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How to make the best use of your sabbatical

John Haynes Head of Investec Wealth & Investment Research, recently took a six month sabbatical. He talks to us here about what he learnt during his time off.

Topic: Investing, The Team

Take a step back

My number one tip for anyone taking a sabbatical is to stop reading the newspapers and turn off the the television.

This may come as unexpected advice from someone that has been working in Investment Markets for almost 30 years, but when I decided to take a career break earlier this year, I made a concentrated effort to avoid the news.

The point is that I wanted my time off to be a break, not an extension of my career. Since my job is risk management, it requires being on top of every development and continually assessing their impacts on financial markets – in other words full time “reading the newspapers & listening to the news” with a subtext of always contemplating the worst outcomes in order to understand our clients’ fears. In recent years it has also seemed to me that the media has become far more sensationalist and have sold “bad news” rather than “news”. In short, for the sake of nurturing my optimistic instincts – a period in the dandelion patch became my mission.

Consider who else it will impact

For me, taking a sabbatical was a “time-out” to think about my work-life balance going forward.

I had some leisure interests that had been dormant for quite a long time, but more importantly I wanted to take a pit-stop to spend some real time with my family. I was fortunate enough to be able to afford the break when the timing was particularly good because my son was just finishing his A-Levels and I could be around and available during his summer vacation before going to university.

So did it live up to my expectations? If anything it was even better than I’d hoped it would be. If I was to attribute the success to anything, it’s that there was a good reason for both myself and my family. We were both getting something out of it, it wasn’t just me recharging my batteries.


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Apply your working rhythm to your time off

I’m a big fan of gardening and I wanted to have a whole season with my vegetable garden. Surprisingly it turned out well. I’ve been an appalling failure at tomatoes my whole life but finally managed to get them right. I’m now also a specialist in comedy courgettes.

I also pursued another life long-hobby: learning Chinese. I happened to study Mandarin at university so I used my time off to reintroduce myself to the language. Technology made it great fun and I was able to use Skype to chat to someone in Beijing for a quarter of an hour most weekday mornings!

For me, taking the same rhythm from my daily work but applying it to my “to-do” list worked really well. I would get up at six in the morning, go for a short run, water the vegetable garden, have a chat with my friend in Beijing and by ten o’clock I would have completed my ‘chores’ and I could then spend time with my family or kick back with a detective novel.

It was a rhythm that I kept up throughout the six months. The only thing is that I never knew if it was Monday, Wednesday or Sunday, I lost track of that kind of time because it didn’t really matter.

Don’t rush into it

If you’re planning a sabbatical, you have to mentally segment that period away from work and that means putting funds aside and thinking of it as money already spent. It is important to still be able to afford your usual luxuries, whatever they may be. My family like to do short city-breaks, so the flexibility to get up in the morning and say, for instance, ‘let’s go to Seville’, without worrying was important.

For those thinking about a sabbatical, you have to look hard at your own long-term goals and ensure they will not be negatively affected. If you don’t want to think about your investments during your sabbatical then perhaps a service like Click & Invest will be good for you.

Our online service is available for anyone with 10,000 or more to invest and our team of experts will actively manage your money so you don’t have to.

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