It may seem counterintuitive to imagine or think that spending less time on work can make you more productive. Yet, an opportunity to recharge and refresh can be very beneficial, especially for those involved in creative work. Yes, academic writing is creative work!
These are just a few reasons that vacations are important:
You can have a “Eureka” moment: While I don’t advocate consistently working while on vacation, a change in scenery can spur creativity. Jot down your ideas and return to relaxation. Research shows that frequent downtime in the way of vacations or even midday breaks can boost creativity and productivity for individuals across a range of professions.
Incentive to meet a deadline: A friend mentioned that he was booking an expensive, non-refundable plane ticket for the day his book manuscript was due. A move like this can be a reward (you get to visit paradise!) or a perverse incentive (you’ll lose a lot of money if you don’t meet your deadline). How you see it depends on what type of motivation works best for you.
Rest is important: As much as academics love to burn that midnight oil, our brains and bodies need rest. You’re probably familiar with that mysterious flu-like illness that befalls scores of academics at the end of the semester. Take the time to rest and recover from the very hard work you’ve been doing all semester. An end-of-semester vacation will not only recharge you, but also help you transition from teaching and service mode to research mode.
When deadlines are looming it can seem like a vacation is the last thing that will help. Here are some ways to convince yourself that it’s OK to take a break, and insure productivity when you return.
Get your project in order before you leave: Organize your work before you leave, so you can spring into action when you return. If you’re going to start a literature review when you get back from you vacation, then go to the library before you leave, so the books are waiting for you. Print out an article you plan to edit when you return.
Complete a task before you leave: Hand in your grades (!). Complete your peer review of a manuscript. Write 500 words. You’ll feel better if you are not leaving while you’re in the middle of a task.
We are often admonished to write during every spare moment we have. It’s no surprise. The demands of tenure are high, the number of years spent in grad school is lower, and academics are competing against one another for increasingly scarce jobs. Consequently, we all get sucked into the myth of academia that work should always be our number one priority, and that if we are not working we are failures. This is not the case – not for academia or for any job. You don’t only need a break; you deserve a break. Not just because a break prepares you to work more, but also because taking care of yourself and attending to your own well-being is valuable in and of itself.
Image Credit: Public Domain Archive