Should You Schedule Sabbaticals Around Holidays?

I received an email from a reader:

Question: Do you try to schedule sabbaticals around or over other holidays?

Background/context: I have kids and they have certain weeks off, plus I usually take off certain weeks around certain holidays. If I start Seventh Week Sabbaticals right now, that means a sabbatical would fall right before a holiday. Later, another sabbatical would fall during a holiday. I can imagine my wife will say, “Why can’t you take off that week instead?”

We don’t adjust the Seventh Week Sabbatical schedule ever. It’s a calendar event I created in 2014 that is set to repeat every seventh week. It’s not manually adjusted for any holidays. It falls where it falls.

We do, however, still take all normal holidays and weekends. So we work five days per week (Monday–Friday), take off Saturday and Sunday, take off holidays, and take off every seventh week.

A sabbatical is not synonymous with a holiday.

  • A holiday is typically a day of observance.
  • A sabbatical is the absence of everything (including observance, celebration, etc.).

A sabbatical is intended to be margin. It’s the space between everything else. It’s extra. It’s time set aside exclusively for rest and rejuvenation. It’s freedom from obligation.

Sabbaticals are different from holidays because holidays are not inherently restful.

People often schedule events, other work, travel, plans to visit family, etc., during holidays. They fill up their holidays. As a result, if a holiday is ever truly restful, it’s by chance, not by design.

The sole purpose of a sabbatical is rest. The one rule of sabbaticals is: do not schedule anything for your sabbatical. It’s not the absence of an event but the presence of margin. This is what makes a sabbatical rejuvenating.

Yes, sometimes sabbaticals fall on holidays, where you made specific plans for that holiday. It happens, and it’s okay to follow through with your holiday plans.

It’s also okay when your sabbatical week falls the week before (or the week after) a holiday where you have plans. Take your holiday. Follow through with your plans. Visit family. But also take the sabbatical week. It is a different thing designed intentionally for rest. Don’t manually adjust where the sabbatical falls to have it purposefully align with an existing holiday. Let it fall where it falls. This makes more sense when you start to understand the difference between sabbaticals and holidays. One is restful, the other is not.

While you’re more than welcome to continue taking off the certain weeks you take around holidays, when you take more than seven weeks of sabbaticals per year, it completely changes things. You are no longer desperate for the couple of weeks of time off per year. You’re not perpetually burned out anymore. So while it might be a crazy thought to imagine not taking off certain weeks like you used to as a vacation, know that by next year, you will feel quite different (in the best possible way).

Below is what holiday time looked like for me at the end of 2018 with sabbaticals. I let the sabbatical fall where it falls—it simply repeats every seventh week since I created the original event in 2014. I don’t change the sabbatical schedule.

  • November 19th–25th I took a sabbatical week.
  • December 4th–7th I took a business trip.
  • December 24th–26th I took off to visit family for Christmas.
  • January 1st I took off for New Year’s Day.
  • January 7th–13th I took a sabbatical week.

(By the way, you can view my sabbatical calendar on the Schedule page.)

If there’s any work that needs to be done by any certain point, I know exactly what times I have available to work in between my sabbaticals, trips, and holiday commitments.

It’s just like when someone asks on Friday if you have time for a call. When looking at your availability, you ignore the weekend (because you’re not working) and simply say, “Are you available Monday at 8:00 AM?” Similarly with sabbaticals, when there’s work to do, schedule it during times of availability, and account for deadlines accordingly.

Remember, things take as long as the amount of time you give them.