six steps to take a radical sabbatical + help your business grow
*Editor’s note: This post by Eleanor came just in time for me! Looking ahead to December and knowing that the fall Patchwork Shows will be in the rear view mirror and that instead of dividing my time between a half a dozen events, I’ll be focused on Craftcation and planning for 2014, I need this outline on how to take a radical sabbatical during the slower months for our businesses in December. I can’t wait to make time for my radsab! Thanks Eleanor!
2013 has been an intense year. Starting in January I began working towards the release of my book Grow, which took place in June. Between release parties and a national book tour and balancing a full-time job, I didn’t have a lot of room to reflect or breathe or even think about what was next – I was really focused on what was right in front of me and making sure that it all happened smoothly.
This is a common challenge for creative business owners – there’s always something you could be doing and something you need to attend to. In moments when you have to push yourself forward in order to take your business or project to the next level you can find yourself actualizing all the time with little time for reflection or opportunity to change course. A few months ago Nicole wrote a great piece about the importance of benefits of taking a break, and I want to reiterate that here: sometimes what you need to be your best for your business is a focused pause so that you can reset your batteries and ensure that all your actualizing is happening for the right purpose.
After a summer on tour and transitioning out of my full-time job, I was ready for a chance to reflect. I recently read How to Find Fulfilling Work by Roman Krznaric, part of “The School of Life” series. in this book he proposes taking a “radical sabbatical” to step outside of your daily routine in order to find work that sustains you on multiple levels.
My friends Tracy Candido, an artist and event planner, and Karina Mangu-Ward, a strategy consultant and filmmaker, recently took this idea and ran with it. They created a radical sabbatical weekend, or “RadSab” as they called it, to help creatives who were building their business and projects “take a break and make some progress.”
We spent the weekend in a beautiful modern farmhouse in upstate New York. For me it was crucial to get away from my apartment (where I can always work on another project) as well as the general cacophony of New York City. Being in a quiet, expansive space gave me a chance to focus on the work I have done this year and where I want to go next. After a weekend of reflecting, drafting goals, working on a plan, and getting feedback from my peers, as well as good food and a little wine, I felt like I emerged with what I needed: a clearer understanding and appreciation for my accomplishments and a plan to move forward. Rather than go into detail here, I wanted to share a basic structure so you can plan your own “radical sabbatical” to focus on where you want your creative business to go. whether you take an entire weekend or just a few hours some afternoon these guidelines will help you make the most of your time away.
Set an intention
Be specific about what you are using the time for. What is the problem you want to work through or the experience you want to process?
Use the time to think about and work through a bigger issue, not just accomplish items on your “to do” list. Allow yourself to sketch, brainstorm or daydream about your business. What has been making you feel successful lately? Where are you getting stuck?
Turn your reflection time into action. What is the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve? What are some smaller benchmarks you need to hit along the way?
Make a plan to check in with a trusted friend, adviser, mentor or business partner. If they are not part of your sabbatical, make a plan to meet up with them soon after to discuss your reflections and goals and get their feedback.
Make a plan
Based on your reflection, goals and feedback make a focused work plan to help you stay on track for the next three to six months.
Note how you are feeling and how you are thinking about the issue or problem differently then at the beginning. What is something you want to carry forward and what is something you want to leave behind?
On a practical level, you may want to divide whatever time you have set aside for your radical sabbatical into smaller subsections to hit each of these points, but you also want to give yourself space to breathe, explore and discover.
Have you taken an intention break to reflect and recharge? How has it helped your business?
Eleanor Callott Whitney is a writer, rock musician, educator, and arts administrator raised in Maine and living in Brooklyn. She finds joy in bringing order to the chaos of creativity, empowering artists with the tools they need to think of themselves as entrepreneurs and in managing and facilitating creative projects with panache. She is the author of Grow: How to take your DIY project and passion to the next level and quit your job! and writes extensively about art, culture and nonprofit management. She published the personal, art zine Indulgence for 15 years, as well as co-founded the Portland Zine Symposium and has worked for the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, and P.O.V./American Documentary. She is the proud recipient of a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Baruch College where she learned to stop worrying and love statistical and budgetary analysis.