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Sabbatical Round-up

My sabbatical is nearly at an end, so I wanted to round-up what I did, what I didn’t and what I learnt from the experience.

First of all, let’s go through what I planned to do and not do and how that went…

My Original Plans

Holidays

  • Single day trips. Maybe visit friends further away than I’d normally travel or just those I’ve not seen for a while (old school friends, for example). Maybe I’ll grab some kind of rail card that will last me the 3 months and make it easier to get about. 

In the UK, you can discounted railcards for anything… except, if you’re aged between 30 and 60. Pfft. Rail is expensive otherwise.

So, I didn’t really do, due to both the money aspect but, also, due to a lack of time. However, the school holidays gave me lots of opportunities for us, as a family, to go out on lots of days out, including visiting and staying over with family and friends.

For example, we went to see Six: The Musical and spend a day at the Crich Tramway museum. I also got to hang out with an old work colleague for an afternoon of board games, with both our families taking part.

  • Family. Particularly my eldest daughter – she’s just married, just moved into a new house and her husband is often at work. I’ll maybe look at spending a few days with her (she doesn’t know this yet!)

We had a trip for my eldest daughter’s birthday, to take presents and generally celebrate her day but, she was all good with the unpacking, so wasn’t otherwise needed.

We (my wife and youngest daughter) took a 10 day holiday to Lisbon, a place I’d visited 3 times in the past with work, so knew well. It was not far from the end of the sabbatical, so was a good way to round things off.

Jobs

  • Lots of small scale decorating. Not rooms, but just ad-hoc pipes and bits of metalwork around the garden.

  • The shed. This has been put off for reasons of “epicness of scale”.

I got this done plus more besides. It’s been a real boon to have done this early, as it’s helped with other things as well.

  • The bottom of the garden. This needs sorting. Thankfully, the shed is here too so I can combine both jobs.

Health

Taking care of yourself should not be the last thing you do after everything and taking care of everyone else.

  • I’m going to get a gym pass and go regularly. It may not be in the gym itself, as I know it will also give me access to the pool and I love swimming (despite not being that good at it).

Did this. Swimming (in lanes) is pretty unexciting so I didn’t do this as much as I planned, but I gym’d each day.

I also discovered, later into my sabbatical, an over 50’s Badminton group. I’m now doing that once a week for a solid 2 hours.

  • The bike will come out of the shed and I will use it – at the very least, to go to the gym (see above). I’d love to get used to using it regularly.

When I wrote this, I thought about using it to get to and from the gym but I’m using it so much more – I don’t drive to the shops or into town anymore, for example.

Learning

  • I have a set of electronic drums and have been trying to teach myself from a book. It’s gone… okay. But I’m struggling a bit beyond the basics. Maybe this is a great time to have some intensive drums lessons.

Not intensive, but I’ve been having weekly lessons and my ability has really come on.

  • I also fancy the idea of a photography course, so I can actually take my DSLR camera off of the automatic settings.

I did a half day 1:1 photography course. And, yes, I can now take my camera off the automatic settings!

Now I just need to find a good mirrorless camera that doesn’t cost the earth…

Anything Else

  • Writing a book. Seriously. It’s a popular thing for people during a sabbatical to turn to writing and I may do the same.

The key here was “may”, as I know this was a thing I might do if I had time. I didn’t. But it’s still something I’d like to do sometime – I have LOTS of ideas! But I can’t imagine sitting down and spending this time at a keyboard. Sorry. Any book will be a slow, gradual process, I suspect. And for that reason, i really don’t need a sabbatical to do it.

  • Cook. Sssh, my wife doesn’t know this yet (as she does the cooking 99% of the time) but I want to spend some time to learn to cook again (I used to 20+ years ago).

I did all the cooking during my sabbatical – everything from working out daily menus, making the weekly shop to the final cooking. I’ve also been doing some baking too, for us and for family.

What not do to!

And here’s what I said that I wouldn’t do during my sabbatical…

Don’t worry about work – it goes on without you.

  • Do anything work related. I’ll uninstall work apps from my phone during this time.

I did just this.

Before I left I unsubscribed from everything at work, with the exception of a few small things that would keep me informed of anything important.

Be present for the family like never before. This means, putting the phone down during family time, removing work email/Slack from my devices and being present to hang and play 

  • Do anything that’s computer related. And by that, I’m not going to spend my sabbatical writing code, for example, even if it’s not work related. Use of a computer to accomplish another task is fine, but I want to stay away as much as I can.

I did this the best I could. My laptop is such an integral part of what I do – from writing blog posts to just organising my day and arranging things, that it was still something I spent a bit of time on each day. But, I put aside any work that specifically required it.


Other things that I did

So, that was what I said I’d do/wouldn’t do. What else happened during the 3 months that I hadn’t planned for?

  • I journaled daily. Of course, I used Day One to do this and it made my weekly round-ups easier as I had something to look back at. These are private so I was able to add comments and detail that I wouldn’t otherwise have written if it had been public. These will be a great, private reminder of my sabbatical.
    Will I continue journaling? Probably not, other than for specific occasions (a vacation, for example), as they’d be short and pretty boring.
  • Listened to music. I borrowed my daughter’s books “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” and randomly selected albums out of that to listen to whilst working outside. I got through 21 albums, which sounds good until you realise it’s 2.1% of the book!

What didn’t go so well

Not everything went smoothly, though…

  • Health. I got Covid soon after my sabbatical started and that slowed me up. I also didn’t take appropriate care of myself when working in the garden and hurt my back at one point – that was a problem for quite a few days. Lastly, an on-going hand issue, which got triaged by a physiotherapist, turned out to be a muscular issue. That has now spread to my arm, which has continued to give me problems. I started physio for this the week before the end of my sabbatical.
  • Getting things done. This was my fault. As well as giving myself a list of things to do in advance, I kept adding to it. On top of that I didn’t compensate for how busy I’d be with the family once the school holidays started. As a result, I didn’t finish a lot of the jobs that I wanted to. Next time, I need to be more realistic.

Things that I’ll continue to do

  • Do more things. I realised how a lot of jobs that I’d put off because I thought they’d take too long or be too complex simply weren’t. I’m hoping, in future, I’ll be better at just getting “all the things” done rather than putting them on a list and leaving them.
    And, not everything I planned to do has been, so those will be the first things I’ll be doing (weather permitting).
  • Cook. My wife and I will share cooking in the future. And my mum has already insisted that I bake more Lemon Drizzle cake for her in future.
  • Drum. I’ll keep the lessons going, as long as I feel I’m benefiting from them.

One of the biggest changes, though, and this is going to be news to my co-workers when I return, is going to be to my working day. I was already taking daily walks but the move to using the bike regularly as well as going to the gym and playing badminton is something I hope to continue.

It will impact, what was, my usual week day so I’ll need to change things there – probably working a little later in my day than I have in the past. Thankfully, my job is flexible enough that it allows me do things like this.


Next sabbatical

Nice try – I’m not going to be dragged into this, as it’s another 5 years away. Who knows what I’ll do next time.

One thing I do know is that my youngest daughter will have finished school, so timing it to coincide with the school holidays won’t be a requirement (and a timely reminder that my chance to do that this year was, sadly, a one-off).

What I do know is the sabbatical was an opportunity to stop, reset and do other things. I’m not going to say “rest” or “relax” because I didn’t too much of that – that simply wouldn’t have been me. Even when I’m ill I need to be doing something.

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