Transcript: 5 Weeks Unplugged: Lessons from My Sabbatical

July 12, 2022

AMY PORTERFIELD: “The gift I got from the sabbatical is I need to explore more of who I am without the work. I need to feel accomplished and loved and supported, even if my business wasn't thriving, even if I didn't have a business. I feel like that's the healthy journey I need to be on.  

“So, the ugly part of this is not knowing who I am without my business, but the gift is finding out who I am without my business. And that doesn't mean that the business has to go away. I can have the best of both worlds, and I'd like to explore that.”  

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY: Work @ Life, hosted by Sanja Licina and Maddie Grant, is a new podcast to my weekly roundup, and I can't recommend it enough. Hosts Sanja and Maddie explore the gray areas between work and life as they share data on relevant workplace engagement and culture topics: topics like new ideas on how to impact diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging today, and vulnerability in the workplace. I love those topics so much, so be sure to download Work @ Life wherever you get your podcasts. 

Hey, there. Welcome back to another episode of the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast. I’m your host, Amy Porterfield. And today, this is a mini session all about my five-week sabbatical. I'm going to give you the good, bad, and ugly and let you know how it went, because this is the first time I've ever taken this much time off in over thirteen years.  

So, you might have already listened to the episode where I was going out on sabbatical. I shared what I was thinking and feeling and things leading up to it, so this is, essentially, part two. And now that I just got back yesterday, it's fresh in my mind, I took some notes—I always have notes when I do a podcast—I took some notes, and I'm going to share with you how it went.  

So, first of all, like I mentioned, I took five weeks off. It was going to be four weeks, but my sidekick Chloe got married in Mexico, and so we started our trip off in Mexico for a week-long wedding extravaganza. It was beautiful. I was a bridesmaid, so honored to be, and Hobie and I had so much fun.  

So, we started in Mexico, and then I came home and spent some time in Nashville at my house here, and then I took my mom and my sister and my niece to New York for a Broadway show. And it's really cool because in Tennessee, it takes about two hours to get to New York, where in California it felt like an all-day thing, so I didn't go very often. But because it felt so easy to get there, I thought, “Let's do this.” 

And then in addition to that, Hobie and I went to Blackberry Farm. Specifically, now they have Blackberry Mountain, and we like that better, so we went to Blackberry Mountain in the Smokies near Knoxville for a few days. Absolutely loved that. And then, I finally got to spend time at our lake house.  

The goal of the five-week sabbatical was to spend most of the time at the lake house. However, it's under renovation, and it wasn't done on time. And so we're going to be about two months late on that deadline. And so we got to spend a little time there, but there's a lot of still construction going on, so we didn't spend as much time as we wanted, which that is my happy place, so I was hoping to spend more time there, but we've got the rest of the summer to do so.  

So, I did a lot. I went a lot of places and really enjoyed myself.  

So let me just quickly break it down for you. The good. What did I love about it? Well, number one, I spent so much time with Hobie. If you are an entrepreneur, especially if you are the breadwinner and pretty much providing for the family in that way, I can guarantee that if you have a significant other, there's times they feel neglected. I don't think there's any way around it. And Hobie’s so incredibly patient with me, but he absolutely wants more of my time, focus, and presence, and he got it. I told him, “You're going to be sick of me,” because we spent every single waking hour together, and we both loved it. It was magical. It was wonderful. I felt reconnected with him, and we laughed a lot. And that was a beautiful part of the sabbatical. 

The second thing is I took a lot of naps, almost every day if I wasn't traveling, or even when I was traveling, if I could get it in. So lots of naps. I love naps. Give me a twenty-minute, thirty-minute nap, boom, I'm back into it. And so it reminded me that I want to do that during my lunch break while I'm working as well, because I really do feel recharged afterwards.  

And then I had a slower pace, absolutely. So that was definitely a plus. I am very weird about organization, and I love to organize my drawers, my closet, my house. I spent a few days doing that. Again, I was in my happy place. I know, a little bit weird. And I got to focus on things that weren't related to work.  

So because we're moving into this lake house that's completely empty, there was a lot of stuff that we had to plan and get ready for, so I got to work on that. Just kind of mindless stuff that didn't have to do with work but I enjoyed doing. I did it around the house. I did it at the lake house. All of that was wonderful. I worked out more. I ate better. Like I said, I rested.  

And I also think—so these are all the good things—and I also think that it was good for my team. They had to make decisions on their own and figure things out without me. And I know that they want to do that, and they embrace it. And so I'm hoping that the team grew in this whole sabbatical experience as well. So that's the good.  

Would I do it again? Hold on, and I'll tell you if I would do it again, in a moment. 

So the bad. Okay. So I'm going to give you the good, bad, and ugly. So there's even a level beyond the bad. But first, the bad. It was very difficult to disconnect. It was difficult to disconnect when I came back from Mexico. Mexico was a really nice distraction because the day I went on sabbatical, I got on a plane to Mexico. And then I needed to be present, and I was with my friends and having a great time. So it felt like a true vacation.  

But then when I got back to Nashville and I had time around my house and I was doing the organizing phase of the sabbatical, my head started to spiral around work. Maybe this wasn't a good idea. Five weeks is a long time. What is happening with the podcast? Are we still getting the amount of downloads we were getting before I left? And how is the team doing? And are things coming up they're not telling me about but they should be? Like, really a lot of anxiety. So this happened pretty regularly through the five weeks, and it was alarming to me. It was alarming.  

But I asked Hobie, I said, “If you gave me a grade of how I did in terms of taking these five weeks off, what would you give me?” And he said he'd give me an A, which I was very happy to hear. He felt like I was very present. I was really enjoying it. I did disconnect. And I felt that way as well.  

But there was always the quiet spinning in the back of my mind. And I deal with anxiety. As you all know, I've dealt with depression in the past. I feel like right now that's very much at bay. Thank God, hallelujah. But the anxiety is still very, very present. So that was unfortunate, but I was able to work through it.  

And I talked to Marie Forleo the day, I think, or the week I got back from Mexico and told her I was on the sabbatical. And I told her I'm struggling a bit. Actually, my friend Jonathan Fields, I called him and told him as well. It was just some friends that I had been communicating with and I confided in, like I am struggling. And both of them said, “That is absolutely normal. You're going to have those feelings, but you could still enjoy the time off.” And that is very true. So it was anxiety inducing, for sure, and that's where I struggled.  

Now, the good far outweighed the bad. It wasn't too much anxiety that I was like, “I just want to work.” So it was just very present.  

Now, the ugly part of it, the thing that I realized, which actually is a gift, I'm aware of that, but it was hard to realize, is holy cow, my identity is in my work. Like, absolutely. I struggled with feeling accomplished and good and at peace when I wasn't doing something. When I wasn't checking something off of a list, I felt very restless and a lot of FOMO. I felt a lot of FOMO.  

I had to get off Instagram. I kept checking social media out of enjoyment in the beginning. And then one thing I realized is I love TikTok. It's fun, it's entertaining. Instagram makes me feel a lot of FOMO. I see what my peers are doing, and I instantly feel I'm not doing enough. And when you're on a five-week sabbatical, you absolutely are going to feel like you're not doing enough if you see all of your peers doing big things in their business on Instagram.  

So it was a realization, oh, I don't always feel good checking Instagram, and I need to be very aware of that and kind of figure out how to make that a good experience or don't do it at all. And so that's kind of something that I'm looking into.  

But the big realization was I don't know who I am without my work. I get all of my accolades and my accomplished feelings and feelings of, like, I'm in it; I'm doing something; I get it all from my work. And when you ask me, “Amy, who are you without the business?” I struggle with that one. Of course, I'm a mom and a wife and a friend, and I get that. But, like, who am I, and how do I feel about myself when I'm not working? Ooh, we're going to have to do a little therapy on that one because I don't know. And I can't imagine not having a business to fulfill me.  

Now, on the flip side, what's really beautiful and great about that is I love my work. I'm energized by my work. I really enjoy my team and my students. I love all of you, my listeners. I find so much joy in that. But I don't think it's healthy to have that the 99.9% of the fulfillment, right? I mean, I absolutely love being a wife to Hobie. I love being a friend to my wonderful friends that I have. And my relationship with Cade is very special to me. But, unfortunately—and this is the part I don't want to say, because I think it sounds terrible, and I don't want you to think less of me, and I mean that—it’s not as fulfilling some days than the work is. And if we're being honest, the work that's actually working, when I'm hitting my goals and things are going well. And I love that feeling. It's a drug to me. But we know that drugs aren’t always that great for you, right? 

And so the gift I got from the sabbatical is I need to explore more of who I am without the work. I need to feel accomplished and loved and supported, even if my business wasn't thriving, even if I didn't have a business. I feel like that's the healthy journey I need to be on. 

So, the ugly part of this is not knowing who I am without my business, but the gift is finding out who I am without my business. And that doesn't mean that the business has to go away. I can have the best of both worlds, and I'd like to explore that. So that was the gift I’m taking away. 

Now, the big question is, would I do this again? Would I take five weeks off of my business again? And the answer is no, not because I feel like the business did poorly in five weeks. It didn't. We are totally fine. We are thriving. That's all good. Five weeks is too much. And I normally, like, obviously this whole idea—and I said this in part one of my sabbatical before I went on it—this was encouraged through my mentor, Michael Hyatt. I think he recently told me he's done, like, ten or eleven sabbaticals so far, and he encouraged it, but he typically takes four weeks. But with the wedding, it just became five weeks.  

I think what I would like to do—I haven't made a decision yet, but Hobie would love it—he said, “I do believe that five weeks is too much for you. And near the end you were kind of coming undone in terms of, like, “Ooh, I really think I got to get back on it.” And so, like, I wanted to get back to work, which is good. But he said, “Why not take two weeks each quarter?” I thought that was interesting. One week is never going to be enough, because I'll never be able to unplug and enjoy the time. But at two weeks, I can unplug that first week and then really sink into it the second week. So I'll look at that for 2023. This year's already planned, so that’s not going to work, for the rest of the year. Plus, I already took five weeks off.  

Or my other thought is, let's just take three weeks off. Next time, let's just do three weeks instead of five. I don't even think I need four. Three weeks is, like, that first week of unplugging and being able to let go; and then two full weeks of being fully in it and enjoying it, I could do that. And so I absolutely will take another sabbatical next year. It’s just going to look different. Lesson learned, five weeks, too much. I don't want to be away from my business that long. But I proved that I could be, so that's a perk, right?  

I think I mentioned this in part one of my sabbatical episodes, that the prep getting here was chaotic. So Michael said that it's like an art and a science, and you just get better. Like riding a bike, you just get better as you go. And I was not good at the prep. And my team—sorry, team—they weren't really great at the prep either, meaning getting me ready, asking for the things they needed. That last week, I had a flood of action items I was not expecting. But they've never done this either. So they were probably like, Oh, holy cow, I forgot this. I forgot that. That kind of stuff. And so I have to be better at planning what it would look like to take off on a sabbatical.  

Another thing I messed up on is that I did the subscribed Bootcamp. Any of you part of it, it was incredible. I loved it. But I did the subscribed list-building Bootcamp up until literally the day I left for sabbatical. So I wasn't with my team after. We didn't get to debrief together. I felt like, “Oh, my gosh. I'm leaving people hanging on my team.” Like, I didn't check in with anybody after subscribed. I messed up there. I shouldn't have done a promo up until the day I left, so I'll never do that again.  

And then, also, there was one more thing. Let me look at my notes real fast. There’s one more thing I wanted to share with you. Oh, you might be wondering, did I work at all during the five weeks? Did I work? And the answer is, I would say no. I would say no, I did not work. But if you asked, I think two people on my team, they'd say, I call B.S. on that.  

And here's why. Number one, I had a brand-new VP of marketing, who took Chloe's place. You guys already heard Chloe is now a contractor working on my book launch and deeply into the business, just in a different way. So now we have a new VP of marketing. Her name is Beth. She's amazing. And Beth was here, I think, for a week, and then I left for five weeks. So that felt very scary to me and very unfair to her.  

Now, my leadership team took care of her and was there for her while I was gone, but I did a walk with her—we went on a walk in Nashville because she lives in Nashville, which is a total great perk—and I drilled her with questions. And she's like, “You are cheating right now. We are not supposed to be talking about work.” But she was so new that I was able to beat her like that, and she was so mad at me. She's like, “The leadership team is going to kill me. Stop asking me these questions.” So I did get my fix when I got to go on a walk with Beth, and she kind of filled me in on some meetings she's had and what's going on with the business.  

And then I did check up on our podcast downloads because I have these goals for the podcast, and I wanted to make sure that we were continuing that momentum. So I did check in on that. And then we did a Momentum, my membership promo, and I checked in just to see how that went. So I checked in on three things. But in my defense, it was, like, a one-hour walk with Beth, and then, like, five-minute conversations with those two other things. It wasn't like I didn't do any work, I just gained information, and that's part of my anxiety. I needed to know stuff so I could ease my mind. I'd like to get to the place that, “I’ll find out the details when I get back. Right now I committed to rest and relaxation.” And so I still give myself an A, but my team members might give me a B for those little areas.  

And then, also, I think that it's important just to point out that I wanted the information, but I couldn't do anything with it. So I wish I told myself, look, that information’s going to be there. It's going to be the exact same. You're not planning to do anything with it, so let's just let it go.  

So in the future, I think I'll be better. But for my first time, I think I did pretty good.  

So anyway, I'm so very glad that I did the sabbatical. I learned a lot. I rested a lot. I feel excited to be back. We are moving into prelaunch for Digital Course Academy. For those of you who are curious, Digital Course Academy is opening up at very early September. Get excited. We've redone the entire program. It's coming down the pipeline. I'm so excited. And then we'll move into book launch, pre-sales for book launch. So I've got a busy rest of the year, and I'm glad I took this right before those two really big things so I can be fully present, excited, and ready to dive in. And I am.  

So I'll change things the next time I do this, but I'm glad I did it. And I want to encourage you to think about doing this as well. I think that it is life changing. It really is. You learn a lot about yourself. It's not the easiest thing. It's not all sunshine, roses, and unicorns, but I think it's totally worth it.  

So I want to do a quick plug for my program Systems That Scale, because a lot of people ask me, “Well, how did you get here? And how did you build a business that allows you to do a four-day work week and take a five-week sabbatical?” And it's all from the systems that we've set up in my business, and I created a program called Systems That Scale, all about how I run my business. And I have a free masterclass to tell you a little bit about some of these systems for free, and then I'll tell you about the program if you want to get into it. But the free masterclass is full of value whether you buy from me or not. I highly encourage you to check out the free masterclass. Go to So, and the free masterclass is How I Overcame “Busy Business Overwhelm” and Transitioned My Team to a 4-Day Work Week. I don't talk about the sabbatical in the masterclass, but these are the systems that literally allowed me to do what I'm doing, or what I just did. So there you have it. Check it out. 

And I'm so glad that you tuned in here for this Shorty episode all about the sabbatical. I can't wait to dive into all the other things that I have coming up for this podcast. Some amazing episodes are coming out soon, so make sure you tune in every Tuesday and Thursday. Thanks so much for being here, and I'll talk to you soon. 

As online marketers, we tend to follow a lot of gut feelings. I know I sure do. So when something doesn't click, we can feel it to our core. It's probably no surprise that our customers follow these gut feelings, too. We can see this play out in our campaigns, our sales, even our business growth. With a customer-relationship-management platform, or CRM, like HubSpot, you can better connect with your team, your data, and your customers so everything clicks into place. With easy-to-use hubs, apps, and payment tools that allow access to details and preferences, everyone on your team reads from the same story. So targeted outreach and service-ticket requests are fully contextualized, and customer requests get answered in the best way possible. Learn how your business can grow better at 

Follow Me On The Gram