Imagine waking up one day and not being able to log into any of your accounts – email, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix…none. That’s how my first day of sabbatical started when the first step of my time away was to change my password to my work email account, which was linked directly to my personal accounts. It was jarring. It was eye opening. It was necessary. My personal and professional lives were completely intertwined.

You may have read my blog about why I decided to take a sabbatical. I was resistant at first – I didn’t think I needed it. But the foundation All Stars Helping Kids, with support from Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Satterberg Foundation, ​​invited me to participate in their first-of-a-kind program which required I take six weeks off and do nothing related to work. The program included an executive coach for me and an organizational coach to support the NEST team during the period leading up to my sabbatical, during my time out, and as I transitioned back to work.

Now that the program has ended and I am back at work, there are four major take-aways I took from the experience:

I really do love my work

First and foremost, I really do love my work – as much as when I started the NEST nine years ago. Stepping away for those six weeks made me miss the NEST. There’s still so much to do and I’m excited to get to it.

I have a strong team

Second is that I built a strong team, which allowed me to step away for a month and a half. I used to lug my computer on vacations with my family and make myself available in case anyone needed me. The six-week break made me realize the team is fully capable, and that I do not need to be involved in the day to day. It was proof that when I take a vacation, I can completely disconnect and know the wheels will not come off.

I need something for myself

Third is that I need something for myself. My personal life revolved around family and work. My social life was all work events and fundraisers – there was nothing unique to me that was just mine. Now I see that I have permission to find something that is my own that allows me to step away. Surfing? Glassblowing? Woodworking? I do not know what it is yet, but I will let you know when I do.

I do not need to be a workaholic to be successful.

Fourth is that I do not need to be a workaholic to be successful. It puts stress on me, my family and the NEST team. As the leader of the organization I thought I had to be the first one in the office and the last one out, which created a false sense of urgency for staff who were getting emails from me at 5:30 in the morning. I left my house before my family woke up. Now? I enjoy making breakfast for my daughter and saying good morning to my wife. I exercise. When I get to the office, I have more energy and the team is more excited. I learned how to be productive without burning myself out and everyone around me. I am a better employee, and more thoughtful about my family and staff.

The experience has created space in my work life, space to think about the big picture. For the first time, I feel like I am not working in the weeds. I do not have to be involved in every decision. The goal is not to reinsert myself into every cranny again but to ask how I can have a greater impact on our youths’ success. Maybe we will start our own sabbatical program at the NEST to build stronger morale and culture, and encourage staff to spend more time with their families.

I am humbled that I was selected for the sabbatical program. It is unusual for nonprofit leaders to have the opportunity to step away for so long. But if you ever do have a chance to take time off, I cannot recommend it enough. It is life changing, on a personal and professional level.

The sabbatical was possibly the best recent decision I made for me and the well-being of my family and the NEST. If you have taken a sabbatical, I would love to hear about your experiences. You can send me a message on LinkedIn.