I recently took a six-week sabbatical. I had a similar approach:
I made nearly no plans for my new free time. … I had the vague idea to relax, work on projects, and catch up on video games. (I went cold turkey on games early on in college in an attempt to focus; in retrospect, putting Linux on my primary computer to help enforce that was likely a valuable career decision.)
For me, the vague idea was to:
- see neglected friends;
- record some songs;
- write an IOU-tracking webapp;
- finish working my way through iOS Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide.
In retrospect, these ideas are too numerous, and possibly too vague. This shouldn’t be news to anyone, but trying to do too much—and hence not completing any one thing—is far less satisfying than focusing on one goal and achieving it. So, I didn’t see as many people as I intended to; I didn’t finish recording any of the songs I started on; and I didn’t get anywhere near the end of iOS Programming. I did get a very rough first cut of the IOU-tracker working, which I am using on and off, and ended up making some (extremely minor) contributions to Yesod in the process, so that’s okay. But being wound up about not ticking all these boxes (and more) did not exactly help me relax.
The lessons here, for me, are: focus; commit myself to achievable, incremental and worthwhile goals; and lower my expectations of myself. It’s okay to spend an evening achieving nothing more than two episodes of The Wire; equally, there’s very little satisfaction in completing four chapters of a programming textbook if I’m not applying that knowledge to a real project.
When I was planning my leave I had wild dreams about getting fit or learning Arabic or whatever. Once I no longer had my job to blame for it I was confronted by what I already subconsciously knew: my own motivation is at fault. I was using “no free time” as an excuse.
“Should I take a sabbatical too? Will it give me a chance to finally do all those things I’ve wanted to?” My response was, “No, if you really wanted to do those things you would’ve found time for them already.”
Just one of a whole bunch of fascinating articles in Evan Martin’s Chromium Notes series I ended up reading after looking into Glick as a possible remedy for the long, slow process of trying to publish a binary tarball of Bustle which works on more than one Linux distribution. As a fan of messing with people’s software by embedding RTL markers and the like, I particularly enjoyed the footnote:
In this image, I constructed a page with a specially-crafted title, which Chrome naively formats as “$PAGE_TITLE - Google Chrome” and then hands it on to the OS. The image shows what happens when I alt-tab.