How to deal with a Forced Sabbatical?

How to get the most out of a forced leave from work?

Christophe Berg
4 min readMar 22, 2020

As I am currently working, researching and writing about Sabbatical Projects, a pangolin dinner somewhere in Wuhan may have turn to be at the origin of the Coronavirus outbreak, which by a kind of complicated domino effect has lead to the containment of millions of people. In a such unusual context, it seems appropriate to address one special type of Sabbatical Project: the “forced” sabbatical.

A Sabbatical is a TIME-OFF from your work

A sabbatical is defined by a leave from your work. In the case of the current containment, it is a “forced” sabbatical, especially for people who are not able to work remotely or who have been forced to take unpaid leaves.

Sabbatical Project

How long is enough?

In this case, the project duration is being dictated by the state authority and subjected to adjustments. The overall duration of the containment is not fixed. In order to stay optimistic, we will look into a shorter duration than a conventional sabbatical and just plan few weekly cycles. A week as the Time Box is enough to get few things done. Having a well scheduled week ahead can also help to go through these times of uncertainty. Each week is one cycle of the overall project. The focus is to get quality and deep work done within a week and to repeat as long as the containment will last.

Make a Plan, do a Project

Be proactive, try to mitigate the consequences of a forced sabbatical and decide what project and then how you want to proceed. In the case of a forced sabbatical, the why, who, when and where may have been set already. Sometimes contraints can be helpful as they leave you with fewer choices.

Sabbatical Project

Define your project (what?). Imagine ways to develop it by cycles of one week (how long?). Then When is now! The Where is given too. The why can be as simple as “to make the best of the given circumstances” or you may want to elaborate and dive deeper in a motives or aspirations to get this project done. Finally the process (how-to?) matters especially as a smart way to deal with the constraints.

A Mini-Sabbatical Project

Define a Goal that is relevant for you, right here, right now. Make sure it is Specific and clear. Find ways to get some results by the end of each week cycle.

Dream with a Plan

Try to be as Specific as possible and from your clear GOAL to define daily activities that will help to get things done and support your project and your purpose. The idea is to consciously make something useful out from the circumstances that you didn’t choose to be in.


Time Management made Easy

I have a series of articles about Time Management that you can check out. The bottom line is define blocks of time for deep work that are going to be dedicated each day to your sabbatical project. From 2 hours to 4 hours a day, without any interruption. Make a plan, mark some dedicated blocks each day for deep work and make sure to commit.

Ideas to make the most of a Forced Sabbatical

Knowing that the overall duration is unknown, you can’t really plan for a long project like writing a thesis. Knowing that you are forced to stay where you are, travelling and learning by exploring are not really in the picture. So things that are doable:

  • Work on self-knowledge, write down your Manifesto, define your style and your voice. Update your portfolio, your creative book or personal website
  • Do specific research in weekly sprints, publish your investigation and share your results.
  • Write articles (define a format and a frequency that you can sustain) on something that you are passionate about.
  • Be creative on social media (focus on sharing creative and positive posts, again define a format and a frequency that fit well your audience).
  • Develop a creative project (define a “short” format and a sustainable frequency). Start a podcast? Produce short movies?
  • Develop a Learning Project and Document your Process and learning journey.
  • Work on a language that you are trying to learn (listen to podcast, read articles or books, speak using face to face online call…)
  • Cook and learn how-to cook. Grow a mini garden…

If you feel like you need more insights on how to plan a sabbatical, don’t hesitate to check my webpage and reach out. — Christophe



Christophe Berg

Lifestyle Business Coach | Wellness Consultant | MS in Project Management 🎓 | 🗣️🇫🇷🇺🇸🇪🇸 | Nomadic Trail Runner