Episode 194: 4 Takeaways From My Annual Sabbatical

September 22, 2021

Have you ever taken a sabbatical in your business? Every year, I take a sabbatical to reset, reflect, and rest. In today’s episode of the podcast, I’m sharing four takeaways from my annual sabbatical! Listen in as I highlight these four takeaways and my encouragement to you if you’re stuck in your business or considering a sabbatical yourself!

Four Lessons I Learned From My Annual Sabbatical

If you’ve been around for a while, you know I take a sabbatical annually. Every year, I learn something new, whether I’m focusing on my mental health, plans for my business, or anything else. Here are the four lessons I learned from my annual sabbatical this year!

You are Worthy of Rest without Any Qualifiers Necessary

I know many of us business owners have this mentality that if we don’t hustle and work hard, we don’t deserve to rest. Guess what—we do. This year, my annual sabbatical fell during a time when I didn’t have any big launches or complete any major projects. This didn’t mean my sabbatical wasn’t earned—I am worthy of rest.

You Deserve to Have a Schedule that You Love

Speaking of rest and worthiness, your schedule should be reflective of the life you want to live that you can also love. Being a business owner means you get to make a schedule that works best for you. What type of schedule would you prefer to have?

Systems are Essential

One of my biggest lifesavers in my sabbaticals come down to my systems. While I may be out of the office, my business was still running. This is only possible with the systems my team and I have put in place! Your business won’t break without you if you implement them.

Celebrate Every Win

Lastly, we often overlook big wins, but what does that mean for all of the other wins too? I’m as guilty as anyone for dismissing wins—but one major things we’ll be changing around here is celebrating every win!

Furthermore, if you’re in a season of business where the way you’re doing things isn’t serving you in life or business, consider a sabbatical to reflect on what you can do differently.

Catch the Show Notes

About My Annual Sabbatical (2:18)

Four Lessons I Learned From My Annual Sabbatical (5:09)

Does the Way You’re Doing Things Serve You in Life and Business Right Now? (21:10)




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Hi friends and welcome to the brand strategy podcast. A show created to equip you with the inspiration, encouragement, and clarity. You need to build the brand of your dreams. I’m your host, Bonnie Bakhtiari brand designer, strategist, and founder of the Lumetri from sustainable strategy to part felt encouragement. Each episode is designed to equip you with the tools you need to chase after your dreams, because you deserve a brand that empowers you to do what you love, connects with your dream clients and offers a deep sense of fulfillment along the way. So grab a cup of coffee and join me on this journey. Won’t Liam.

Hey friends. Welcome back to the brand strategy podcast, where today we are talking about some of my biggest takeaways from my annual sabbatical. I’m so excited to be able to share a candid look inside this intentional time, away from my business, and really share some of the kind of aha or light bulb style moments that I experienced in this almost month away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life inside my business. So in today’s episode, I’m going to be talking through really the four biggest lessons that I learned during this intentional time away. And I am sharing them in a way that my intention is for you to be able to take them and apply them, or really I should say, apply whatever resonates to your own business. So of course, this is all coming from my own personal experience. There’s no one size fits all way to do business, and there’s certainly no one size fits all way to experience rest.

But my hope for this episode is that you can take a little look inside what it was like on my own sabbatical. And if it aligns with your vision of how you want to live your life in business, that you can start to take intentional action towards carving out a similar kind of time of rest and personal growth and investing back into yourself into your own schedule. So that being said, let’s dive on into really the four big takeaways that I gleaned from this experience. So first of all, if you are new around these parts, you might not know that every year, and I’ve been doing this for years now, I take a sabbatical and how I define that sabbatical is an intentional amount of time away from my business where I’m completely unplugged from things like client work or emails, or I even really, really, really limit my interaction on social media, even so that I am focusing on just being every year that I’ve done this it’s looked different some years I travel some years.

I do a little staycation some years I am, uh, diving into like specific personal development work or I am, you know, setting some kind of goal to, you know, start a new hobby. Like every year is different, right? Because every year I find myself wanting to cultivate new skills or to grow in emotional maturity or to cultivate resilience or to, you know, focus on something. And this year I focused on taking almost the entire month of August off from my business to just be, uh, over the last year, especially for my life. It’s been really hectic and there’s been ever flowing like nonstop to do lists. And I wanted to take a step back from all of those responsibilities and kind of give myself a chance to fall back in love with everyday life outside of my business and give myself a chance to just be a human, not to be an entrepreneur and not to be the head of this team, not to be a brand designer and strategist or a coach for designers, but just to be me.

And, um, what I learned really surprised me and it surprised me in a really positive way. So kind of, let’s just, I’ll just drive into some of the, you know, kind of like step-by-step things that became apparent to me during this time away. And I should, I should clarify that with taking this time off and if you’ve listened to any of my other podcast episodes about how I prep for my annual sabbatical, or if you’ve, um, you know, perused the blog and read more of the, how to, you can learn more about how I actually plan out my sabbatical and how I prep for this time away. But I should say that this year, I didn’t really have any grand agenda. I didn’t go in saying like, these are the books I’m going to read, or I’m gonna, you know, meet with my therapist this many times, or I’m gonna, you know, like take this trip.

It was really just sort of this open-ended sort of challenge for myself because I am a planner. I am one of those people who like my calendar is totally color-coded with different types of events and meetings and things like that. And so I, I wanted to just have open time to see how I chose to fill that time and what I learned along the way. So the first thing that became apparent to me as I started this was this idea that you’re worthy of arrest without any qualifiers necessary. So in the past I have planned my sabbatical on the tail end of something big, like I have, um, used it as kind of like a reward almost for making it through a big launch or for, um, you know, hitting a certain kind of goal, like hitting a sales goal. But this year, and actually last year as well, I noticed that my sabbatical, the timing of it came at a time where I didn’t really have any, you know, like big lunches that I was just wrapping up or any like big projects that were in the works.

And that was actually really beautiful for me because it, it showed me that you don’t need to earn your rest. You don’t have to sandwich in time away from your business or time to pour back into yourself in the midst of your crazy to do lists or a really packed launch schedule. So you don’t need to have just come off of a launch. You don’t need to be suffering from burnout. You don’t need to, you know, hit any sort of a specific milestone in order to be worthy and deserving of rest, right, where you are in this season of life and the season of a business you’re already deserving of rest and taking that and giving yourself, giving your personhood and your body, the ability to rest is not a bad thing. It’s actually a really beautiful thing because it allows you to pour back into yourself so that you can be your happiest, your healthiest, your most rested version of yourself for yourself and for the people in your life.

So for your partner or your kids, or your pets, or your team or your clients, right? So rest is actually a really beautiful thing. It’s something that we all need as humans and you’re worthy of it, right where you are. The second thing that I learned during this time away is that you deserve to have a schedule that you love. And this is something that I kind of sat with because coming off of, uh, July, the kind of rhythm that I had in July prepping for my sabbatical was a little busier than normal because I was, you know, prepping my team to, for me to be out of the office for that amount of time, I was prepping my clients, my custom designed clients for me to be out of the office and, you know, really just setting those intentions and expectations with the people around me.

And I realized kind of going from, you know, like my last week in the office, which was crazy busy to then my first full week of sabbatical, which was like really spacious and open. And like, no one needed me because I had no plans to talk to anybody. Um, which by the way is like an introvert’s dream. But I realized that I’ve been so focused on just going through the motions and keeping my schedule the way that it’s been for years now, because it works. And actually, funnily enough, I was having a conversation with my therapist a few weeks prior to that. And she asked me this question that I had never like never in my entire life actually considered. And she was like, do you love your schedule as an entrepreneur? And I was like, excuse me, what now? And she goes, do you love your schedule?

Like, does your schedule, does it bring you joy? Does it allow you to be in a state of flow creatively? Does it allow you to do the work that you love doing and to meet your responsibilities, but to do it in a way that feels spacious or fun or full of ease. And I just kind of stared at her and I was like, wait, what? Now that’s an option. We can do that. We can have schedules that we love. And it kind of like smacked me upside the head because it felt obvious. Like once I let that sink in, and once I really heard her, I was like, oh yeah, like Deb, Bonnie, of course you can have a schedule that you love. But if you’re anything like me, I built my schedule as an entrepreneur around what was efficient. And so, you know, and I just told her, I was like, well, my schedule it’s effective.

It’s efficient. It allows me to get stuff done. I’m not, you know, I’ve got good boundaries in my office hours, so I’m not working 24 7 and, you know, kind of sharing that with her. Um, but I realized like I have just been going through the motions and I’ve been sticking with my office hours. I’ve had the same office hours for probably like four years now. And I haven’t, re-examined it right? Like I’ve, I’ve reexamined quarterly and annually. I’ve reexamined so many other systems in my business, but my office hours and my working schedule was not on that list. So with that being said during my first week of sabbatical, I kind of sat there and I asked myself like, oh, if you were thinking about how you could balance productivity and joy, what would your schedule look like? And this is something that, for those of you who are tuning in today, maybe you have an idea of what that could look like for you to maybe right now, you’re in a season where you’re still working your nine to five and your own business fits into kind of the fringe hours.

So either before you go to work or after you come home for the day, you know, there are so many ways that you can build your schedule in a way that serves you well. And you deserve to have a schedule that serves you well, even if that looks different from what other people are doing. Right. I think that, especially out here in the entrepreneur community, there are so many productivity experts there. So many people who can help us and give us advice on how to structure our calendars or how to work smarter, not harder. And I’m so grateful for them, but I think it’s also important. And this is something that I personally forgot is that I work in a way that is different from everyone else. And that what works for me might not work for someone else. And what works for someone else might not work for me.

So why am I trying to structure my schedule day in and day out around a method that maybe isn’t the best way for me. And so anyway, this kind of got me like going down this little rabbit hole of how can I make some subtle shifts to my schedule. I don’t necessarily have to like, you know, tear the whole thing down and start from scratch, but what are some changes I can make that bring more joy into my day to day life? And for me, that was actually not really something they created, like this drastic change. Like my office hours are still a pretty much the same, but I switched around the way that I was actually spending my time during my Workday. So I’m a big fan of block scheduling for me that gives me the space to really get into kind of this creative focus and really spend more time in flow when I’m designing or I’m strategizing or anything like that.

And I realized that I wasn’t prioritizing that creative work. And so, you know, something that I decided to do is post sabbatical. And I come back to the office, I’m going to change the way that I start my day. So instead of starting my day with, you know, like answering slack messages or checking, you know, what’s going on in a sauna or seeing what’s happening in my inbox, I’m going to carve out that uninterrupted time for like, at least the first hour of every day for the creative work that needs to happen for me personally, I’m more creative in the morning. I’m more of a morning person. I’m not so much a night out anymore. And so maybe you’re different. Maybe you’re the exact opposite. Like the, the night times the, those, you know, kind of like dark hours, that’s when you are doing your best work and you love that.

And you love spending that time, uh, you know, working on your business or maybe the afternoon is your sweet spot, right? This is going to look different for everyone, but I encourage you. If you haven’t thought about it lately, take a look at your schedule and say like, how could I create more pockets for joy? How could I structure this? If I can structure this in a way that serves me better. And I fully understand that some of us, we have really rigid schedules because we have people who we care for, or we have existing commitments that we have to account for. So I’m not saying like shirk your responsibilities and you know, like, you know, do whatever you want. But I am saying if there’s a way for you to carve out more time for you, so that you, as a human are feeling supported and cared for, and you’re feeling like your schedule is serving you well.

And this season, look for those, create those opportunities and really lean into that. The third thing that I learned during this time away, and this is something that, uh, actually not so much a new realization, but it was something that was affirmed. Like I really felt like, okay, yes, this is true. I know this to be true. And I’m seeing it in action. And I have more data now that, that tells me this story is when you have the right systems in place, your business is not going to break without you. So over the years that I’ve been taking a sabbatical through the coaching work that I’ve done with clients in the past, through even the Illume retreat, uh, you know, experiences that we’ve had over the last years, um, I’ve chatted with people who love the idea of taking that time away from their business.

They love that idea of having kind of that intentional, purposeful time of rest built into their schedule. But they, they tell me like, Bonnie, what am I, what am I going to do? Like, how am I going to actually step away from my business? How am I going to make that happen? Like, what if I get increased during that time? Or what are my clients going to think? Or, you know, the list just goes on and on and on. And honestly, friend, if you have the right systems in place, your business can sustain without you in the inbox every single day. And what I mean by that is if you have a good system set up like an automation set up where if you get an inquiry while you’re away, and you know, that person then gets an automated email responder that says, Hey, thanks for your email.

I’m out of the office, but then outlines the next steps they can take to book a consult or a sales call, or to, um, purchase your product, or to put down a deposit on a service. You can do that. So that you’re technically still booking leads. You’re still potentially booking new clients even and receiving payments while you’re out of the office. This is something that I’m fortunate enough that I do have a small, but mighty team of women who helped me in who I’m, you know, shout out to them. They were amazing and really held things down for me while I was out of the office. So I didn’t have to worry about our brand strategy school students, if they had a question or if they needed help accessing their account. I knew that that my team had that covered, but on top of that, I did set up systems and automations so that when I was out of the office, if we got new branding inquiries, there was a workflow that was triggered so that those people could still book a call in my calendar to see if we’re a good fit, once I’m back in the office, or, you know, if we got podcast inquiries or any of those kinds of things, like we had systems in place.

And I am so grateful that I had incredible people in place as well to step in and, and, you know, kind of fill in the gaps as well. But you don’t need a team in order to you don’t need a VA. You don’t need someone in order to still have your business running like a well-oiled machine. If you’re taking time away. If you take the time to prep your business for you to, you know, step away for a while, everything is going to work out just fine. It does take a little bit of prep ahead of time. You do need to figure out like, okay, if this action happens, this is the response I want to happen. And these are workflows that I want to have in place. These are expectations that I want to set with my current clients or, um, you know, new clients or anything like that.

But you can totally do that. I mean, you built a business from scratch. Like you can totally set up those workflows in order to give yourself a week or two or three or four away from your inbox and this final fourth and final takeaway from my sabbatical. From this time away, I might seem kind of simple, but it actually has, um, really special meaning to me. So it’s this idea that you have permission to celebrate everything good in your life, even the little things, and this is special to me because somewhere along the way, and I definitely think that the pandemic had something to do with it where for so long, I was really keeping my head down on serving my clients and figuring out, you know, how to keep this business steady in the midst of all that uncertainty and how to support my team during that time and how to support myself during that time.

And I think that, you know, I just got so focused on survival mode that celebrating good things, celebrating, you know, something that we did really well as a team or celebrating a milestone with a client or celebrating, hitting a sales goal, or celebrating, booking a new client, any of those things that normally would have brought a smile to my face and would have been something that I took note of fell by the wayside and that’s normal, and I’m not beating myself up over it. I don’t, I’m not, you know, mad at myself or disappointed in myself that I did that because I think that as humans, we are truly incredible. And the way that we focus on, on stepping into action and adapting based on the challenges that we’re experiencing. So I know that for that season of life and business, I was adapting to the challenges that I was experiencing and celebrating.

Wasn’t something that I saw as a priority at that time, but thankfully things are different now. And I have the freedom and I have more space than I have more margin to actually step back and say, oh, look, look at all these good things that are happening. And, um, I didn’t realize how much I had missed that. I didn’t realize how much that practicing gratitude or making a big deal out of something good. Even if it’s a little thing, how much that meant to me personally, and maybe you can relate, maybe you’re the kind of person who taking stock of the good things and your life and in your business helps you appreciate what you have. And it, it gets you excited for what more good things can becoming and will be coming your way. So that was actually something that during my sabbatical, I realized I was like, I can’t remember the last time that I, you know, popped a bottle of bubbly to celebrate something good, or made us a special dinner for my husband and myself to enjoy, or, you know, did anything, any little thing, even, you know, like taking a break to go grab a coffee for my favorite local coffee shop, just to celebrate a good day.

And, uh, that’s something that I have prioritized getting back into my life because I believe that life for me, doesn’t have to just be all work and to do lists and, um, you know, all those responsibilities, I believe that joy and laughter and fun and celebration and gratitude have a place in that story as well. So for me, this time away really helped me to take a look at the way that I have been doing things the way that I have, uh, really settled into some patterns or behaviors or thought patterns that maybe were serving me well for a while, but it gave me a chance to say, okay, the way that I’m doing things, does this work for me right now, like in this current season of life and business, are these things that are serving me well and helping me to continue in the direction of my goals, or are there opportunities for growth?

Are there changes that I can make? Are there new ways of behavior or thinking, or actions that I can take that will help me in that journey? And for me personally, this is the kind of like introspective stuff that I love doing. And this is one of the reasons why my sabbatical is so special to me every year, because that kind of reflection is not something that I currently have built into my every day or every week, I should say, um, work schedule. Maybe it’s something that I should build in, but for now, it’s not. And so having those times where, you know, quarterly, I’m taking time away, and I am reflecting on the quarter that just happened and prepping for the quarter to come or doing annual planning or, um, you know, taking more intentional and a longer stretch of time away from my sabbatical.

All those little planning pockets of planning are really helpful for me personally, because they allow me to have a clear focus of where we’ve come from, where we’re going, how we can grow, what our numbers are looking like, what our targets could be looking like and how we can be having an impact. You know, if you’ve been around these parts for any stretch of time, then you probably know that my intention for this business is to, um, create an impact in the lives of women entrepreneurs so that they can have really the life that aligns with their definition of success. So whether that’s through brand design and strategy, whether that’s through education for designers or any number of the various services or offers that I have had over the years, I just believe that there’s so much power and there’s so much potential in you as an entrepreneur, having the resources and the support and the strategy that you need to consistently connect with your ideal clients, generate consistent income, reclaim your time, energy and creativity, and hopefully experience more joy as a result.

Um, right. All of those are great things. And I want you to have an experience, all of those great things. So by taking care of ourselves, by taking time away, when we can, by prioritizing our arrest and our recovery, I believe that we can, um, ensure that we’re in this for the long haul, right? Because these aren’t just expensive hobbies. And these aren’t short-term projects, these are businesses. And I know because I’m like this too, but I know that you want your business to endure. So if this is something that resonates with you today, I hope that you’re walking away feeling encouraged. If there are pieces of my own learnings and lessons, these takeaways from this intentional sabbatical that are in alignment with how you want to be running your business or living your life, then I hope that you walk away feeling confident in your ability to take action and make some of these changes.

But actually it should also say on top of that, if, if you’re tuning in today and you’re thinking that’s amazing because I feel so affirmed because I’m already doing that and I’ve already built a business that allows me to have that kind of freedom and space and margin. Then I want to congratulate you. I want to celebrate that with you. So all that being said, I’m grateful for y’all. I appreciate you tuning into today’s episode. I know that it was a little different. Uh, normally we focus on, uh, you know, lots of practical how-tos and strategy tips, and today was a little bit more personal. So I really appreciate you tuning in and listening along this little journey. And if you have any questions for me about what I shared today, or something rise to needed with you, and you want to talk through it more, feel free to just shoot me a message.

You can reach me on Instagram at Bonnie joy Marie, just shoot me a DM, always happy to chat with you. And if anything, in today’s episode really resonated with you and you know, of a friend or an industry friend who needs to hear this, then if you would pass this along to them, I would so appreciate it. The goal is that the brand strategy podcast allows us as entrepreneurs to keep doing the work that we love, the encouragement and support and the tools and strategy that we need. And I always appreciate you as a part of this community. So friends, I am cheering you on from Waco and I can’t wait to hang out with you again next time.

Thank you so much for joining me today, friend, before you go, I would be so grateful to receive your feedback on the brand shies with podcast. If you enjoyed this episode or the podcast in general has helped you grow your brand and really appreciate it. If you left us a review in iTunes, your positive reviews enable the brand strategy podcasts to continue to grow and reach like-minded creatives. Just like you. Plus, I’ll be randomly selecting a handful of lucky reviewers each month, Jersey a little, thank you. Surprise for me in the mail. Thank you for all your support and encouragement as together. We pursue building brands with purpose and intention, and till next time I’m cheering you on from Waco.

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My name is Bonnie – I’m a brand designer, strategist, and writer which all adds up to one eclectic conglomeration of qualities that enables me to serve you well! Past clients have dubbed me "the Joanna Gaines of brand design," and I've had more than a few call me a dream maker, a game changer, and a design wizard (my Harry Potter-loving heart didn't hate that one, let me tell you!). At the end of the day, I'm a big-hearted creative who will get teary-eyed as you share the heart behind your business; who will lose sleep over the perfect font pairings and color selections to bring your brand to life visually; and who will work tirelessly to empower, encourage, and equip you to share your work with the world intentionally. 

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