I am a planner to a fault. When I was preparing for my sabbatical, an incredible benefit that GroundFloor Media team members receive after 10 years of employment, I had spreadsheets with schedules and activities, home projects lined up and a stack of books to read from the library. I was sure four weeks was a good amount of time to enjoy summer with the kids, slow down, go to yoga and get many of the things done that I never had time to do. Right?!
My first two weeks of sabbatical were spent traveling to upstate New York and Montréal, Canada. By day two, it was clear that I needed to reset my sabbatical expectations. I set most of my plans aside and embraced a no-schedule/do-nothing attitude. In doing so, I was able to truly enjoy my sabbatical for what it was meant to be – a time when employees are encouraged to undertake activities that promote individual rejuvenation and personal growth.
I was also reminded of John Lennon’s quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In the end, having four weeks off was an incredible gift to me and my family. We traveled, argued, stayed up late and slept in late, went to the pool, made messes, read books, baked muffins, painted, used up two bottles of bug spray, hiked, kayaked, ate s’mores and too much ice cream (if that is even a thing), went through plenty of Band-Aids, practiced yoga, watched movies and let the laundry pile up.
And along the way, I embraced the following:
Go with the Flow
It is a given that things don’t always go as planned when traveling. It rained on and off the entire time we were in New York and Canada. But that is what raincoats and umbrellas are for! Even when hiking. On one hike we made it to the top of the scenic overlook of Lake George and had zero visibility. But we found a red salamander and discovered colorful mushrooms on the trail. In Montréal we went to a hole in the wall restaurant that had no air conditioning when it was 95 degrees out plus humidity, but the food was worth it. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow to enjoy adventures and notice things from a different point of view. I will remember this during our next team brainstorm or when an issue comes up on a project that needs tweaking.
Expect the Unexpected
We stumbled upon the Jardin Botanique de Montréal when we couldn’t get in to see the Montréal Tower at the Olympic Park and were blown away by the Chinese Garden. In fact, it is the largest Chinese garden outside of China in the world. It was spectacular! And one day while we were riding the subway in Montréal and discovering the RÉSO (Montréal’s Underground City), we stepped out into one of the underground malls and into a Barbie exhibit. Yep, Barbie. They had thousands of Barbies from dozens of movie sets to walls of celebrities to hundreds of Barbies in fashions over the decades. The next client meeting or brainstorm I hope to take the time to look for the other stories to tell, the ones you find by asking more questions and listening instead of moving on to the next agenda item. Or investing time in taking a tour, walking the floors or meeting with customers before jumping into planning. There are just some things you need to experience first.
“There Are No Mistakes, Just Happy Little Accidents”
We had a “Bob Ross Paint Day” at the request of my daughter, who is a perfectionist. That’s your first clue that it wasn’t going to go smoothly. Bob’s 27-minute Peaceful Reflections painting (no pun intended) took us two hours. There may have been a few tears along the way. My newly adopted “go with the flow” attitude didn’t fly when we didn’t have Phthalo Blue or the paint wasn’t blending on the canvas correctly. I was reminded of work projects, specifically crisis management and events, where things don’t always go as planned and emotions often get the best of us. In the end the painting turned out well and my daughter was all smiles.
My media detox began with getting off work email, staying off social media and walking my dog without listening to podcasts. This was my biggest personal challenge. I stayed off social media for a week, then posted a few vacation photos. I completely stayed off email for the first two weeks. Because this stressed me out so much, I gave myself 30 minutes on the remaining two Fridays to scan and delete emails. I sent four emails and responded to three. #SabbaticalFail. I was fairly unplugged. And I survived.
It was hard to step away from my schedule and “do nothing,” but it turned into something magical for several weeks. To be honest, it took the first two weeks to just let go of my email and the projects that were playing out in my head. In theory I knew my team would text or call if needed.
This week, I took my dog on a walk and listened to this episode of Hurry Slowly that focuses on the art of noticing. It was perfect timing to hear Jocelyn K. Glei interview Rob Walker about the leeching power of technology and how it impacts what we choose to pay attention to and how to regain control over our attention so we can do meaningful, creative work. I may not have paid much attention to these concepts earlier this year. But I am listening now. I hope to take this experience and revisit my life and work balance. Because in the end it’s on me.
Amy Moynihan is a Senior Director of Communications at GroundFloor Media, where she leads the firm’s cause marketing for Corporate Social Responsibility programs. With more than 20 years of experience, Amy is a creative thinker, enjoys finding and telling compelling stories and has a passion for building long-term brand engagement programs for clients.