9 Lessons Learned: Preparing to Quit my Job to Take a Sabbatical

take a sabbatical

This is my last “regular” column for Women’s Money. Over the last year, I’ve written a regular series about planning to take a sabbatical – you can find all of my posts here.

To sum up the past year, I’ve put together a list of the six primary accomplishments and nine things I’ve learned as I’ve prepared to quit my job and take a sabbatical. 

What I’ve Accomplished

Here are my primary accomplishments on my path towards a sabbatical:

  1. I’ve created a sabbatical plan that involves taking a sabbatical abroad. 
  2. I’ve considered why I want to take a sabbatical, including 8 signs of burnout. 
  3. I’ve done some serious reflecting on my hopes and fears – including talking about my first sabbatical, fearing quitting during a recession, questioning whether I should take a sabbatical or save enough and retire early with FIRE, thinking a lot about finding my purpose, and ultimately settled on the fact that I just have to take a leap of faith
  4. I’ve turned down job offers
  5. I’ve answered some burning questions – like how to get health insurance during a sabbatical and where to put my sabbatical savings for the short term.
  6. Most relevant for readers of a blog about money is that I’ve saved $100,000 (and update on the goal here)!

In the course of this planning, saving, and questioning, I’ve accomplished a lot.

Lessons Learned

Throughout this process, I’ve also learned many lessons. These are some of the most important ones.

1. Change is Hard

Those who have been reading this column probably wonder why I’ve spent so much time pondering big questions about purpose, finding other jobs, and retirement. Others have wondered why I didn’t quit my job as soon as I saved enough money.

The reality is that change is hard. I have had to shift my identity from an ambitious perfectionist climbing the corporate ladder to someone who is ok to take a break to avoid burnout.

2. Have a Plan

Planning is a superpower of mine. I’m great with making lists and spreadsheets as well as determining all the steps needed to get somewhere. Planning helps you get comfortable with where you are headed.

3. It’s Normal to Question Yourself

At first, when I was considering all of my options, I was really uncomfortable with the fact that I was even questioning myself at all. But then I realized asking questions is just a part of the process. 

When we make changes, it’s normal to question them. In fact, research shows that questioning decisions and being willing to change your mind is the best way to get to the right answer. 

4. Trust Your Gut, Let Some Questions Be Unanswered, and Determine the Next Right Thing

No matter how much preparation I do, I know I will still have some lingering questions and doubts. That’s why I’ve ultimately settled on the fact that I just have to do what I know is right for me next.

What I settle on next doesn’t have to be what I will always do for the rest of my life. I don’t have to have all of the plans and answers. 

5. Surround Yourself With Encouragers, Not Discouragers

This one came late to me. For obvious reasons, I haven’t been screaming from the rooftops to friends and family that I’m going to quit and take some time off from my current career path.

That said, it is critical to have a few people who will support you along the way and even more supporters once you are ready to take your break.

6. Setting a Realistic Plan for My Sabbatical Savings was Straightforward

With some simple math, good spreadsheets, and a few sacrifices, setting a realistic plan has been straightforward. 

7. Saving $100,000 was Easy

I gave myself plenty of time to reach my savings goal and started with a realistic number given my salary and equity I knew I had vesting. Compared to navigating the change and feelings of doubt, saving the money was the easy part. 

8. Skimping on Big Expenses was Not so Easy

Despite the best-laid plans, we had a few big unexpected expenses and a few trips we ended up taking that weren’t in the original plan. This meant a few more months working at my current job in order to still reach my goals.

9. Enjoy the Journey

As with everything in life, the goal is easier if you enjoy the work it takes to get there. For me, writing these posts has been extremely enjoyable. They have given me a chance to reflect and connect and process. 

Find a way to enjoy the work of whatever it is that you are trying to do, as it will be that much more enjoyable and rewarding along the way. 

What Comes Next

I have a little bit of time left before I will quit my job. Then I get to travel. After that, I will spend some time figuring out what I want to do.

Thank you for all of your support this past year. I’ve enjoyed having this weekly column and the connections I’ve made along the way. 

I promise to check in with an update from time to time.

Until then, on to what’s next!

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