A Pathetic Sabbatical: Workaholism Is Difficult To Overcome

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.
  • 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.

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28 thoughts on “A Pathetic Sabbatical: Workaholism Is Difficult To Overcome”

  1. Sympathise- aged grandparent(75)-3 married kids-8 grandkids
    Been there and done it
    It helps if your marriage is strong -you must be singing from the same hymn sheet at all times
    In my case and my children did the same-the girls had kids “early “-25-30
    Had kids close together
    Girls stopped working till primary school -starts at 5 in U.K.
    None of the girls have gone back to full time work-half a week only
    An exception was my wife who went back to full time primary school teaching after the third child went to primary school -teaching regime was less onerous in those days-she in fact had 10 years out of the work place with 3 kids
    We never worked so hard in our lives!
    Raising good kids doesn’t compare with a career-a career is relatively a piece of cake!
    One piece of fun news-just had 3×14 year old girls for a week to stay-one our grandchild
    Teenagers given the chance sleep till 1pm-the morning is all mine and granny’s
    What a change from babies and young kids
    Something to look forward to!

  2. Hey Sam, glad you were able to enjoy some time off

    I too am looking forward to that book as I frequent your site quite a bit!

  3. Your vacations sound like more work than my job used to be! I know your level of tennis requires elite physical conditioning but your mind needs some recovery time too. And we raised three kids so I know how incredibly exhausting that can be even when it is wonderful time spent. It still takes it out of you to stay engaged for long periods of time. Like the others I never detected any drop in output. You are good at keeping a lot of balls in the air at the same time!

  4. Hello Sam! I’m a loyal reader who always learns so much from your posts.

    As for your sabbatical, I am guessing that, with two young children (ages 4 under), you’re at a stage of life where it’s just kind of hard to fully relax. As you say, it’s a 24/7 job to be a parent of young children.

    Maybe when your children are in elementary school, you can find a bit more down time. I consider the elementary years to be the “golden years” as the kids still enjoy spending time with you, and yet they can do a lot of things for themselves.

    Your forthcoming book will be a must-read for me. Here’s a quick question. I know you have always greatly valued your privacy, which is completely understandable. With the marketing for the book, will you choose to become a bit more visible? (I’m only asking because I think you should run for governor or president, or perhaps become the next Oprah, due to your high financial knowledge, and also high emotional intelligence.)

    1. Hi Mocomom,

      Thanks for the kind words. Those golden years in elementary school sounds wonderful. At the same time, I don’t want them to grow up too quickly.

      As for the book, I will probably have to be more public. I think we need more diverse representation in the finance world. The series of violence against Asian people during the pandemic has motivated me to speak up, especially as I think about my children’s futures.

      Thanks for supporting my work!


  5. Wow you sure have been busy. It’s hard to let go of work habits and writing a book is certainly no vacation. That’s a lot of work! I can’t even imagine how challenging that is.

    I’m still adjusting to school being back in session too. I think you’re smart to give your sabbatical an extension and try to get more balance. Change has always been very hard for me and I often have to try many times before I can make any significant changes in my life and work. Best of luck with round 2.

  6. “The reality is, I’m just biding my time until there is herd immunity from COVID-19.”
    I too had hoped this would become a reality but all evidence now points to herd immunity not ever being obtained with the current vaccines. There are just too many breakthrough infections and even the CEO of Pfizer recently commented that it likely a matter of time before a new variant appears that the vaccines will have no efficacy against. He did say that they can quickly develop a new vaccine but of course, that indicates herd immunity is not going to be an option.
    My hope now is that new treatments are developed that will really work to prevent severe disease.

    Your sabbatical might last a long time!

    1. Agreed – Israel, which has 83%+ vaccinated adults has 2x per capita the covid cases as the US currently and just a hair under us in deaths per capita (despite a much less obese population). New large study done in Israel (not peer reviewed yet) has vaccine efficacy dropping 40% *per month.* Combined with risk of strain that either doesn’t care about any vaccine or worse – causes ADE – I think we may have a very long time left to go.

  7. You remind me of my father in law who in his words “failed” at retirement. It took 3 tries and honestly the failing health of his spouse before he finally hung it up. The fact you are father of 2 very young children is going to make packing it up almost impossible.

    I really think the idea of slowly reducing your work makes more sense. Writing 2 instead of 3 articles is a great start. I really have enjoyed your wife’s post, and hope she continues to contribute. I am excited you are writing a book, and will be one of the 1st to buy it. If they are as thought provoking as your posts I might make mandatory reading for the children, and gifts for my friends.

  8. As a “Coastal Elite” (with 3 young kids), who has built up a successful consulting business and a thriving RE portfolio, I find it’s nearly impossible to stop the “I should be productive” vibes during the week even when I know the exercise, socializing, surfing etc makes me a better Dad and better business person.

    I’d love more advice on how to turn off that voice in a future column.

  9. I’m currently on a sabbatical and it’s now been over a year. I think sabbaticals have stages and the first 2 months is just trying to rid yourself of the incessant work mentality. It actually takes a while to finally get to the restorative stage- but it’s delicious and worth it. And, as you pointed out, there is a waning of ROI as the sabbatical continues on so does my motivation. Is this good or bad? Still processing this question. My conundrum? I don’t want to return to my career so I’m flailing a bit. But since I’m far, far, far from being financially independent, I’ve got to figure my pivot. But, I’m so glad for my sabbatical and I celebrate yours.

    1. It’s really wonderful to hear that you are on sabbatical too!

      And it’s nice to know that’s the first two months he’s really trying to get rid of that incessant work mentality. I think you’re absolutely right. For the next two months, I will definitely be a better do nothing person.

      It takes time to let go! What field of work are you in do you enable you to take your sabbatical? What field do you want to enter?

      1. I’m not in a field that usually supports sabbaticals. I’m a medical speech language pathologist that got burnt out and was clawing to stop the hamster wheel. I wanted off the ride but didn’t have an ejection button. When COVID hit, I learned I could take from my 401K and not be charged the 10% early withdrawal fee. I was able to pay off my house and car therefore easing our financial needs. I cried because I was so grateful for the time. There’s a price to pay for mental health and this was worth it to me. I call it my mid life gap year and I think everyone deserves one. I don’t know my next steps or even what field I want to be in. I’m rediscovering my passions and skills but feel the hesitancy of the unknown. It’s so uncomfortable. I definitely relate to teenagers who feel lost coming out of high school or college- lol. I have multiple interests but haven’t pulled the trigger on any yet. What I DO KNOW for sure thousand is I. never want to return to a 9-5 job. So, I’m in uncharted territory.

        1. The unknown is definitely quite scary and exhilarating at the same time isn’t it!

          From your response, I am thrilled that you are taking a break.

          I’ve done corporate consulting, 1X1 consulting, freelance writing, and blogging since I left 2012. You can try them all to make money from home.

          1. Thanks for the link! I’ll check it out. Another thought I wanted to share is you’ll never regret this short time with your children. It’s the small moments they’ll cherish forever (getting ice cream every Thursday, making their favorite sandwich cut into an animal shape, etc). There are few moments in our lives where we felt unconditional love and this is one of the best times to receive it….especially in these chaotic times. They’ll never forget the memories and it will keep them grounded when life gets more turbulent. Stay well and thanks for helping us all out!

            1. I do hope my children come away with some fond memories of their childhood. It’s really hard to remember anything under 5, let alone three. But hopefully, the videos and pictures will job their memory. And hopefully they will have a warm and loving impression!

        2. You’ve expressed EXACTLY the emotions around my “sabbatical” (started Aug 2020) after major burnout that might in fact turn out to be my early retirement at 49. Intellectually speaking, we can understand the process and even create new goals but the psychology around these transitions is beyond. It’s not even money — I can look at my XL and see that our net worth is strong, though there are moments and days I worry about that too.

          I’m trying to believe in the process and not to rush the discovery (or re-discovery) and how to fashion new purpose. I’ve been through career changes multiple times (complete 180s) and I realize I do accomplish what I set out but get bored because I DO have multiple interests and feel I’ve tried so much already. That’s one factor that prevents me from committing because it all feels like an investment of time and money that might prove unsatisfying quickly. Even committing to a place to retire/live has proved challenging, even though I’m technically tied down by multiple properties.

          Hoping the option paralysis lifts for everyone like us. It’d be nice to have some “direction” again. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if people think I’m a trustafarian.

          Best of luck, Alese and keep everyone posted on your journey.

          1. I had to look up the term ‘trustafarian’ and it sounds quite splendid. I’m not financially set up to retire and I wonder if I could be okay with settling with peace but no prosper. Can I have both? Not sure. I don’t want to admit I’m feeling my age….but dammit…I’m feeling my age and I don’t necessarily want to start over and work ungodly hours anymore. Yes, the psychology of it all is interesting and there’s plenty of paralysis of overanalysis. Eventually, I may need to get a coach to hold my hand a bit. I’m glad I’m not alone in this journey and look forward to hearing which path you have chosen. Overall, I’m grateful for this time.

  10. The pandemic handed me reasons for a sabbatical; I had no idea that it would extend indefinitely and begin to look like a retirement. Then, along came vaccination and a return to interest in being out in the public square. It was the first “interim” longer than a 2 week holiday for me in many years. It was unsuccessful in regards to feeling o.k. about not producing, unsuccessful in regards to tackling deferred projects at home, unsuccessful in regards to fulfilling those”new year’s resolutions”, but very successful in regards to a thorough reassessment of my recent past and what I might like to do in regard to an “encore career”. Also, I became comfortable in being “in the present” for significant intervals, turning off the tapes and simply listening to myself breathing and feeling my heart beating. I did renew and maintain some relationships that had gone dormant and developed my networking skills. I’m more than ready to be back in the workaday world, so in that regard it was also successful

  11. Greg Gibson

    Selfishly, I’m glad you failed at scaling back your writing.. I get a lot out of your posts and emails and have shared them with many friends who are followers now as well.. as a Dad, though, you have your priorities in order. Everyone says it, and you always auto-nod, but before you know it, their off on their own! Enjoy your time with the kiddos and put me on the list for that new book when it comes out!

    1. Hi Greg – I appreciate you sharing my work. And I appreciate your support of my book that’s coming out in 2022!

      I just dropped off my boy for his third day of preschool. He was nervous and excited at the same time – exactly how I feel for him!

  12. As someone who just spent a bit more than a year writing a book, I’d love to hear why you decided to use traditional publishing, if in fact, the other 50% of the work is in your own self-promotion and marketing. What exactly, are they doing for you if not also helping you market and distribute?

    I chose to go the book team consultant route and self-publish (comes out September 13) so I could keep a higher percentage of the profits, not to mention my IP. Sounds like you’re doing the same thing as I am (50% self promotion) but giving away both.

    I was surprised to read you went traditional publishing route, after spending years and years literally self-publishing all of your (successful) content.

    1. Personally, I like to try things at least once. It’s the only way I can understand how something really is by doing. I’ve always written based off firsthand experience on FS. You also just never know what opportunities might come out of it.

      I also want to make my children proud. I don’t have a job. But having a physical book that will help anybody with their finances who decides to read it is pretty neat. Maybe my kids can even bring the book to show and tell one day and explain what I do.

      I’m sure Penguin Random House will help market it. And I think it’ll be fun to market it as well. Even though it’s hard work, I’ve never regretted working hard after something is done.

      Fore More See: Making Money Traditionally Publishing A Book: Pros and Cons

      1. I’m self-publishing an e-book, paperback and hardcover – so there will be physical copies as well. Keep us up-to-date (or update that post… I read the original – thanks) as to the pros and cons and your experience along the way. I guess I don’t care if traditional publishing somehow validates my ego… like you, I’d like to add value, help people and sure – along the way, make my kids proud, if that’s an outcome.

        My sticking point was the IP and the numerous stories of authors and musicians losing control of their own creative content. I’m under no illusions my book will in any way become worth millions, but on the odd chance it does, I want to control my own IP, period. There’s no 5-figure number signing bonus that would or could change that. Perhaps I’m wrong! ​I’m wrong all the time.

        Keep us updated!

        1. Will do! And maybe you might think differently if someone came to you with a six-figure offer, instead of a five figure offer? Everybody has a different amount they’d be willing to work for.

          I’m always going to control the IP of Financial samurai.

          Perhaps another difference is that you have a day job that gives you at least a minimum level of status? I’ve got none of that.

          However, since becoming a father, I have really begun to focus more on how I can help my children.

          Here’s a good post on status and fame and prestige, and how it might change: https://www.financialsamurai.com/be-rich-not-famous/

  13. I don’t know if this is a compliment or a criticism, but as a reader I couldn’t detect a difference that you weren’t working as normal during the last few months.

    1. Appreciate it. There are a lot of things that go on behind the scenes that readers aren’t aware of.

      It’s one of those struggles where a working parent wants it all: to be a good parent and have a career. Something generally has to give, if neither of those two do. And that something is mental and physical health.

      I’m assuming things get easier once both kids are in school!

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