The average amount of time from entering grad school until getting
tenure is more than 18 years! Wow!
Remember this daunting figure when you tell yourself that you'll
take time off as soon as you jump through the next hoop. Instead,
seek to develop a rich and relatively balanced life while you're
still a student or junior faculty member.
In order to avoid
burnout, it is just as important to make time for relationships,
relaxation and recreation as it is to schedule time
for your work.
Beware of the fate of Don Quixote:
In short, he so busied himself in his books
that he spent the nights reading from twilight till daybreak
and the days from dawn till dark;
and so from little sleep and much reading his brain dried
and he lost his wits.
Down Time - Everyone needs regular periods of relaxation
to recharge. Getting together with friends, going to movies, listening
to your favorite music, or taking a long, steaming bath:
I'm sure that you can imagine many excellent ways to rejuvenate
and everyone has their own best way to relax. Just remember that
zoning out in front of the TV is not true "down time."
To really replenish your creative juices, learn the challenging
art of doing absolutely nothing.
Days Off - In my workshops and coaching practice, I strongly
recommend that people take at least one day off each week from any
form of academic work. It is surprising how difficult this assignment
is for most scholars. Yet, again and again, people who follow my
suggestion are amazed at how much more productive they are during
the other six days. Plus, they revel in sharing the new movies,
plays, sports events, concerts and festivals they've attended.
Social Life - As one academic told me: If I get tenure,
but no longer have my marriage, what good is tenure? Nourishing
close relationships is perhaps the most important aspect of your
balancing act. Sometimes, when coaching, I help academics make time
to seek romance and new friendships. Many scholars need to schedule
social time to make sure that they keep in touch with friends and
family. For example, you may want to reserve Sunday evenings for
phoning people you've lost touch with or neglected.
Joy Breaks - This term is used by Ann McGee-Cooper in her
fun book Time Management for Unmanageable People. Joy breaks
are mini-activities that will renew you by taking your mind off
of work for a few minutes. Often they are tasks that relate to future,
larger treats. For example, if you'd like to see a movie later in
the day, a joy break during your morning writing session might be
to look up movie reviews on the web, check the time a show is playing,
or call and invite a friend to join you.
Artist Dates - This term was coined by creativity guru Julia
Cameron. She defines an artist date as a pre-planned and scheduled
block of time, perhaps two hours a week, devoted to "nurturing
your creative consciousness." Artist dates, according to Cameron,
must be taken alone rather than with friends or partners, and consist
of activities such as visiting a museum, attending a concert, exploring
an "ethnic neighborhood" or taking a long walk in the
wilderness. An artist date is "quality time with yourself".
Yes, her style may be "new age" but her suggestions are
Vacations - Take vacations, vacations, vacations. In workshops,
I always ask participants whether they've ever gone on vacation
and taken a heavy backpack filled with their laptop and 20 pounds
of books and articles. They nod. Then, I ask them whether they have
taken this backbreaking load only to leave the books unopened, the
articles unread, and the laptop used only to play solitaire? Inevitably,
many in the group get sheepish smiles and blush as they nod. Stop
taking work with you on vacations. Resist the urge to open work-related
email. Commit yourself to a completely guilt-free break. Have guilt-free
fun. I guarantee that you'll work with greater productivity when
Health - Want to work more productively? Make sure that
you are taking care of yourself. This includes: getting enough sleep;
eating well; staying in shape; making time for an annual physical;
and getting professional treatment if you are suffering from depression
or chronic anxiety. Of course you already know the importance of
good health, but are you following through on your knowledge? Eighteen
years is a long time for an unhealthy lifestyle.
Exercise - It is essential to make time for exercise. Of
course you know you should, but are you balancing those long hours
in front of your computer with vigorous daily activity? The endorphins
will boost your mood, the blood flow will clear your mind, and the
results will boost your self-esteem. Make your body a priority.
(Beware, however, of signs and symptoms of eating disorders - a
growing epidemic in today's weight-obsessed society. If you are
exercising compulsively, dieting obsessively, bingeing or purging,
please seek professional help.)
and Meditation - There are so many benefits to a practice of
mindfulness that I will soon devote a separate section to the topic.
In the meantime, try reading the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Relaxation Techniques - Shallow, chest-level breathing rather
than abdominal breathing, is a hallmark of stress. Tight, sore neck
muscles, frequent headaches and insomnia are some of the other signs
that stress is getting to you. If you are chronically tense, or
have ever suffered a panic attack, I highly recommend The Anxiety
and Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne. This comprehensive book
covers the assessment and treatment of anxiety disorders and provides
instructions for many relaxation techniques.
Visualization - Close your eyes and try to vividly imagine
a soothing outdoor scene. A deserted beach with rhythmic waves stroking
the sand. A narrow mountain waterfall wending down a fern-lined
pass. See the colors, hear the sounds, smell the scents, and feel
the sun. Regular practice of visualization, even for a few moments
as a break during a work session, is a revitalizing way to relax.
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