Thursday, May 17, 2012

Planning for break

After a semester ends, I sit and look over the list of "to do" items that must get done before the next semester begins (and these are items that, in some cases, were pushed to the background throughout the busy semester). Like many academics, I teach in the summer. Since I am at a smaller institution, that means I am on summer rotation every year, teaching two to three courses. This schedule can easily lead to some burnout. I try my best to stave off the lack of energy that can defeat the potential productivity of my "break" times.

I have almost two weeks before the summer classes begin and a list of items to tackle BEFORE another group of new students file into their desks. These items are almost always related to research, writing, and grants. I do tend to prioritize my teaching and classroom work throughout the semester. This need to write (generally while facing deadlines) can lead to a mental meltdown when I am already exhausted at the end of a term.

I am trying to embrace a few days of complete down time before tackling the writing. I used to avoid a transition time and just dive right into the next deadline. These days, I am finding I need a bit of a mental reprieve AND that a few days away from my "to do" list really can help me to be more productive.

Around my household, we have dubbed these days "off" as "anti-academic" days. At the end of term, I avoid my email (hey, it is only for two days!), I read only "fun" fiction or biographies that I can't find time for during the semester (this break it is going to be The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova -- I loved her book, The Historian), I garden, I watch my favorite movies (though they do clearly mark me as a nerd as these include "Lord of the Rings," "Star Trek," "Sweeney Todd," and, of course, all things super-hero!), and I spend hours skating at the park. In short, I get as mentally far away from the task lists and the oppressive deadlines as I can--even if it is just for a few short days.

Do you plan for a true "break" in academia? If not, you might give it a try. Those true breaks allow for a calmness and a focus in your writing and course design.

And now, I'm swapping out this keyboard and mouse for a garden trowel and book.

Consider also: "Vacation on the tenure track" and "Our work during our breaks"

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1 comment:

  1. I had a long week of research following finals week this spring, which I was able to push through and get data analysis started. But my husband and I are now on a long weekend vacation to help recharge mental focus!