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Take a year (or less) off from work

Many people envy academics who take sabbaticals. What they don't realize is that sabbaticals are not designed as time on the beach. You are supposed to use your free time to accomplish specific projects. Often you are not allowed to embark on a sabbatical if your plans seem vague or unproductive.

Have a plan that includes fun.
How do you want to play? Did you always want to spend a year at the movies, take a ceramics class, write nonstop all morning, or begin each day with a blank slate?

If this idea is totally new, even scary, you may want to practice on weekends. You may need to identify what you really want to do before you start. A coach can help.

After you know what you want to do,

Design playful activities.

I recommend two types of goals: a creativity goal and a physical activity goal.

A creativity goal involves developing a new side of yourself, using some combination of art, music, drama, and writing. You may become an artist or take "appreciation" classes. If you travel, you can keep a journal, visit art museums or attend concerts.

No ideas? Check out The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron, available at any bookstore. I am willing to bet that you will have no trouble identifying playful activities as you work through the program.

Physical activity can be as simple as walking or as rigorous as training for a marathon. Learn a new sport. Dance. Work with a trainer in the weight room. People tell me over and over, "I felt stronger as a person when my body became stronger."

Some goals are unique combinations of the physical and the creative. "Build a cabin on my property," "Sail my boat to the island and back," "Walk the length of the state of California and keep a journal."

Set a time limit for your Time Out.

Over three months, you can sign up for a class in pottery or piano. You can complete The Artist's Way program.

Six months? You can draft a short book or outline a longer one.

Six weeks? You can travel or go to workshops or see all the movies you didn't have time for.

A time limit can free you. Someone I know (call her Janet) finished her MBA and began drifting. She worked part-time in a restaurant in a charming resort town. She felt no rush to get a corporate job to begin her career. After several months, the restaurant closed and Janet's parents reminded her, "We supported you through school so you could get a real job!"

Janet eventually built her own successful business, but she says a time limit would have given her a sense of direction.
Don't drift. You can always start a new Time Out if you're ready.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D. is an author, career coach, and speaker. She works with mid-career professionals who want to make a fast move to career freedom. Visit her site or call 505-534-4294.

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