I’m currently on a short sabbatical, after working as a software engineer for the last 8 years. In this post, I explain the reasons that led me to decide on taking a sabbatical, and what I'm planning on doing for it.
Why take a sabbatical?
Sabbaticals are great! Don’t just take my word for it.
You might have been working for a long time, and feel you need the free time. Maybe you want to travel or explore other interests or career opportunities. Those are all very good reasons.
In my case, I've been toying with the idea of having a long vacation for the last few years. Four months ago it became real. I started to feel I was not progressing as I wanted on my career. It felt like I was on a moving train, that never stopped, going from one fire to the next without looking at the big picture.
One day, I started brainstorming and planning on what I would do if I didn't have a job. The plan got me excited, in a way that I haven't been feeling in a long time. That's when I knew I needed this to happen.
What do people do on a sabbatical?
A sabbatical is highly personal. In my particular case, I've been feeling the need to improve my craft and fill gaps in my technical knowledge, to be more confident in the work I do (I suspect this is fueled by Imposter's Syndrome, but learning can't hurt). I've decided to structure it in four key areas:
Motivation: Invest in your craft. Learn the foundations you are lacking. Be a better engineer.
I've started by brainstorming what I wanted to learn about, or what I felt I needed to get a deeper understanding on:
- Testing Frameworks:
I probably won't have the time to cover everything that's on the list, but that's fine. As every brainstorm, this is a starting point, that I'll need to prioritize, and I'm sure new things will take my focus as I go.
Motivation: Create. Build your portfolio and online presence. Explore your side projects. Make yourself known for what you build.
I’m happiest when I’m building. That's why I love being a software engineer. Revamping my website and starting this blog is already a step in that direction. I also have plans for contributing to open-source and creating a new product (if all goes well, I'll share news about it soon).
Motivation: Explore other interests. Get better on everyday things.
These are things that make me happy in my daily life, and that I want to explore more or get better at. I might write about these in this blog, occasionally:
- Cooking (I'm getting better at it, but there's still a lot I need to learn/practice)
- Piano (I've stopped learning/playing and I want it to be part of my life again)
- Fitness (focused on distance running, strength training to support it and general health)
I also have two other interests that I've given lower priority. It would be great if I get time to explore these, but I prefer to give more attention to the above than half-heartedly do all of them:
- Japanese (I had a few lessons a long time ago, and want to resume it)
- Drawing (I'm terrible at it. I want to get better)
Motivation: Sabbaticals should be fun.
Play games. Watch TV. Read. Go through a Wikipedia rabbit-hole for two hours. Have fun.
I’m very excited about this sabbatical! It has already been rewarding to step back from the day to day, have time to catch up with the front-end community, and develop this blog.
I highly encourage you to take a sabbatical if possible (between jobs, or negotiate it with your employee), especially if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated by your daily job.
I’ve found that a sabbatical for personal development, and planning for it beforehand, were very helpful for me, but don’t feel the need to plan or overthink it. And it doesn’t need to be about learning or self-development. It should be about what you need.