Origin of Seventh Week Sabbaticals

Sean McCabeMy name is Sean McCabe. I am the founder of seanwes.

In 2014, I started taking Seventh Week Sabbaticals.

I work six weeks and take off every seventh week. I also pay my employees to take off every seventh week. We don’t have “unlimited time off”, we have mandatory time off.

It is my mission, by 2047, to get every company in the world to pay their employees to take off every seventh week.

Before you think I take 7.42 sabbatical weeks each year because I must love taking time off, let me assure you the opposite is true.

I was heading toward burnout

I started my first business at age 17. As I write this, I’m about to turn 30.

For the entirety of my 20s, I worked. What I don’t mean is that I had a job and also did other things. I mean, I worked and did nothing else but work and sleep.

In my first decade of business, I worked 16 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I love my work.

But I was heading toward burnout.

I just didn’t know any other way to be.

It seems I have two modes: ON and OFF. Nothing in between. I’m either all-in or I don’t care at all.

When you’re in your 20s, you’re practically invincible. You can stretch yourself and bounce back like it’s nothing. I could work crazy hours and get up at 6:00 AM and do it all again with no breaks. Just go, go, go.

But as time passed, I could feel that I was wearing down. I knew was I couldn’t keep going at this grueling pace indefinitely. It took many years for me to come to this realization.

I have experienced real burnout before. I was so burned out, I didn’t even know I was burned out until six months after the fact. That’s a story for another day, but I’ll tell you this much: it’s not pretty.

Whatever you think you can’t afford to lose—whatever is causing you to push, and push, and push yourself beyond your limits—is not worth it.

What you truly can’t afford is burnout.

Once you’ve burned out, you’re out of commission. It’s not impossible to come back, but it’s a long process of recuperation.

  • You think you’re saving time by pushing yourself.
  • You think you’re preventing problems by overworking.
  • You think you’re getting more done by grinding harder.

But the time you will lose by being burned out is a million times worse than the time you think you’ll lose now.

“All in” on a break

I knew I couldn’t keep going at the same rate without risking burnout. I knew I had to slow down—I had to take a break somehow.

But the only way I know how to be is “all in”.

Well, okay then.

What would it look like to go “all in” on a break?

I came across Stefan Sagmeister’s 2009 TED talk, The power of time off. He talked about taking off an entire year every 7 years.

The problem for me was I needed something more immediate. I couldn’t wait seven years to rest, I needed a solution now.

I decided to take this idea of the sabbatical and create a small scale version of it.

Rather than take off only the seventh year, the way I could go “all in” on a break now was to take off every seventh week.

Thus, the Seventh Week Sabbatical was born. I’ve been taking sabbaticals ever since and never looked back. It’s the single best thing I’ve ever done for my career.

P.S.

Fun Fact: Initially, and for many years, I referred to my time-off concept as “Small Scale Sabbaticals”. But the name never stuck (no one but me ever used it), and one knew what it meant when they first heard it.

It wasn’t until this year that I came up with “Seventh Week Sabbaticals”. I like it a lot more. It’s descriptive, and you immediately understand what it means.

Seventh Week Sabbaticals.