Why I Chose Part-Time Work Over a Sabbatical

If you find that full-time, well-paid work is taking over your life, downshifting to a part-time role is a natural solution. Upon closer inspection, “downshifting” is not a single path, but a full menu of options for reducing time pressure and work-related stress, as well as freeing up time to let friends, family, and creativity back into your life.

Recently, I identified and contrasted several approaches to downshifting. This time, I’m going to describe the specific path I’ve chosen, along with my reasoning and the personal and professional context in which I made my selection.

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The Ideal Part-Time Schedule

Let’s say you’re burned out at work, or you feel like you spend all your time working, or you just want to have more time for leisure. You’ve reviewed various options for trading work time for free time and settled on going part-time at your current job by only going to work 4 out of 5 workdays per week.

Which weekdays are best to reclaim for yourself back from your job? The following pages explore the potential options (obviously, there are 5 of them).

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Contrasting Sabbaticals, Seasonal/Part-Time Work, Etc.

I want to work part-time in order to bring a sense of balance back into my life. There may never be enough hours in the day, but you can at least reclaim some time for yourself by disregarding society’s expectations and opting to take on less paid work than you’re capable of doing.

As part of my quest to go part-time, I have to choose the right type of schedule, since there’s obviously more than one way to work part-time.

The following pages weigh the pros and cons of different approaches to interspersing work and life (e.g. taking sabbaticals vs. having a shorter workday).

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The Best Option for Part-Time Work

In my not-so-humble opinion, if you are earning enough from your full-time job to pay your expenses and save for retirement (ideally an early one), it makes sense to consider cutting back on your work hours. If you’ve ever dreamed of an early retirement where you travel the world, indulge in hobbies, and spend time with family and friends, consider part-time work as taking an advance on your eventual retirement. It’s morbid, but remember that you’re only one lightning strike or shark attack away from never being able to cash in on that dream. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, and all that.

If you’re convinced that you need to cut back on work (even if temporarily), you need to choose the most appropriate path to get you there. The following pages consider several disparate options for taking control of your work hours (with the goal of decreasing them in the long term). Note that this is a comparative view of benefits and drawbacks for various options and not a how-to guide for landing these types of gigs.

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Should You Leave Your Employer?

Forty or fifty years ago, a job at a large corporation was the ticket to a good life–emphasis on “life.” Engineering jobs were coveted to the point that practically no one even considered leaving them. And thanks to collective bargaining and defined-benefit pension plans, maybe there really wasn’t a need to even consider a new assignment.

Nowadays, this notion of being loyal to your employer (so that they can take care of you and your family) seems quaint. Maybe it’s the death of unions, maybe it’s because of outsourcing, or maybe it’s just the recognition that taking care of employees costs money, but regardless of the reasons, jobs at your local, friendly MegaCorp are now viewed from both sides as a temporary symbiosis. If an employee gets a better offer, he or she is out the door (barring a more attractive counteroffer). If an employer falls on hard times, current and former employees face cutbacks.

The bottom line is that, in this modern world, you need to always consider the option of leaving your current employer. The following pages cover the pros and cons of leaving, to help you choose wisely.

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