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As we get to the last few days of this difficulty 2020 with anticipation of a better 2021 your thoughts may turn inward. You may not be able to change the world but you might be able to change yourself just a little to better adapt to the new world we are all experiencing.

We can all agree that 2020 was not the best year ever. But what can we do to be sure 2021 will be better?

If you are waiting for someone else to wave a magic wand and make 2021 wonderful, you may be disappointed. A better plan might be for you to be the one with the magic wand. Why not take the responsibility and create your own magic?

But where can you start?

Even if you are working from home without a commute you may find that extra time you gained was swallowed up by some bad time management habits. Your days, weeks, and months may have been hijacked by distractions. Things that just may not matter. It’s difficult to resist some time wasters when the days just seem to drag by.  Kind of like avoiding too many sweet and wonderful holiday cookies.

But there is hope…. Maybe you just need a small recharge to get back in control of your time, priorities, and life.

To snap yourself back on track, a trip to the beach, ski hill, or even grandma’s house is out of the question thanks to COVID.

Maybe it’s time to take a sabbatical…

It may sound odd to talk about a sabbatical when many people are spending most of their days in sweat pants but Zoomable above the waist.  How long has it been since you actually wore shoes?

The problem is that while each day melts into the next in a seemingly endless flow you are probably stuck in a rut binge watching old TV shows, online gaming, trying out new recipes, running inventories on your toilet paper stash, and occasionally getting some work done… you may not think much about what you are actually doing and why.

A well timed mini-sabbatical might be the thing to jolt you out of a rut and discover some new perspectives, inspirations, or directions for yourself.

You don’t need to travel anywhere. You can do this from the comfort and safety of your home.

What is a mini-sabbatical anyway?

University professors are required to take sabbaticals that can last a year or more. Professors are set loose form their daily research and teaching grind to explore new things. Sabbaticals usually bring great value back to the university.

The basic shape of a mini-sabbatical could be for you to take eight days, from December 26 to January 3 and step back from the normal noise that may have taken over your life. Unfortunately, focusing too much on life’s noise is exactly the kind of stuff that can keep you from being who you really want to be.  Who you can be…

For this mini-sabbatical concept work you will need to manage things in three categories. By “work”, I mean get the most out of it for you. During your short mini-sabbatical you need to have:

  1. Control of most of your privacy and time.
  2. A basic plan.
  3. A list of deliverables.

Let’s start with the third category first…. Deliverables.

To get the most out of this mini-sabbatical try to list a few basic deliverables. Think of these as goals. Things you will have at the end of your mini-sabbatical.  A target list of things. And… Don’t be afraid to change those deliverables. This is about discovery. You may discover things you may not have anticipated.  These things could be skills, a deeper understanding, or a better insight.

Consider it a win even if you only come out of this with a few more interesting conversation starters for your next Zoom conference or a list of solid new year’s resolutions.

Now that you have a rough idea of what you would like to accomplish with your mini-sabbatical, it’s time to create a plan. The steps of your plan should lead to the accomplishment of your deliverables.  This could be as simple as a list of books you want to read or TV shows you want to binge. Yes… You can even learn things about income inequality from catching up on Walking Dead episodes.

The first one in the list above, “Control of most of your privacy and time”, is the most important because even with some great targeted deliverables and an air tight plan you will fall short without the needed privacy and time.

Since COVID has basically made us all prisoners in our own homes, you will be taking your mini-sabbatical right where you are now.  To make this work you need to find a quiet place that is:

  1. Away from your computer and constant email/social media distractions.
  2. Away from anyone else in your home who may be a distraction. Mabey hang a sign on your door saying, “Mini-Sabbatical In Progress – Please stay away.”.

And… you need to allot time for your mini-sabbatical.

Before you start, determine and commit to the number of days and the hours of the day you will focus on your mini-sabbatical. Write them down. Maybe discuss this with the people in your home COVID bubble so they know when to leave you alone.

Give yourself time to dive in and enjoy your mini-sabbatical. Block out anything that is not part of your mini-sabbatical. Just say “no!” for a few hours and a few days. Try to set specific hours where you will push back and focus on your Mini-Sabbatical activities.

Now that the shape of your mini-sabbatical is in place, what kind of activities might be part of this little in-home vacation?

Here are a few ideas:

  • Books – Read books related to your desired deliverables. Here are some starter ideas:
    • Collapse – By Jarrod Dimond – Look for the scary implications for income inequality. And some insights on the damage done to the US economy over the last four years.
    • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – By Yuval Noah Harari – Look for some insights on why some people may be left behind when economies expand.
    • Predictably Irrational – By Dan Ariely – Look for insights into the decision traps that can pour fuel on the Income Inequality fire.
  • Classes – Take a Corsera ( https://www.coursera.org/ ) course or maybe even check out a service like Master Class ( https://www.masterclass.com/ ). Masterclass costs money but if after your mini-sabbatical of less than 30 days and you don’t like the service you can request a full refund. Here are some starter ideas:
  • Videos – Watch a few documentaries on one of the streaming services. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Research – The main idea behind this mini-sabbatical is to get time away from your computer screen to let your mind try new things. But if no books, classes, or videos get you excited then pick a few areas you would like to learn more about and turn Google loose on digging up more on those areas. Uninterrupted surfing of surfing new stuff might be just the kick you need to get out of your rut.

There is one feeling we probably all shared in 2020… That is the feeling that we are not as in control of our lives and the world as we thought. Seeing 24/7 disturbing news streams don’t help this feeling of near helplessness.

I’m betting that a year end mini-sabbatical will give you that feeling of just a little more control in 2021. Why not try it?

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