According to ABC news, Americans now work longer days than any other nation in the world.
There are countless statistics about employee burnout in the United States. For instance:
- In the U.S. 86% of males and 67% of females work more than 40 hours per week.
- More than 50% of U.S. employees feel overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.
- 70% of U.S. employees say they often dream of having a different job.
- 29% of employees said they often felt they had no time to reflect on their work.
- Employees don’t even have enough time each week to do personal activities, especially when 64% of managers expect employees to be reachable during that time!
The bottom line is that in the U.S. we definitely have an issue with work life balance. We as a culture work longer hours and take fewer breaks. In fact, according to research from Project: Time Off 52% of workers finish the year with unused time off.
We tell ourselves that we don’t deserve breaks because we can’t afford to slow our progress. As a result, we continue the rat race full speed ahead – racing faster and faster on the treadmill.
But what are we racing toward exactly?
Over the last few years, I’ve started to ask myself the question. We stress ourselves out, trying to earn that promotion, get that client, or secure the deal to experience “SUCCESS” faster. Yet during this race, there is so much imbalance that we end up experiencing years of our lives fixated and anxious about the future, while completely unhappy in the present moment – moments in are youth, I might add, that are often referred to by many as the “prime of our lives”.
What is the alternative?
In his ted talk, Stefan Sagmeister brings up an interesting point. He says when you think about the average American lifestyle, most of us spend about 25 years in school, about 40 years working on our careers and about 15 years in retirement. The problem with this in my opinion, is we spend the years where we are less physically fit, in retirement.
Sagmeister suggests instead that we shave off 5 years from the “retirement” portion of our life and insert them throughout the years when we are focusing our career. In other words, he suggests taking a 1 year sabbatical every 7 years.
This was an interesting concept to me and I set out to gather data about how a sabbatical can actually be beneficial to your productivity, achievements, and happiness in the long run.
Here are 5 reasons why you should take a sabbatical:
Rest & Recovery – Taking a sabbatical is an excellent opportunity to slow down and live in the present moment. Time off can also have amazing health benefits as it gives your body time for recovery. Studies show time off contributes to stress reduction, cardiovascular health, quality sleep, and improves your overall well being.
I know a few years ago when I was working nonstop, I got to a point where I was so burnt out that I began to develop food allergies I never had before! I just couldn’t believe the allergy test results, since prior to getting tested I had never had a food allergy in my life! Fast forward, a few months after rest and recovery, I was able to slowly integrate the food I was “allergic” to into my diet without having an allergic reaction. I later found out that when our body is stressed out there are alot of different types of food we can develop allergies towards. The point here is to listen to your body. Sometimes there are signs that our body is giving us to slow down but we ignore them completely.
When we are young and healthy, we have a tendency to take our health for granted but
rest in between periods of intense work is so important. In fact, another benefit of taking a break is improved productivity. Studies show we often undermine our ability to consistently perform at peak levels when we attempt to work nonstop without a break. Periodically resting actually helps us to become more engaged when we return to work.
Reprioritize – What are your greater goals? Have you accomplished them? Sometimes our routines can get the best of us. We find ourselves being a slave to our inbox and may get caught up with daily tasks that lead us to believe we are being productive but in reality, are not connected to our greater goals. It’s great to reflect on how we’ve been spending our days and ask ourselves whether are to-do lists are being properly managed.
Don’t be afraid to ask the big questions too: Are you happy with where you are in your life? Are you happy with your relationships, career, finances? Are you passionate about the work you are doing? If you need help thinking of questions revist my post: 10 power questions that will enrich your life.
Reorganize – When we take a break from the routine tasks that pull us in opposite directions dailly, there is an opportunity to reorganize our lives, months, weeks, and days. Once you reflect on the year that passed, while on sabbatical you have the opportunity to be intentional about how you want to spend your time when you go back to work. Make a list of the things you want to accomplish for the upcoming year and split your days out into sections so that every part of the day you are working towards a goal on your list. If your goal is to stay active maybe you can plan your days so that you wake up early, and you start the day with a workout. If your goal is to read more, maybe you’d like to carve out 30 minutes before you fall asleep to read before you go to bed.
Listen to your inner voice – If you are feeling particularly lost or unsatisfied with life, taking a sabbatical can help you find and listen to your inner voice. We all have an inner voice that guides us and pushes in one direction or another. Some people refer to this as your intuition. No matter what you call it, it’s easy to lose your voice in the sea of other societal voices. Theses societal voices constantly express their expectations and advice and they can come from all different directions. Maybe it’s coming from social media, or magazines, or television, or social circles, or family and friends. For some of us, this societal voice might caution us to ensure we are making more money above all us, or that we need to study a particular profession to be successful. The bottom line is that it can drown out our individual expression.
The challenge becomes distinguishing these voices from sincere, helpful, guidance – the kind that takes into account who we are as individuals, and what we value. The challenge becomes reflecting on the day to day decisions that have lead you to this circumstance and this identity and then focusing inward on your values to ensure you are STILL heading in the right direction.
A sabbatical can give us time to slow down, disconnect from outside noise, and listen to our hearts.
Learn something new – Time off from your day job, can help you reinvigorate your life by learning something new. Maybe you want to learn a new dance like salsa or tango? Maybe you want to learn a new language? A sabbatical can help you get closer to your interests and reignite or find your passions.
There are many other reasons for taking a sabbatical but I will stop here for now. Hopefully, this is enough to spur you into action. I want this to be an open dialogue so comment and let me know if it was enough to push you over the edge and take the first step OR share your feedback/questions on other topics you wish I’d expand on. Hope to hear from you!