week. Social media blackout? Gosh, what if I had done that today or yesterday and not seen your tweet?? One step at a time. Thanks for setting me straight.

Vicki Davis June 7, 2015 - 6:28 pm

Wow, Liz. What a crazy schedule! I’m struggling with getting off social media but put up my phone for a good 10 hours today. We tubed down a river and I just hung out with my parents and read a book. I’ve overscheduled myself every single summer for years – since I’ve been teaching. I’m done. I’m doing this now and will see if I am rejuvinated in the fall. I’ll be interested to see how you and I turn out this summer! ;-) Someone on Twitter today sent this to their friends and hashtagged it #typeateacher – I laughed. There are so many of us But I do think it is time that many of us try to be human beings instead of human doings. Thanks for being so transparent.

Karyn June 7, 2015 - 9:32 am

I spend the summers with family and at our neighborhood pool.

Vicki Davis June 7, 2015 - 6:29 pm

That sounds awesome, Karyn. May I come? ;-)

Teresa June 8, 2015 - 9:58 am

I needed this post!! Planning my summer calendar today, I will mark MANY SD days!! I deactivated my Facebook for the summer, and I will reduce Twitter usage to 3-4 times per week. I have three kids that need me. Grad school is done, so this is the summer to recharge!

Vicki Davis June 9, 2015 - 11:20 pm

How do you deactivate Facebook for the summer? I’m so curious!

Christie Riegelhaupt June 9, 2015 - 8:51 am

Thank for for this! This is my word of the next year — “Sabbath”. Taking days to recharge, think and just be. We so need this today!

Vicki Davis June 9, 2015 - 11:21 pm

I agree Christie! It is so hard to put things down and be still. I’m going to do this as I raft tomorrow.

DP June 16, 2015 - 11:58 am

It was great to see that I need time to recharge. My summer is filling up so quickly. I need downtime too. Thanks for saying that.

Kathleen June 18, 2015 - 5:59 pm

Every other summer, I take a camping trip across the country on my way to a conference. In 2012 I went from Maryland to San Diego for the ISTE conference and tent-camped most of the way. My sister flew out to meet me and we toured Southern California and drove up the coast to San Fransisco.
In 2014 I drove out to Vegas. Next year, I don’t know where I will go. I love going to sleep under the stars and waking up to a new dawn. I love having the time in the car to think, sing, or listen to a book. I love stopping to see the restaurant shaped like a coffee pot or the worlds largest ball of twine.
Solo travel is wonderful way to recharge and get back in touch with yourself.


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Vicki Davis writes The Cool Cat Teacher Blog for classroom teachers everywhere