Focusing on What’s Important: Lessons discovered on sabbatical

Working for the one of the Best Places to Work in Denver and the No. 1 place to work in America, according to OUTSIDE Magazine, has its perks, one of them being GroundFloor Media’s generous sabbatical program.  After 10 years of employment, employees are encouraged to take one month off to “undertake activities that promote individual rejuvenation and personal benefit.”

For the month of August, I decided to head out my first day to a girl’s weekend birthday celebration, in the wine country of the Palisades in Colorado. I also enjoyed a week of relaxing at home and attending, much missed yoga classes. I then headed out on a 10-day dream trip to Ireland with my husband. For my last week, I took the time to organize and prep for my first week back.

It was an incredible experience to be able to take time for reflection over the course of the month and I wanted to share some of my takeaways that might be helpful no matter where you find yourself in life.

1. Reevaluating priorities

GroundFloor Media company time off

Riding bikes through wine country in the Palisades

At 4 p.m. on Friday, my last day in the office I headed out on the road to the Palisades for a 40th birthday celebration for one of my close girlfriends. I hadn’t seen most of the group (10 girls in all) in months and was excited to catch up on their lives. We rented a house along with bicycles to visit the many wineries and soak in the last part of summer.

Spending time with these amazing women reminded me to make more time to reconnect with friends, family and the things I love.  As hard as some of the biking was for me, (my girlfriends made it look easy) I enjoyed being active and the outdoors.

When life gets “busy” I tend to focus on tasks and find that weeks have gone by without setting time aside to connect with the people in my life.  Everyone who knows me knows I always have a running to-do list, this includes my personal life.  It helps me stay organized but can sometimes work against me when I want to make time for new things. Having the opportunity to slow down over the course of four weeks, I started to look at the stuff that kept me “busy” and ask myself if they were really my priorities.

Sometimes our list doesn’t match our values and it’s ok to make a new one. When I returned home after the amazing girl’s weekend instead of working on house projects and tasks I felt I needed to do, I went to yoga, called long distance friends and family, made a coffee date and sat on my balcony with a book I had been putting off for months.

When you find yourself becoming “busy” ask yourself, is there something you could let go of to make time for things that are important to you? You might find that the things you have been checking off a list weren’t the things that were important after all.

2. Exploring new places and finding a new approach

GroundFloor Media company benefit sabbatical

Exploring the sites of Blarney Castle

Traveling to Ireland has always been a dream of mine, with its rich history, hospitable people, and beautiful landscapes, what’s not to love? Setting out on my second international trip ever with my husband, I planned some fun sites in each of the four cities we were visiting.  We started in Dublin then on to Ennis for a night, to Cork, to Kilkenny and finally back to Dublin.

We rented a car for the whole trip, which I highly recommend if you visit.  We were surprised at how fast we learned to drive on the opposite side of the road including a stick shift on the left instead of the right. The country was easy to navigate with exception to the tiny off-highway roads where locals drive at high speed like they are in a car commercial.

We learned to embrace being out of our comfort zone and have fun with the adventure of trying something new. We let other drivers pass when needed and didn’t let the new surroundings intimidate us. Besides, it gave us an excuse to slow down and take in the beautiful countryside.

We started early each day to get to locations before the tour buses and we ended up having most of the sites to ourselves and were able to take our time and explore. In the evenings, we left time open for exploring the cities and anything that might spontaneously look fun. We visited castles, churches, museums, found new restaurants in each city, and of course had our share of Guinness.

I started to really like this approach to the day and wonder if I could also incorporate this into my daily work and personal life? At work, I could front-load my day with the things that are deadline oriented and leave my afternoons open for items that have more flexibility or for new projects. In my personal life, I could front-load my to do’s on the weekends so that I have the rest of the day to enjoy anything that may arise.

I am finding this approach exciting and easier to navigate and can’t wait to see where it takes me.

3. A new focus

Adjusting back to Mountain time, after Ireland took me a little longer than I thought. I had one week left of sabbatical when it dawned on me that there was so much I wanted to get done before my first week back to work.

I started thinking through how I could multitask my errands and tasks to get everything done. I have heard many times that multitasking is not very effective and that focusing on one task at a time is a much better approach. In fact, many articles have been written that “The human brain cannot perform two tasks that require high-level brain function at once” as stated at ThoughtCo.com.

I started to adopt this method and only focus on the task at hand and not worry about what was next. I found that I got more done and that some of the other tasks weren’t even necessary.

I continued this approach on my first week back to work. I continued to block my calendar for the tasks I want to accomplish for the day and did my best to not be distracted. Sometimes you can’t help interruptions or your day may not go as planned but by trying to stay on task for the majority of the time, you will find that you will accomplish more.

So, if you’re feeling stuck or working on figuring out a new approach, take some time to try something new and reevaluate your method. Stepping out of your comfort zone and focusing on the task at hand, might lead you to what’s most important.

 

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