Many universities now have a Reading Week or mid-semester break in one or both semesters. (It may or may not be called Spring Break.) This means no (undergraduate) teaching. Students tend to disappear so probably little or no advising either. It is a break from the usual term-time routine.
So what can you do in this week?
Take a real break
You can take a holiday, either for the whole week or for a few days. Prioritize rest. Recharge so you have enough energy to make it through the rest of your busy term. You might escape winter, or embrace it by going skiing. You might take a city break and enjoy galleries, restaurants and concerts in a different place. A break is definitely a possibility.
Mini Writing Retreat
This is also an ideal time to block of 2 or 3 days as a writing retreat. The idea is to reduce your priorities for those couple of days to 2 things: Writing & Rest. At this point in the year, you might not have 3 or 4 days, but you’d be surprised how much you can get done in two 6-hour days.
Review and adjust your plans
Starting your week with a review of what you’ve accomplished so far this semester is a great basis for planning both this week and the rest of the term. Make a big list of what you’ve done:
- Projects you’ve worked on
- Commitments you’ve kept to yourself and others (e.g. made it to class, ate decent meals, etc.)
- Milestones reached
- Unexpected stuff you dealt with
Set a timer for about 2 minutes and just write everything that comes to mind. Then review your list with your researcher hat on: no judgement, just observe what’s there. If a gremlin appears to remind you of how this list doesn’t look anything like what you wanted to accomplish, thank him and send him off for coffee.
Then start there to plan the rest of the semester. If you are a member of the Academic Writing Studio, there are resources for reviewing your plans and for planning the semester (starting any time) in the Resource Room. You can prioritize things for the rest of the week that will set you up for the rest of the teaching term.
Get ahead with your teaching preparation
Especially if you are in a new position or teaching a class you’ve never taught before, you may have a lot of classes to plan from scratch. Getting ahead of yourself this week can make the rest of the semester a bit less fraught. You could organize this in a similar way to a writing retreat: make it your focus for 1 or 2 days.
Set yourself up for better self care
This week also has more flexibility to work reasonable hours, eat well, get adequate sleep, do some exercise. You might do some batch cooking so you have meals in the freezer for busy evenings when you are teaching. Or write out some meal plans. (There are lots of ideas in this post and comments: Are you dropping the “eating well” ball?)
Reading week as reset button
In other words, treat Reading Week as a reset button. Stop. Reflect. Adjust your practices going forward.
Enjoy the rest of the week.
Post edited June 1, 2016..