3 Lessons Learned from a Forced Sabbatical

Jason Cross, JD, CFP®, CFTA | Wealth Advisor

As we look back at the last six months, our doctors have all gone through trials and hardship, some personally through sickness and the struggles of quarantine, and most with the mandated practice closures. Many lost loved ones and almost all experienced a significant impact on their practice. Whether you want to call the weeks or months after State shutdowns went into effect a stay-cation, forced sabbatical, or quarantine, work and home life abruptly changed.

Many of our doctors have noted a resurgence in business since reopening and are busier than before from pent up demand and possibly shifting spending habits as a result of COVID-19. While great for business, the daily rush has returned, which can cause anyone to fall back into old habits, whether good or bad.

As creatures of habit, it often takes an intense experience to shake us out of our routines and get us to examine how we are spending our lives. For many, COVID-19 was a jolt that jump started them to examine their habits and priorities, and for some the forced sabbatical gave them the time necessary to make positive changes. We have heard stories from doctors across the country of lessons learned related to their health, habits, lifestyle.  Below are three common themes we have noticed in our conversations with clients:

1. Healthier Habits
You probably have heard about the “COVID 15”, as in the fifteen pounds gained from being stuck at home, but in many cases people are using the chance to improve their health as they suddenly didn’t have the reason (or excuse) to not exercise or eat better!  For example, I have gotten significantly stronger as we work from home because I have chosen to invest the time gained from no longer having a commute into an exercise routine. If you have attempted to buy home exercise equipment, you already know that demand has far outstripped supply, but this doesn’t mean you can’t focus on improving your health! I have noticed more people taking walks around the neighborhood just to get out of the house.

Many people were forced to find a new way to eat with many restaurants closed or had limited hours. Instead of grabbing food on the run back from the office, some people started cooking at home or using meal prep services such as Hellofresh. Cooking at home is often cheaper and healthier, and time saved not commuting to and from the office can be used preparing healthier meals. Our family has started cooking more at home to avoid taking our three boys into public as one of my boys is “at risk.” As a result, we have been eating healthier and saving money! This is one habit we will take with us! We also started taking walks together more regularly to get out of the house and move around.

What changed with your exercise and eating during this time? Take hold of the opportunity to continue the habits in the future; your future self will thank you!

2. Sneak Peak of a Different Lifestyle
With practices shutdown for weeks, or even months, doctors at all stages of their careers got a rare glimpse into what working less could look like. It is hard to visualize and understand what not going into the office will feel like, but some doctors were able to get a test drive! Take for example the following doctor, who was unsure how long he wanted to continue working before selling his practice.  After the pandemic hit and caused his practice to shut down for a month, he began treating the time off like a “retirement bootcamp” and ultimately decided to sell his practice and retire earlier than planned. On the other end of the spectrum, we have doctors that were invigorated by the forced sabbatical to get back into their practice with renewed energy! Often others were somewhere in the middle, a husband and wife doctor team loved the time they got with their small children and missed the time in the practice as well. They came back committed to working shorter hours to not miss the time with their children were little. This means they need to work a few extra years than planned before, but they found a better balance!

What did you learn through the extra time away from your practice?   In the hustle and bustle of running and growing a business, it can be easy to lose sight of what is important to you.  If you experienced a shift in your priorities during the pandemic, please capitalize on the opportunity to chart a new course for yourself!

3. Connections with others
In our modern society, it is easy to feel alone in a crowd of people, a feeling exacerbated during the pandemic because people were forced to self-isolate in their homes! For many doctors, their family, friends, practice, and religious communities are a vital part of their lives.  When the pandemic hit, people were bereft of much needed social interaction. Through the isolation, folks got creative with virtual avenues to stay connected through online church, virtual happy hours, and socially distant driveway meet and greets! This time highlighted the important of the connection to a community. One doctor started a recurring, drop-in family Zoom meeting that he plans to keep going for the foreseeable future. Another doctor grew even closer to her staff during the shutdown and their bond grew stronger when their team banded together to help her paint her new home!

What connections did you miss the most? What steps did you or others take to keep your connection strong? Write down the key people and communities you want to grow closer to and make it a point to foster those relationships.

How to take it forward
Take fifteen minutes of quiet tonight to think about what positive lessons you can take from the seismic shift that occurred in the last six months. Whether it is healthier habits, a better lifestyle, or renewed connection, be intentional and integrate these new habits into your life going forward!