It’s three weeks into my sabbatical and I’m sitting outside with a cup of coffee and Tim Ferriss’ “Tools of Titans” ¹. The day is one of those amazingly clear but crisp examples of winter that we get way down here in South Canterbury.

 I stop for a moment to appreciate the calm and while I do, just sitting there, I can’t help but think about what a “normal” 10am on a Tuesday would be like. It starts me thinking about why the two scenarios are so different.

I pondered this same question periodically over the rest of the sabbatical. There were obvious explanations around the practicalities – I’m not at work, therefore; no meetings, I’m not taking phone calls/replying to emails, someone else is dealing with staff/student/people issues, finances, strategic goals, etc, ad Infinium.

But while these are all real, I think there are bigger ‘meta’ advantages that are creating this sense of calm and my list today is:

  • My head is not juggling multiple tasks
  • There are very few interruptions
  • I am in control of my day – it is predictable
  • I have time to be well (exercise, clear head = sleep, eat/drink healthily)
  • I do one thing at a time (and compete it before doing another)

(I’m much like Dave, and I can’t believe how the sense of freedom opens up the possibilities of my whole day. I relish in the sense that I’m not tied to my desk or the physical boundaries of my school. My day opens up before me with an infinite list of opportunities and choices. I don’t feel in anyway constrained by the usual daily noise and nonsense that I get in my role at school. Of course, much of the noise and nonsense is actually a figment of my own making.

It’s the space of this sabbatical that is giving me the opportunity to unpack the habits and  thought grime of nearly 25 years of principalship – it gives me the space to declutter.

Equally importantly, it allows me time to practise some key new habits that will help me positively do my challenging principal role for the next five years. Because let’s face it, I’m heading back to my school, back to my desk, back to the issues that I left behind. This time I’m planning on being a lot more intentional about the way in which I tackle the challenges ahead. Steve.)

This is the first sabbatical ² that I have applied for and with the experience fresh, can honestly say that I should have applied earlier. I had reasons not to (self-justified), such as changing schools, not having a suitable reliever, ERO coming, . . . but I now know that these were mistakes.

If you are wondering whether you should apply, my emphatic advice is “YES”! The very fact that you are considering the idea means that you should. Just do it.

Colleagues who have experienced sabbaticals (some several times) have warned that I will find it incredibly hard to “climb back on the horse” and resume business as usual. That returning to the incredible busyness of school leadership will be difficult after experiencing something different.

I understand that possibility, particularly the reality that being time poor brings with it, but am hopeful that by implementing some of the aspects of the 40HP I can mitigate the impact – a real life test if you like!


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¹ This is an amazing book that is a collection of thinking and experience from dozens of thought leaders – “Tools of Titans”, Tim Ferriss, 2017.

² Currently in New Zealand, a principal who meets certain service criteria can apply for a 10 week sabbatical. There is both a “project” component and a “refreshment” component to the time.


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