Six Ways to Take a Micro-Sabbatical

This is a guest post by Bradley J. Moore, a corporate executive and author of the blog, Shrinking the Camel. He writes about the connection between business life and spiritual life. You can also follow him on Twitter at @shrinkingcamel. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

My pastor recently took a three-month sabbatical. I imagined him sleeping in until ten every morning, followed by extensive periods of crossword puzzles and personal grooming. But he assured me that his time off was really more professional in nature: he studied up on the Emergent Church and did a biblical tour of Turkey.

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Photo courtesy of ©

Am I jealous? No, of course not. Resentful is probably a better word. Not that I dislike my job, but the idea of taking three months off to focus on just-for-me time, well, that’s hard to stop fantasizing about. In fact, I already have it planned: the German lessons; the family rafting trip; the Executive Strategy conference; the monastery retreat; the writing seminar; the culinary tour of Spain—I would keep very, very busy working just on me.

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Although sabbaticals are a defining element of academic life, they are practically unheard of in the corporate world. Yet I keep hoping they will catch on, since I have noticed a handful of culturally hip companies are paving the way by offering corporate sabbaticals as a means of retaining superstar employees and spurring innovation.

Bill Gates may have kicked off this trend when he announced his bi-annual “Think Week” to carve out some time to read technical papers and figure out What’s Next. Then there’s Google, with its legendary “20% time,” when engineers can work on whatever they want. And creative designer Stefan Sagmeister sets a new sabbatical bar by closing down his studio every seven years for one entire year—One Year!—dedicated to “creative rejuvenation.”

Creative rejuvenation. Spiritual revival. Professional development. Don’t sabbaticals sound nice? Yeah, except that’s Google we’re talking about. And Bill Gates, for crying out loud! These people practically run the world, so of course they can get away with blowing off real work for months at a time. Meanwhile the rest of us are simply grateful to be gainfully employed these days with a couple weeks of paid vacation.

But that doesn’t mean that you must deprive yourself from nurturing your depleted soul. How can you expect to be productive and creative, to lead effectively and to drive your enterprise forward if you neglect the simple act of taking care of yourself? It turns out that often the best ideas and moments of insight come when our minds are wandering, thinking about something else, or nothing at all. So it is absolutely critical to your leadership that you create some white space to get lost in from time to time.

Although a three-month break may be out of the question, there are plenty of options for creating your own unique micro-sabbatical to keep you charged up, tuned in and spiritually engaged. It’s just a matter of deciding what works for you, and then doing it.

Here are six micro-sabbatical ideas that can serve you well, without costing you your job.

  1. Take a day off. How about an entire day just for You-Time! And, really, who’s stopping you? Most of our vacation days get sucked up with family-time or household errands. Instead, plan out a day of nothing but fun. Indulge in your creative hobby, or dabble in something new that you’ve always wondered about. It might circuitously lead to your next great idea at work.
  2. Schedule time for nothing. Wouldn’t it be great if you saw that your next appointment was a “Chill Sesh?” Blocking out time to let your mind wander may ironically lead you to connecting some dots that were missed in the harried activity of the day. You are more likely to have that moment of clarity when your brain is off the hook from meetings, emails and telephone calls. Use the time to take a walk, slip on the i-pod headphones, or just shut your eyes for a few minutes.
  3. Start a practice of daily meditation. You will become much more productive when you start your day with a sense of focused calm. Spending 30 minutes in the quiet of mindful thought can ease your anxiety, reduce stress, and open the mental windows to higher spiritual thoughts. Don’t expect meditation to be easy. It’s a discipline that requires practice, patience and silence. But the lift you receive may turn out to be the daily sabbatical space that you can not live without.
  4. Retreat to nature. A few days secluded in the wilderness can provide the ideal escape from the grind to reflect on life in a completely relaxed, unstructured setting. For many, the wide open space of mountains, forest or sea can bring a much-needed respite from the clash and clang of suburban life, providing a fresh perspective that is impossible to capture in the office. Bring some inspirational books, and write in your journal. I dare you to go all by yourself, and see what happens.
  5. Get physical. The circulation of your blood and muscles might be just the thing to get your mind disengaged, in order to re-engage. Some of my best ideas have come while on the treadmill in the middle of the work day. Why? Because the intense physical workout takes the focus off of work,and puts me into another rhythm altogether. Brisk exercise is a great way to break up the pace of the day and trick your mind into problem-solving mode.
  6. Take in a seminar. Although many companies are cutting back on “non-essential” travel expenses such as professional education, there are still plenty of opportunities to get out of the office and learn something new. There are excellent seminars offered right in your back yard through local chapters of national organizations. I have even found some for free. Don’t underestimate the value of getting out from the familiar setting to network with some new folks and hear an enlightening speaker. And while you’re sitting there, don’t be afraid to daydream. It may turn out to be the smartest thing you’ve done all year.
Question: What do you do to spark creative and spiritual renewal? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Thanh

    I recently took my first life sabbatical as I was turning 29 to redirect my life's purpose and redesign my life. I assessed my personal and profession inventories and went through an information diet, sort of a cleansing of my soul, spirit, and mind. I retrieved from social activities and my professional life for a few months and made some significant paradigm shifts from digging deep during the process.

    I didn't know anyone that went through a life sabbatical because in our ever-demanding society, life sabbatical is unheard of. People think of going on vacation but that's just a scenery change. Many of my friends were too busy to relax and it seemed like the norm to keep up like chickens with no heads. I didn't not want my 30's to be like that. Something inside me was calling for a life sabbatical because my 20-something experiences were catching up to me, and I needed time to assess those lessons and experiences.

    I came out of the sabbatical more focused, more energized, more self aware, and more appreciative for the opportunities in my life. I highly recommend this "unpopular" activity.

    Thank you for sharing.

    My recent post That Dark Side of Personal Development

    • Bradley J. Moore

      Wish that we all could do that. How were you able to take time away from an income-producing situation? That's what everyone wants to know.

      • Thanh

        Hi Bradley,

        It was a really big risk (financially, professionally, and socially) and I understand that it is not something everyone is able to do because it does seem scary. At that time I was in the middle of building a business and had put in 2+ years of 14+ hours/day with less than desired results and when I saw that I was turning 29, going into my 30's, I realized that the business I was building was not going to fit into my future of family and personal goals even if it was financially rewarding. I desperately needed a new direction – my spirit was weak. I wanted to find my value proposition. I needed to find out what was inside of me, who I was and I risked a lot externally to go on the search.

        But briefly, because I can (mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and a bit financially). I'm single and don't have children and the mental shift I experienced of detaching myself from material possessions and consumptions didn't really affect anyone else. I believe that there is a lot of opportunities today to make something of yourself & be of service to the world and I'm working on a few that caters to my natural talents. Work is now strengthening my spirit – it's how I express myself and grow. And I do work as much if not more than before, I grow from my working activities.

        The process for me was very spiritual and I shuffled through many school of thoughts and philosophies in my reflection. I want to make a bold statement: money can be a good thing, but our dependence and attachment to money is what control us.

        Buckminster Fuller was married with a daughter and penniless at 32 and rose up to a position of advising and coaching the rich of the rich.
        Robert Kiyosaki, in his early 30's sold his possessions after a failed business, went homeless for a couple of years (early 80's) with his new wife Kim, and rose up to create a successful franchise.
        Andy Andrews found himself sleeping under a bridge in the gulf, homeless, and rose up to be an international speaker and author.
        Marc Allen woke up at 30 unemployed and living in a desolated apartment, and rose up to become a millionaire.

        I learned a lot about success, money, and more about life through my experience.

        So in answer to your good question: how? I think it's not how, it's why. If you know your 'why' – you can handle any 'how'.

        Kind regards,
        My recent post That Dark Side of Personal Development

    • Michael Hyatt

      That sounds so awesome. I am overdue!

    • Theresa Ip Froehlich

      I can relate to what what you mean by "too busy to relax". Taking time to relax, regroup, and reflect is critical for regaining our rudder in life. How wonderful that you recognize the importance of a sabbatical now.
      My recent post Welcome

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  • @Theophileu

    …Except that maybe the real reason the top people are at the top, is because they understand the value of „sabbaticals“ and make good use of them. And perhaps the real reason “the rest of us”, as you so politely put it, “are simply grateful to be gainfully employed these days with a couple weeks of paid vacation” is because we still maintain a worldview where taking a sabbatical is thought of as, “blowing off real work for months at a time”.
    Working and “resting” are akin to inhaling or exhaling. You cannot exhale indefinitely without becoming faint.
    Implementing these six micro-sabbatical ideas is more than a good idea, it is absolutely essential for anyone wishing to successfully navigate the “rough weather” in the very near future. We have all the makings of “a perfect storm”.
    The future of sabbaticals is assured voluntarily or involuntarily.
    If only we would listen…

    • Michael Hyatt

      After going through a melt down in my business about 20 years ago, I realized that in most sports, the key to peak performance is “being relaxed.” For example, in golf, if you are stressed, you hold the club too tightly and bad things happen. I have learned—through hard knocks—to relax and lighten my grip.

      • Thanh Lu

        Michael, That’s interesting to note, about “being relaxed.” I think that people can’t relax because they don’t push through when they’re stressed, that perhaps they’re not stressed enough, or that they back down when they’re almost stressed out.

        In running terms, it’s like pushing through the first few miles to get to that feeling of runner’s high – which can only be accomplished if you do push through the first few miles.

      • @Theophileu

        I guess it all depends on your definition of what „being relaxed” means?

        Super-facility is the “curse of our age”. Real change (transformation) can only take place on a deeper level. If “..that you prosper and be in health even as your soul prospers” (3 John 2) is correct, we can only conclude that our external world is merely a reflection of our internal world – whether we like it or not.

        These six sabbatical-ideas are a great way to put the ruder into the water, as long as we remember that it is about the water as much as the ruder “being” in the water. By and of them-selves these ideas offer no remedy, but can however facilitate in creating a safe space where we can become “aware” of the cure. Without the proper focus we are treating the symptoms only and not the “sickness”.

        The real question at hand, the one we need to ask ourselves, is whether we really want to be cured or whether we just want to be able to cope…with our sickness?

        Maybe, we are just too busy to care.

  • ARP

    I'm lucky to work for a publisher which sees the benefits of sabbaticals and grants them to its long-term employees. Our sabbatical term is six weeks, of which two weeks must be directly related to the job you do, but the rest can be used as you please. My sabbatical falls due the year of 2012. I have seen how difficult it can be to slot the time in, as it's not easy to work out how to keep everything running when you're away for a stretch. For this reason some people have taken theirs in two sections rather than all at once. So I am already planning – and hoping that sabbaticals won't have been scrapped by 2012!

    • Bradley J. Moore

      Lucky Dog. I'd find a way to take in all in one fell swoop to get the full benefit.
      My recent post Six Ways to Take Your Micro-Sabbatical

    • Michael Hyatt

      We were talking about this in our own company at Thomas Nelson, but then the Recession hit. We need to get back to this conversation. It’s probably more important than ever.

  • Cassandra Frear

    I begin each day with a scripture reading, a book about living well, and meditation where I sit still and notice God's presence. One thing I've learned from this is that He is always present, but I have to choose to be aware. Just noticing that he is with me, very present, is life-changing.

    When the weather allows, I try to take a walk outside every day and, again, notice that he is present. I try to notice the sky, the fresh air, the birds, the earth breathing around me. What do I want my life be about? Small things? Or the bigger story of the universe? How I decide to spend each day is how I am deciding to spend my life.

    This is so transforming for me that it has become a constant hope and objective. We must slow ourselves down to capture the life we long for.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Intentional slowless is a lost art. In our fast-paced world, I think it will become a life-skill. Thanks for your comments!

  • Geoff Webb

    My biggest leadership lesson for 2009 was this: I need to rest smarter. At work last year we soft-launched our new brand and debuted several new services. At home, the arrival of our daughter in June literally doubled the number of children in our home. In summer I started writing a book. Among the added responsibilities, more than once I felt like I was not enough and too often I filled the gap by cheating on my rest.

    To motivate myself to rest I like to remember that the choice to rest is what divides free people from slaves. That always gets me!
    My recent post Refueling your People

  • John Richardson

    Interesting Post, Michael. I always thought it would be cool to be able to do that if I was self employed. Unfortunately, most entrepreneurs and small business people I know are workaholics so that may not be the right path. My wife and I recently moved to a smaller home and now I find myself with a 40 minute commute to work. At first, I was upset with the fact that I had to spend 40 minutes twice a day sitting on a freeway. But since I am going opposite of traffic, I just put the car on cruise control, and now I have a mini sabbatical each morning.

    To do this I just turn the radio off and concentrate on the beautiful coastal scenery. I use my time to pray, to think, and to plan. It's actually a very relaxing time. On my commute home, I usually put on a good audio book or listen to the radio. At first I though this 40 minutes was a total waste of time… now I know it's an important part of my day.
    My recent post The Elephant In The Room

    • Michael Hyatt

      John, I do the same thing with my commute. I used to have an hour-and-a-half commute. However, I took my kids to school each day, and it was an incredible time with them. They still talk about it. Now, I just enjoy the time listening to audiobooks or praying.

  • Jaymie

    Great suggestions! My husband gets a sabbatical at his job – 4 weeks every 5 years. It is a perk we try to savor because we know how unusual it is – and it could disappear at any time. It's good to find ways for the "rest of us" to get some of those same benefits. I am a firm believer in the "mental health day."
    My recent post THURSDAY: The Quilter's Catalog

  • @MKMartin

    I find it best to try to do some small things through the day to take a small "break". One of the best that I find is to simply slow down. Multitasking has its place but I think that when you are in constant multitask mode you start to lose focus on what is really important.

    If I feel that coming on I just tell myself to slow down, focus, get single threaded and focus on one thing at a time. Especially if it is an important piece of work, its nice to knock it off and then move onto the next.

    Thanks for sharing your tips Bradley.

    My recent post Square Demo: If you can't tell yet, I think this could be a really big deal

  • @davebaldwin

    Thank you Michael. I needed that this morning. Some of these things I do on a regular basis. When the schedule gets crowded these things go by the wayside. Working out and daily meditation — in my favorite chair over looking the Furnace Hills of MD — I do regularly. The rest I need to work on.
    Regarding a sabbatical, I took one while doing the research for my doctorate, so it wasn't a restful one. It would be good to spend some time just alone recharging the batteries.
    I'm glad you share these life encouraging truths with us.
    My recent post Our Missionary God:

    • Michael Hyatt

      The last true Sabbatical I took was in 1995. I went to Greece for three weeks and visited monasteries on Mt. Athos. It was life-changing. I need to plan one of those again!

  • Kathleen

    We homeschooled our 2 daughters. Even though I've not worked outside our home with a job, my husband provided a way for me to get away alone once a year. Solitude restores me-from a little room in a remote village in Mexico to a rustic cabin on the shores of our Puget Sound. We all benefited from the recreated woman who returned refreshed. This is an important topic Bradley. It breeds creativity, generosity of spirit and spiritual/emotional intimacy.

    Teach it to a tired world.
    My recent post Sweethearts

    • Bradley J. Moore

      Kathleen – I, too try to go off for a few days each year by myself.. I call it a "Godcation" because it's a mix of a vacation (I stay in a nice hotel) and a retreat (isolation in the Adirondack mountains). I agree with you – it does WONDERS for the regeneration of creativity, generosity and spiritual purpose.
      My recent post Six Ways to Take Your Micro-Sabbatical

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  • Renae

    I serve as a staff member for Campus Crusade for Christ and have the opportunity to take advantage of a 30 day sabbatical from time to time. However, I love the idea of micro-sabbaticals. The pace of ministry can be crazy and scheduling think time and occasional creative space is imperative. Thanks for posting this!
    My recent post A Land Down Under

  • MikeHolmes


    I can see why you'd be resentful;) I'd be resentful too. "You're taking three months off to do what??!!" What got me was that he didn't take the time to like you said, lay around the house. He got away from the house. I think that's what most of us forget (including me): the best sabbaths are away from the home. I mean think about it we get our weekends what do we do? Work. So we leave work to do work:S

    I personally can't wait for the day when I'm able to do what you're pastor does.

    What do I do for renewal? The best thing I can do for spiritual renewal is to worship God with all abandon. I can't explain why it works but it does. And I don't plan to change it anytime soon. For mental read books, listen to tapes, and go to seminars. And for physical: weight lifting.

    Great post Bradley!

  • Ron

    Great information here, thank you Bradley for writing it and Michael for posting it on your blog. I used to use golf as a source of a mini get-a-way to help me relieve stress and to refocus. But lately life and kids have been my excuse for not doing this anymore, so I have been looking for other ways to accomplish this. I have started bloggin which forces me to think about things for new ideas to write about.

    My recent post A new decade, new opportunities

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  • Maureen

    My last employer offered sabbaticals to two employees a year; decisions on recipients were based on proposals about how the employees would be spending the time. The time off was paid. The program was instituted years after I began working there and I was in management and so disqualified. Some of the employees' projects were marvelous.
    My recent post All Art Friday

  • Forrest Long

    Sabbaticals are good and can be a very positive thing if planned for properly. After twenty-eight years in ministry I went through a time of personal crisis and decided to take a one year sabbatical from ministry. That was nine years ago and I am just now preparing to reenter pastoral ministry. It wasn't quite what I planned for, but sometimes God interrupts our well-made plans. I agree, even mini sabaticals can be invigorating and help you refocus. Thanks for a good post.
    My recent post Blog survey- Important

    • Bradley J. Moore

      It's interesting that for many, their first introduction to a true sabbatical is the result of a life-crisis of some sort. If sabbaticals were more integrated into our lives, then maybe those crises could be avoided, or at least better managed.
      My recent post Six Ways to Take Your Micro-Sabbatical

  • nAncY

    i would say that reading this post was pretty sparky for me
    My recent post comment poem . add your lines

  • @bibledude

    Bradley, this is another GREAT post from you! I really appreciate your wisdom! To answer your question about what I do for creative and spiritual renewal, I'd have to honestly say that I just don't do it enough. So I'll be taking these tips that you've provided and start scheduling some of them right away!

    Thanks Bradley and Michael for sharing this!

  • Dan Meub

    As an Exec Coach, I came up with a curriculum I called Your Personal Renewal Plan. The foundation of it is very simple. Look back over the last few years and write down the things that have brought you the most self-renewal in these four areas: Physical, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual. Then go do more of those – whether it's a day off, a one week vacation OR a three month sabbatical! The key is to make time to do it and to not postpone it forever. That's why your micro-sabbatical concept is such a great message Mike!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for your reply, Dan. This is a great idea. (For those of you reading this far, Dan has been my personal coach for years. He has taught me so much!)

  • Michael Hyatt

    Thanks for your comment. This is giving me some good ideas for how to implement in my company.

  • John Lionberger

    I agree whole-heartedly with all of Michael's suggestions, but especially with #s 3, 4 & 5. I take people into the wilderness on trips of spiritual and life renewal, and we practice meditation, we're surrounded by nature, and we're physical. I get to see people being re-born. Making time for ourselves, getting away, spending time in wild places … it's all an extraordinary gift, both to ourselves and to our world, because we'll have a better self to give the world.

    Four stars for this blog!

    John Lionberger
    Renewal in the Wilderness

  • Yetunde

    Excellent post
    Sabbatical and Sabbath come from the same root. The Sabbath rest principle from the Bible was intended to provide the margin, balance, and fresh perspective needed to do life. We know it works – we know we have to tune up our cars every now and then and recharge our cell phones instead of running them into the ground.
    Life is a marathon not a sprint
    I am not perfect at obeying it but I know it gives people an edge
    Blessings to you

  • Karen Swim

    I love the idea of mirco-sabbaticals – it is a real world solution that everyone can implement. I am fond of many of the things you list, taking a day or even half a day off, nature always revives me or just doing something outside of my normal routine, like going out for coffee or taking a couple hours off to hang out in the library. However, I wish that corporate would adopt the sabbatical. It is an energizing time that allows people to refresh and refine their skills and passion.
    My recent post Why?

  • todshuttleworth

    I was allowed a three month Sabbatical after spending 6 years building business in Latin America; where 12 hour days and working weekends were way to common. Best three months of my working life, and I was so refreshed. In some ways, I feel like I do it today. There will be a month, where I am just not as effective. Usually a month after a couple of really hard months. I think the body yearns it and says enough.

  • Tarrus

    Great Insights! I've always looked at sabbaticals as a religous act , often performed by clergymen. However after reading your post, I'm convinced sabbaticals are not only for clergymen, but for everyone seeking renewal and refreshing. Great Post!

  • Colleen Foshee

    Geography matters. If I get away from my normal surroundings, my perspective automatically shifts into "other" mode and I start seeing new and different things. It can be a few miles or thousands. Change of physical environment helps me shift out of normal into a whole new world.

    • Bradley J. Moore

      Colleen – that is a really interesting phenomenon, and it is probably what drives the travel industry to a certain extent. There is something about getting out of the familiar surroundings that stimulate new perspectives.
      My recent post Four Reasons to Ditch Powerpoint in Your Next Presentation

  • Randy Kinnick

    Great ideas for the "micro sabbatical." Some of these I have used and some I need to give a try. It reminded me of some very beneficial times I spent alone in a cabin in the woods, communing with God in worship and His Word…as well as napping. It was extremely refreshing.

    Sometimes we find it hard to stop and be still. Often that is the most therapeutic thing we can do. Thanks for sharing. I have written a post on a related topic at

    • Bradley J. Moore

      Napping! How did I forget napping? Yes, a good power-nap can be the perfect refresher – spiritually, emotionally and physically. We can't underestimate the soul's need for literal rest:- sleep.
      My recent post Four Reasons to Ditch Powerpoint in Your Next Presentation

  • Cheryl Lewis

    When you spoke of time in a remote, serene setting, I thought of the rustic cabin my husband and I have built on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga. It is primitive by many standards, and is down a dirt road down another dirt road, but it has a sweeping view and utter calm. I wish there was a way to offer it to anyone yearning for a few days where you have to trek five miles to bump into the nearest full-time neighbor. I find the time alone with God energizing and wish that for everyone. If you can’t afford a luxury getaway (and don’t mind air mattresses and bonfires and the absolute absence of television, ha), look us up. We’ll leave a key by the gate.

  • Faith Barista Bonnie

    Yeah! Shrinking Camel does it again — connecting us deeper in our everyday faith.

    As always, Bradley, your words give us a new spin on something we may have forgotten.. and can renew with your thoughts here. I take a "whitespace" Sat morning once a month – two weekend "sabbaticals" a year — not like Gates, but at the beginning of the year — and in the Spring. It's not long, just a Saturday out unplugged while Hubby is sweet enough to hold down the fort.
    My recent post Special Blend Interview: Holley Gerth Climbs Higher In Her Walk Of Faith

  • Sam Van Eman

    Great post, Brad.

    What do I to spark renewal? Read your posts, of course.
    My recent post VW hope

  • Gail

    A couple of years ago I experienced what I call my "Black October" because it was a series of one bad thing after another all month long. Following that I felt that I really needed to get away for a while. November is always a flat out month for me so the best I could do at the time was a 3 day weekend where I went a couple hours up the coast to a small caravan park, shouted myself to the best cabin and rested and relaxed all weekend. It was amazingly refreshing – being away with no expectations (not even books that I pressured myself to finished), no people to care about, no time frames other than to be back at work on Tuesday.

    As mentioned by others, one of the most important elements here was being AWAY from home. Home always has some "work" and unfinished projects that it isn't always restful.

    It was the most rejouvenating three days of my life and I would highly recommend even a short break to those who need to get away. I am planning another one again this year.

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  • Ken

    When I feel the pressures of my job closing in, I sit back in my chair, cross my legs, and start planning a fun event for the weekend. It works every time!