Thursday, July 01, 2010


"Summertime, and the living is easy..." as the song goes. It looks like my planning is working out just great this year. I'm winding down my activities, making sure that my work tasks are resting in an orderly way while I'm away, and developing a pretty good sense of where I will pick things up again when I return at the end of July. I thought I'd share some basic strategies.

First, decide well in advance what the last work-related thing is that you will do before you call it quits for awhile. Make a pretty solid (and realistic) to-do list for the last week at work, but leave some wiggle room in case something comes up. Don't plan to have the last week of work be the hardest week of the semester. Plan for the opposite to be true.

During that last week, decide also what the first few things tasks will be when you return. Working on this list is also a great way to manage new tasks that people suddenly send your way. It's a pretty common that you suddenly find a project that you hadn't heard about for weeks or months shifted onto your desk just before you go on vacation, i.e., just before someone else does the same and wants to get the task off their desk. Most often it can wait until you get back, and by assigning it a place in your calender you can relax and not think about it while you are away.

Then there's the question of "working while on vacation", something many academics do (Jonathan has blogged favourably about the practice, for example.) Here it is very important to limit such activities in space and time, and to decouple them from the social pressure of work. That is, if you want to "tinker" with a paper or "dip into" a book, that's fine, but don't work towards any external deadline. Also, make sure that whoever you're vacationing with knows when your mind will be on other things. It just makes everything more relaxing.

Most people really do need that vacation when it comes. But many people forget to actually take it.

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