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July 21, 2009

Going Back to Work

Are you going back to work after a reboot break?  Here’s a recent experience.

As a sabbatical winds down, anticipation of working again grows. It can be a euphoric feeling: “Hey, I’m getting back to my career, or I’ll be earning money again, or I’ll have a schedule again.” It can be a thoughtful time: “How will I retain some of the civility of my sabbatical as I reenter the 24/7 work world?” Or it can be something akin to sheer terror: “Will I still be good at what I do? Will I buckle down and do the work? Will I be happy or unhappy?”

I found when I returned to work after a relatively long sabbatical that it was an intrusion on my sabbatical rhythm. I had to get up earlier. Since I wasn’t used to going to bed earlier, I got less sleep, so I was more tired. I still had to pay bills, be in touch with various service providers by phone or email, run the house, buy groceries, get to the dry cleaner, etc. – and do all that in time other than office time. Not to mention fitting in family and relaxation. When could I do it? Certainly not at work. It was a real challenge.  But by taking it a little at a time and trying to develop a new rhythm that incorporated work yet retained sabbatical values, I made it work.

By sabbatical values, I mean keeping a balance between work and life outside work. It’s hard to do. Work draws you in, and some who work are used to being there for long hours every day and paying less attention to other parts of their lives. They may grab a sandwich for lunch – or not. They may stay late because that is the office culture or there is just so much work to do.

I made a point of taking at least a little time for lunch and sitting outside to eat it (weather permitting). I tried to eat healthily, as I do at home. I sat where I could see trees or other parts of nature, so I could just sit and relax and think. And I left at the prescribed end of the work day – or as close as I could. I even went to a play and a movie.

These are huge differences from how I worked before when I was the proverbial workaholic. I’m proud to be trying to change so I can work well and also live the lifelong sabbatical even while working. We’ll see how it goes. Did I mention that I’ve only been back at work two weeks?