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Designing a Life Outside the Studio: The Importance of Sabbaticals

As Chief Creative Officer of Potting Shed, it’s always been my job to generate creative content. Day in day out, year in year out I tackle that blank sheet moment to craft brands, campaigns, motion graphics, digital content and more. It is both exhilarating and terrifying and towards the end of 2021 a few cracks were starting to show. Nothing dramatic, but I knew I needed to step back a bit both for my own mental health and creativity as well as for the benefit of Potting Shed and so the idea of a sabbatical was mooted. 

Originating from the Greek word "sabbatikos," meaning "of the Sabbath," a sabbatical is usually a leave of absence granted approximately every seventh year. Well… we kicked Potting Shed off 15 years ago so implementing this at PS was WELL overdue for many of us. It’s an idea we have kicked around as a team for many years when it first entered into our collective consciousness after Stefan Sagmeisters talked at the creative conference PS put together way back in 2015.

Stefan shared his experience of closing his studio for a whole year every seventh year to regenerate and reignite his creative energy. One such break led to his incredible Happy Show, a project where he explored what makes us truly happy (Here’s a Ted talk where Stefan discusses this theory).

“Sure,” we scoffed, “all very well for the most famous graphic designer in the world, but how can we afford the luxury of that much time out of the studio?” and so we plodded on, wistfully harking back to Stefan’s thoughts. 

And so, we struck a compromise: a three-month sabbatical broken into one-month chunks, spread throughout the year. This way, our employees could enjoy a meaningful break without sacrificing too much time from the studio or adding undue pressure to our schedule. 

My own sabbatical was a whirlwind journey that took me from the vibrant streets of El Salvador to the serene beaches of the Maldives, from the charming city of San Sebastian to the bustling metropolis of New York, and from the picturesque vineyards of Bordeaux to the lush rainforests of Costa Rica. I overloaded my senses with new experiences and diverse cultures, in a quest to escape my comfort zone and rediscover my focus. 

The point is that everyone needs to step back from their everyday, to reframe their normal and rediscover their focus. I can’t say that my time away led to any grand epiphanies or lightning-bolt moments over my time out, but it certainly helped me reset my creative focus. It made me realise the importance of creativity to me and the privilege of that as a job. It helped me re-engage and re-ignite a desire to keep learning and growing within my work. 

Taking time away from your everyday routine is crucial for rediscovering your own identity and understanding how your work fits into that. At Potting Shed, we believe that sabbaticals are not only a privilege, but an invaluable investment in our employees' mental health and long-term contributions to the team. By providing our employees with the time and space to recharge and refocus, we're building a stronger, more engaged team for the future. 

So, are you ready to embark on a journey of rejuvenation? Take the time to rediscover your passions and invigorate your spirit. Your work and creativity will thank you for it.

Author Al Mitchell