And just like that, my two-month sabbatical is over. Did you miss me? Of course not! I continued to publish three posts a week and send out one newsletter a week like an addict.
There was only a one-week period where I felt like I truly took things down a notch. Our family went up to Sonoma where we enjoyed swimming in the pool every day. I also took my kids to Train Town twice, which was a whole lot of fun.
However, after our trip was over, it was back to life as usual. I had to give up several business deals to try and recuperate. However, two months later, I don't feel very rested at all!
The Failed Sabbatical: Not Very Relaxing
I've mentioned in my sabbatical preparation post that if you're going to give up the money, you had better get something in return. My hope was to feel fully healed by now so I can have more energy to be a better father and writer.
Instead of feeling healed, I feel like my usual battered self because the 15-20 hours less time I worked on Financial Samurai I mostly used spending with my kids. And given taking care of young kids is one of the hardest jobs in the world, my overall work just got harder.
But I'm thankful I can spend so much time with them.
I dropped my boy off at his new preschool the other day with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I'm so proud of how far he's come after 4 years. On the other hand, I'm sad those 4 years are now over.
He had been home with us every day since we pulled him from his old preschool in March 2020. Now, he's off to a new adventure where he hopefully learns a new language, develops social skills, and meets lots of new friends.
I was so nervous and excited for him, I woke up at 3:45 am on his first day of school despite having gone to bed at midnight.
And curiously, I don't feel guilty sending him to school at all. It is when you don't feel guilt with a new situation that you know you've tried your very best. He's been ready to interact with kids his age for at least six months.
No matter how much you want to take a break, a parent can never shirk their duties. Therefore, taking a sabbatical may be more beneficial once your children are adults.
Please cherish every day you have with your loved ones.
Another Reason Why The Sabbatical Didn't Work
If I only had my FS writing and kids to take care of, I think I would have healed by at least 50% today. However, I committed to doing one more important thing during my sabbatical: write my book with Penguin Random House.
You would think writing a book would be of similar difficulty to writing an article on Financial Samurai. However, writing a book is 5X harder since the chapters have to fit cohesively together. Further, there are several sets of eyeballs that review your work and ask you to try again.
I'm thankful to have professional editors polish my work though. I'm always asking for constructive criticism so they can make my prose better. Book writing just takes a long time and I've still got about 2-3 more months to go!
The Michigan State University Faculty Handbook explains that the purpose of sabbatical leave is “to encourage academic and institutional revitalization by providing sustained time for research/creative activities.”
As a writer, I'm totally down with taking a sabbatical to do just that. If I only spent my downtime writing my book, my sabbatical would have been a great success. However, such was not the case.
The interesting thing is, writing and publishing the book is only half the job. The other half is marketing the book to help it get sold. But I think I'll enjoy the marketing process.
FS Writing I'm Proud Of During The Sabbatical
There were definitely times during my sabbatical that I lost the motivation to write online. It was kind of alarming given I've been at my 3X-4X a week cadence since July 2009. Do muscles really atrophy that quickly?
Once you start taking things down a notch, it gets easier to continue taking things down a notch. If you're not careful, you might end up doing nothing after a while!
Curiously, the same thing goes for shunning money. Once you decline one business deal, it gets easier to decline another. Pretty soon, you may find yourself with no revenue!
But the sabbatical did give me the inspiration to research and write the following posts:
- If The U.S. Housing Market Gets As Hot As The Canadian Housing Market – I'm particularly pleased with this post because I don't think anybody has made this investment connection. Big media sites have reported about how the Canadian housing market is hotter than the U.S. housing market. However, there has been no follow-on analysis on what would happen if investors viewed America in a similar positive light.
- Preparing For A 50-Year Retirement After Vanguard's Lower Return Assumptions – This was more of a redemption post that just fell into my lap. It's nice to see Vanguard come my way a year after I suggested a significantly lower withdrawal rate than 4% in order to preserve capital and keep more invested in the market for a recovery.
- FIRE Confessionals II: A Bull Market Phenomenon – I enjoyed getting to know three people's backgrounds who retired with three different levels of wealth. Hearing different perspectives is one of the things that gets me excited each day on Financial Samurai. Therefore, whenever you leave a comment or send an e-mail, please share some of your background so I can better understand where you're coming from.
- The Delta Variant Investment Thesis – Came up with a game plan just in case thing get much worse. It's truly a bummer we're still having to deal with COVID after so many months. But life must go on!
I considered hiring freelance writers to pinch-hit for me while I was gone. However, I just couldn't get myself to do it. However, I did get my wife to publish two articles, which was of great help.
A Successful Sabbatical Requires Support From Family & Friends
It's worth thinking about a sabbatical as a rehabilitation center for workaholics. Ever since I had to get into work by 6 am starting in 1999, I haven't been able to sleep in.
I need to work on something every day to feel useful. If I don't do something productive, I sometimes feel like a deadbeat father – like I'm not properly providing for my family. This whole added pressure to provide since having kids has really been a psychological doozy.
I'm not quite sure why. I suspect it's because I fear regret most of all. There are some things from my childhood where I regret not trying harder. Today, my biggest fear is not properly teaching my children to be good people.
I've got a lot of jagged edges due to an eventful upbringing and a more confrontational personality. It was filled with fistfights, suspensions, and run-ins with the law. I feel the same problems may happen to my children If I'm not paying close attention.
My parents were regular parents. Both had full-time jobs and weren't available until after 5:30 pm. As a result, it was easy for me to stray. If my kids have to go through what I went through, I'd be nervous about their future.
Having a great sabbatical requires getting your partner to encourage you to take it easier. They, in turn, may need to step up the workload in order for you to feel comfortable easing off.
In order to relax more, I also needed to hear explicit approval that I could. Further, I needed to see that my wife was doing OK.
Unfortunately, with two young kids who still don't sleep through the night consistently, my wife was constantly exhausted too.
Another Attempt At A Sabbatical
After this failed sabbatical, I've decided to try again! My hope is that with my boy in preschool five days a week, the extra time will give me more free time to do relaxing things. My wife also won't be as tired.
I'm going to ask my wife to point out when I've been working too much. An easy solution is just to publish twice a week, instead of three times a week. That should cut my writing hours down by ~30% or three hours on average a week.
My sabbatical was mainly a failure because I was too busy trying to do too many things. The reality is your work and business opportunities will still be there when you get back. Two months away is nothing. Even a six-month sabbatical will likely go by relatively quickly.
Further, the bull market has really made it easier to give up online revenue opportunities. With an unrelenting bull market in stocks and real estate, I'm beginning to wonder whether it's worth spending extra time making any active income at all.
And if and when the market tanks, any additional active income won't do much to plug any holes. After 25 years of regularly saving and investing most of my income, my absolute exposure has gotten large.
Patiently Waiting For Herd Immunity
In conclusion, I will be taking another sabbatical until November 15, 2021, and reassess. We can also call it one 4-month long sabbatical if we want. The reality is, I'm just biding my time until there is hopefully herd immunity from COVID-19.
In my pre-retirement checklist for post-pandemic life, I forecasted herd immunity to be reached on February 1, 2022. Based on the number of people getting COVID-19 and the vaccination rates, the date for herd immunity still looks achievable by the end of next spring. But then again, who knows.
At that point, perhaps I will go on a permanent sabbatical until there's another event that locks us down for years.
Over the next couple of months, my plans are the following:
Parenthood (Job 1): Let our new preschool take care of our son for 6.5 hours a day. Use this extra time to play with my daughter, exercise, and take longer naps.
Book Writing (Job 2): Finish the final draft. With the amount of time and energy it's taken to write this book, I won't have any energy left to write another for years, if ever. Therefore, my plan is to make this book an instant classic.
Financial Samurai (Job 3): Reduce writing down to twice a week from three times a week. Get my wife, a guest, or a sponsor to write once a week so there's still something fresh every other day.
With this plan in mind, I'm confident this time around, my latest sabbatical will be a success!
Readers, have you ever gone through a failed sabbatical? If so, why did it fail? Anybody out there a workaholic who can't seem to take it easier? If you are a parent who has been able to take things down, I'd love to hear from you. I need some tips on how to slack off and feel good about it.
Funny enough, after publishing this post, I realized the best time to work may actually be during a pandemic. With so much more flexibility, perhaps working right now isn't so bad.
For more nuanced personal finance content, join 50,000+ others and sign up for the free Financial Samurai newsletter. Financial Samurai is one of the largest independently-owned personal finance sites that started in 2009.