what would you do with 6 months?

January 24th, 2016

In the first months of 2015 I realized that I was burned out. Work was fun, but it had expanded so much that it had taken over my entire life. Fergus O'Connell gives this definition of burnout: you're at work, you're thinking about work, you're bringing work home with you, or you're cancelling other things so you can work. Open and shut case, Johnson.

I decided it was time to change, everything. It was my very own "everything stops!" moment. I would leave my job in June and take a six month break from work. From all work to no work. The cover story was "sabbatical", but the working title was "life improvement project".

And it has been the most liberating time of my life. There was much planning and project management involved - I'll spare you that. Here are the milestones.


  • Lost weight.
  • Experimented with the paleo diet.
  • Saw a physical therapist.
  • Saw a psychologist.


  • Swam in the pool.
  • Biked intercity road trips.
  • Practiced yoga.
  • Practiced strength training.
  • Went running. Ran a 10km distance. Ran a 5km race.
  • Practiced interval training.
  • Played football.


  • Saw friends.
  • Attended a Devnology weekend.
  • Gave pitches for Django Girls to recruit coaches and participants.
  • Took an improv class.
  • Took part in a theater workshop.
  • Hosted a friend for a long weekend.
  • Practiced speed dating.
  • Went on normal speed dates.
  • Attended my best friend's wedding.
  • Frequented 24 different social groups.
  • Attended 36 social events in total.
  • Met more new people than I've ever done before in 6 months.


  • To Dublin for a job interview.
  • To Friesland for Devnology weekend.
  • To Groningen for Django Girls.
  • To Bordeaux for Django Girls.
  • To Rome for Django Girls.

Language study

  • Had Skype sessions with Dutch tutors.
  • Completed a Portuguese course.
  • Attended language café meetups.
  • Read books in Portuguese.
  • Made polyglot-ish Youtube videos.
  • Wrote polyglot-ish blog entries.
  • Coached in French at Django Girls.
  • Coached in Italian at Django Girls.


  • Studied x86 assembly.
  • Read about computer architecture.
  • Learned some Prolog.
  • Wrote a memcached clone in Rust.
  • Read computer science papers.

Community work / Volunteering

  • Coached at three Django Girls events.
  • Taught a basic computer course at a community center.
  • Worked on organizing Django Girls Den Haag.
  • Submitted a talk proposal to PyCon Italia.

Career / Work

  • Reached out for career advice to my network.
  • Spoke to a lot of recruiters.
  • Interviewed with a lot of different companies, local and remote. Turned down many offers.
  • Applied for positions I wasn't qualified for. Was turned down.
  • Finally found the kind of companies that I was after. Accepted an offer.

Many of these were a first. Over time there has been a conscious trend from "things I do at home alone (in my pyjamas)" to "things I do with others". I started from a core of health and fitness and moved on to more and more social challenges.