Academic life is demanding. During term time you are juggling teaching, administrative and service work, graduate supervision, and your own research and writing. During the summer and your sabbatical, you feel like you need to devote as much time as possible to your research and writing to compensate for how hard it is to do any when you are also teaching. Yes, you have a lot to do but fatigue impairs cognitive function. You need to incorporate rest into your routine or the time spent on all those important activities will not be effective. Furthermore, your work is not your whole life.
How do you actually do that? Habits help.
Creating a ritual or practice for finishing your week is a good idea.
Tidy your desk. Put away things you are finished with.
- Close the door.
- Shut down the computer. Or, quit all programs you use for work.
- Turn on your out of office reply: “I’m finished work for the week and won’t be looking at my email again until Monday.”
- Reflect on your accomplishments. Send the gremlin off for a drink with his own friends so you resist the urge to add a critical “but …” to those accomplishments.
Set yourself up for Monday morning
- Make the space inviting.
- Write a note to Future You reminding her of the things you did last week and what your priorities are for next week.
- Set out the things you need to get started.
Do something to celebrate the end of the week.
- Go out for a drink with friends. (It doesn’t have to be alcoholic. Just celebratory.)
- Go to a movie.
- Make a nice meal. Go out for a meal.
- Order pizza and watch movies with your teenager.
Make plans for the weekend.
If you are feeling at a loose end over the weekend, you will be tempted to pick up a work project. Making plans short circuits that. And remember, a change is as good as a rest so doing other things will rest the parts of your brain that do all the heavy lifting when you are writing.
Arrange to meet friends for brunch. Or invite people for lunch.
Organize some kind of outing
- a hike
- a museum
- a movie
Make a list of things you’d like to do
- knitting, sewing, or other hobby
- read for pleasure
- write to a friend
- phone a friend to natter
Work on household projects
- repair projects
- renovations and decorating
Have a list (or basket) of stuff you could do if you find yourself at a loose end.
- read a magazine
- watch TV
- sit on the porch with a cup of tea and stare into space
- go for a walk
Set reasonable goals
If you have never taken a whole weekend, start with one day. A sabbath whether you worship anything or not. Once you are good at taking one day completely off, work on the 2-day weekend.
If you’re good at taking one day off a week and want to have more 2-day weekends set an achievable goal. Last year a client and I worked out a goal for her to have 8 two-day weekends over the summer (Canadian university, so 16 week break) and consider it a success if she got 6. Don’t make your goal EVERY weekend because then the first time you work on a Saturday you’ve blown it and have no incentive to try again.
Alternatively, go for a streak. Restart whenever you need to. An app like Good Habits can help you keep score.
Celebrate any movement towards your goal. You didn’t get to where you are in one summer and it might take you longer than that to get into the habit of the 5-day work-week. That’s okay.
But but but … aren’t I supposed to write every day?
Yes. But that can be every WORKING day. Really.
Habits help with that, too. And your end of the week ritual can incorporate a practice that leaves breadcrumbs to get you started again after your weekend.
This post was edited August 10, 2015.