On Holiday – Or: Strategies to Actually Unplug

Summer holidays. The academic year is done, the deadlines have been met, the plane tickets have been booked, the ‘out-of-office’ reply almost written.

Cue: sunglasses, sunscreen, novels, countryside or city trips. And shutting that office door firmly behind you for a good couple of weeks.

Except: How to close that office door firmly?

What about work that still needs to be done? What about the incoming emails?
There may be upcoming conferences, not too far ahead, that need abstracts and papers and presentations.
There may be marking still to do. Or revisions of papers that you will now finally have the time to get round to.
And, now you’re at it, why not try to catch up a bit? There are chapters that need to be finished and this may be the perfect opportunity.
This summer you will finally, finally get on top of things.

Okay. Wait. Stop. Stop!

1. There is never a perfect time for anything in academia, so this is probably NOT the perfect time to ‘catch up’ on work.

2. You need and deserve a break. It will be fun and it will serve you in the long run. You need to recharge periodically (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly), and it should be one of your priorities.

3. If you want to have any chance at all surviving the academic rat race in the long run, re-read point two.

The funny little paradox at the heart of academic life: many academics choose to pursue an academic career because of its freedoms, but their daily lives revolve around their work, year-round and too often around the clock. It can be a prison of sorts. Workloads can be high. Work obsession can be intense. And getting out of your head can seem almost impossible.

Unplugging can be a real challenge.

Disclaimer: for some of us, unplugging for holiday isn’t an issue. For me personally, holiday came easy in my PhD days. I never even used to bother to write an out-of-office reply. I just packed my suitcase in the evening and left the next day, for a month or so. Après moi le deluge. But then, that was before the hyper-connected days of smartphones. Yes, I’m old. But if you are like me (enviable in this respect only, I can assure you) just go off and enjoy your holiday! Will see you when you get back!

If you are struggling with work addiction or work overload and want to go on holiday unplugged and unburdened here’s a short guide:

1. Be clear on your obligations. If you indeed have a conference to attend, or a deadline to meet that cannot be postponed: plan for it. Reserve space in your agenda for summer work, if you absolutely have to. Make sure you get your work done before you leave on holiday, or after you get back. Plan for it. Then relax about it.

2. Claim your holiday. Holiday is what you deserve, what you’ve earned and what you want to enjoy. So write a mental out-of-office note to yourself, and listen to this wise holidaying part of your being. Be brave and unplug from email. If you have a daily writing habit, or other daily work habits (good for you!), I suggest putting them on hold for a couple of weeks. Put academic reading on hold for a couple of weeks as well. It is possible to put things on hold. No pianos will drop from the sky to flatten you.

3. If you have other daily habits that may be energy drains, or that do not allow for your switching off – I’m thinking Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Pinterest – contemplate boldly unplugging. Now, I know that I bragged about what a star I am at holiday and unplugging above – but that was pre-smartphone era. When I went on a mini-holiday last month I found myself Tweeting, and feeling quite frustrated when I had no connectivity. What?? Yes. Proof that I too am no longer immune to connectivity addiction. Because I’m old, but not that old. What I do a lot of the time is simply not take my phone with me. Addiction control.

4. There is no enjoyment in holidaying if you feel guilty about it. Reserve guilt for your worser sins. Holidaying is a virtue. Treat it as such and indulge yourself.

Sending you sunshine, and lots of uninterrupted time off. Looking forward to seeing you in the new academic year!

Amber

 Holiday

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