Take A Sabbatical

Posted in: For Photographers

Take A Sabbatical – Megan Noll Photography

Take a sabbatical, how to get over burn out

When I was in France earlier this year, I had the opportunity to meet with the lovely Shanna Skidmore. She is a business strategist, and all-round small business guru.

One of the things she asked me was simple. “When is the last time you took a break?” When I started to explain to her that I had recently taken a vacation with my family a few months ago, she stopped me.

“That’s not what I mean. When is the last time you took a real break? No work. No email. No checking inquiries.”

Whew, can you say gut punch? If I’m being honest, it had been years…five to be exact. I’d been so caught up in the hustle of getting a new business off the ground, I’d let that grind of constantly being in communication, rushing to answer emails, and constantly working become the norm in my life.

Shanna challenged me to take a sabbatical.

I brushed it off. “That is great for people that aren’t in my line of work, but it’ll never work for me.” She told me that every single business owner she works with has said the same thing to her. Now, most of whom take about three months a year off because it was so great for them creatively, and because their productivity increased so greatly in the time that they were working.

Still unsure, I dropped my pride, and began planning. August was the only month this year that wasn’t intensely booked. I decided to keep it that way, and planned to take a sabbatical: No shoots for three weeks. Baby steps, right?

“It sounded so frivolous”

I also didn’t really tell anyone that I was doing this. I felt like it sounded frivolous. I could imagine people mocking me, “Oh, must be nice! Just take off three weeks”. Brian understood, and totally loved the idea. He made me feel justified when he explained that other people get to work their 9 to 5 and leave work at work. I didn’t even take off time after I had Emmy, so he totally understood how worn down I was.

Now that it’s done, I want to shout it to the world. It’s not frivolous. As a creative entrepreneur, scheduling time to take a sabbatical is the best thing I’ve done in a very long time. This step back away from my business was an incredible step in the direction of preventing burn out.

“I realized the fear of not being successful had kept me from enjoying successes I had worked so hard for.”

Stepping out of the grind for that short time was enough to make me realize how small I really am. I realized that fear of not being successful had kept me from enjoying the success that I was experiencing. I wasn’t enjoying what I had, because I had convinced myself that if I hopped off the hamster wheel, everything would fall apart. If I stopped posting religiously to Instagram, I would lose my following. If I don’t blog, my couples won’t feel special. If I don’t answer that email within twenty minutes, they might leave me a bad review.

Everything I was doing, I was operating out of fear.

That three week breather in the middle of busy season reminded me that those are lies. It reminded me to pay attention to Emmy when she is toddling around the house, excitedly exclaiming names for every object in her path. It reminded me that I actually do enjoy making dinner for my family when I am not stressed with a million other things. It reminded me that I should work to live, not live to work.

So, are you wondering how serious I took this sabbatical? Here were my rules.

⁃ I didn’t schedule engagement shoots
⁃ I didn’t shoot any weddings
⁃ I only answered email once a week
⁃ I moved my mail app to some weird folder I never check so I wouldn’t be tempted to check it all the time.
⁃ I took a week and a half off Instagram posting (GASP!)

You know what? Shanna was right. I didn’t miss out on booking people, because they understood. I didn’t lose my Instagram following – I doubt many of them noticed I wasn’t posting with my normal regularity. No one left me a bad review, in fact I came back to three incredibly kind reviews.

I’ve already started looking at my schedule next year to figure out when I am going take a sabbatical, again. I’m excited to make it a part of my work / life balance, that all of us tend to struggle with.

Try it with me next time?

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