Is a sabbatical on your radar? “When Being Unproductive Saves a Career” is the title of a recent New York Times article that highlights a number of benefits of sabbaticals for leaders of non-profit organizations. It also notes the high burnout rates among these professionals, the organizational cost when they leave their jobs, and the barriers to taking sabbaticals.
While avoiding burnout and unwanted turnover are important, the biggest benefit of sabbaticals is the leader’s “capacity to think clearly and expansively.” Referencing neuroscience research, the article explains that “our brains make new connections and even solve complex problems when we aren’t actively focusing on them.” This “mind wandering” is “what people often experience while daydreaming in the shower or waiting for a train. Stress shuts this kind of powerful thinking down, as does our compulsion to grab our cellphones at any idle moment. Sabbaticals, done right, reprioritize mind-wandering.”
I’m thankful that many of the churches and ministries that I work with have policies that allow and even encourage sabbaticals. If that’s the case for you, I hope you will take advantage of it. Don’t let the excuse that “we’re too busy” or “things would fall apart if I left” stop you.
If you’re not in a place that supports sabbaticals, I have two recommendations:
- Read the article, and then use it to start a discussion with your leadership team and/or board about the value of sabbaticals. It may have never crossed their minds. This may be just the spark that is needed.
- Even if a sabbatical isn’t possible right now, you can make the time for smaller doses of mind-wandering. One of the best gifts you can give yourself and your church or ministry may be a regular day away when you disconnect from email and the crisis du jour so that you can “think clearly and expansively.”
That “unproductive” time may save not only your career, but your organization as well.
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