Since sharing a few “sabbatical days” posts on social media, several people have asked me if I’m “in sabbatical mode” or if I feel like I’m “on sabbatical.” I haven’t known how to answer, typically defaulting to say, “Well, I still have Center for Engaged Learning responsibilities, so I’m working on finding a balance.” Yet that response bothered me because 1) I opted to retain my Center responsibilities, and 2) I recognize that I am privileged to have a sabbatical. As a result, I’ve been reflecting on what “sabbatical mode” is and what I’m doing to make the most of my sabbatical semester.
First, a disclaimer/reminder: Sabbaticals still carry responsibilities. Not everyone opts to continue program administration responsibilities while on sabbatical (though I’ve interacted with many people who do), but even if I were to set aside my Center for Engaged Learning work, when I applied for my sabbatical, I made a commitment to complete a significant project. At Elon, the application process even asks faculty to outline a timeline and outcomes, as well as an indication of how we will assess the success of our projects if we are awarded a sabbatical.
“The planned outcome of this project is a single-author book, published by a press that focuses on higher education.”
August – December for a meta-analysis, writing, and revision.
Every now and then, I feel a bit stressed by that self-imposed and institutionally-endorsed expectation… I have 5 months to write a book. Gulp.
The first two weeks of “sabbatical days” have included substantial reflection on the processes, structures, and resources that will help me meet my sabbatical outcome. Much of that reflection actually has focused on my other continuing career responsibilities. I’ve confirmed, for instance, that my Center responsibilities do not fit neatly within two days (or 16 hours) a week, even though they represent only a fraction of my total job responsibilities during a regular semester. Recurring and one-time meetings easily fill 8+ hours before I turn my attention to managing our research seminars (with a call for proposals for a conference already open and a call for applications for the 2019-2021 research seminar launching soon); creating, curating, and editing web content; (co-)writing and/or editing scholarly publications related to the Center’s work; and researching and assessing our initiatives. As a result, my “CEL days” are an exercise in efficiency; yesterday I worked 9 hours on campus, focused on the Center, and they were extremely productive hours. I hope to carry lessons learned from that efficiency forward into future semesters when I layer teaching and other service commitments (e.g., committee work not directly related to my work with the Center) back into my weekly schedule.
To that end, I’m using my sabbatical as an opportunity to experiment with new email management strategies and to try out software that might help me track projects – to “download” more of my project management out of my head and out of my email system.
I also am challenging myself to…
- Read more, broadly.
I am a slow academic reader, so staying current with the scholarship directly related to my current projects is difficult enough. My sabbatical affords time to read carefully within my routine scholarship categories and to take time to read texts that might not even be tangential to my work. (Admittedly, though, most of what I’m reading still could be connected at least by a dotted line… For instance, I’m reading the texts assigned to Elon’s Masters of Higher Education students in their fall courses; I’ll be teaching in the program in January and would like to be more familiar with the other courses in the program.)
- Reestablish exercise routines that I let slide during the Center’s busy* summer.
*I use this term unapologetically. In June and July, we hosted 3 research seminar meetings, plus a planning forum for our next research seminar. We also represented the Center and presented at multiple conferences. I’m grateful for everyone who contributes to the Center’s summer work – research seminar leaders, the Center’s program coordinator, our student workers, and friends and allies of the Center – for making our intensive summer programming not only possible, but also successful.
- Reengage my culinary creativity. I enjoy cooking, and it often provides time/space to process my day. For the last year, though, I have found myself defaulting to standby recipes or relying predominantly on meal kits like Home Chef. This fall, I’m returning to meal planning and to prioritizing visits to farmers markets so that I can find inspiration in seasonal produce.
So am I in “sabbatical mode”? Yes, I probably am. After all, I’m focusing on a substantial project while re-evaluating work practices that I can carry forward beyond the sabbatical for continued productivity and reprioritizing daily activities that contribute to my well-being. For both accountability and reflection purposes, I’ll post updates as the semester progresses.