As tough as this semester has been and as happy as you are for it to end, the transition from a heavily scheduled term to an unscheduled break is tough.
You’ve probably got a long list of things too do. Too long, I suspect.
A long list + an open stretch of time = procrastination
Where do you start? Do you get the awful stuff out of the way first? Or do you dive right into the enjoyable stuff, the stuff that feels like an indulgence? Hmmm, better have another cup of coffee and see what folks on Twitter are up to while you decide…
Creative work* likes containers
You have been looking longingly at those unscheduled days for a while imagining how much writing or reading or thinking you could get done if you weren’t being interrupted by students, meetings, and so on. Not that you don’t love teaching, advising, and all the other stuff, but by the end of term you are really really missing long days immersed in your own work.
The attraction of those long unstructured days is deceptive. Too often, when you don’t set limits (of time or words written or something), you find it harder to concentrate. You don’t get as much done as you thought you would.
Structuring your time, making containers for the work you want to do, can help you do more of it. This is the logic behind the Pomodoro technique but you can decide on the size of the container that works best for you and the specific work you want to do.
Putting appointments in your calendar and sticking with them works. Robert Boice’s research also shows that stopping when you planned to stop, even (or especially) in the middle of something, contributes to productivity. It makes it easier to get back into it if you stop in the middle of something.
Creative work requires rest.
If you have been neglecting your research and writing during term time, you will be tempted to devote as many hours as you can to this over your holiday.
However, creative work requires a certain intensity that you can only maintain for a maximum of probably 6 hours a day.
Furthermore fatigue impairs cognitive function. Trust me, there is LOTS of research on this. Don’t try to tell me you aren’t tired. It’s the end of term. Everyone is tired. That means your brain is not working at it’s best. You can push yourself but you will be more frustrated, make more mistakes, and take longer than you should to do things.
Prioritize rest over the break. Get a good night’s sleep. Every night. Nap. Do other activities that give your intellectual brain a break. Physical activity is a good choice because it will make you physically tired, thus improving your sleep, and it helps your brain work better.
If you are a member of the Academic Writing Studio, there are resources to help you plan your break (the long summer break, or the shorter inter-semster break) in the Juggling section of the Resource Room.
“Write all the things” is not a summer plan
*You know that your research is creative work, right? And your teaching preparation?
Edited May 31, 2016.