This post refers to the break between semesters, which in the Northern Hemisphere tends to incorporate the Christmas holidays. Often the exams and assignments that come in at the end of the semester need to be graded before the beginning of the next casting a bit of a pall over the break and making it less break-like. There is a reprise, encouraging you to ignore the grading in order to have a proper holiday.
I had an interesting Twitter conversation with one of my readers:
She had been reading 19th Century newspapers all day. I congratulated her on spending a day doing research. She replied that it had been great. She was happy. But also noted that she was ignoring a big pile of grading. I said that the grading would wait. The students didn’t need the marks and comments until January anyway. She concurred remarking that this year is the first year she’s noticed that.
Would you rather be doing research over your break?
What is your equivalent of spending a day reading 19th Century newspapers?
And how much happier would you be if you focused on your research for a day or so?
Would you be revitalized by spending some time working on something that you really enjoy? That you find intellectually stimulating?
Why aren’t you doing it?
Really, you have over 2 weeks break between semesters. You don’t have that much grading to do.
Does grading feel like “real work” that you should really get finished before you do something “just for you”?
Or has it been so long since you did any research-related work that you aren’t sure where to start and the grading just looks like a more defined task? After all, you can judge how much grading you’ve done by the size of the pile. And you know when you’ve finished it.
Things to try
You could do what my Twitter interlocuter did and just ignore the pile and immerse yourself in some of your research.
You could do some research every day before you tackle the pile of grading. It could be as little as 15 minutes or as much as half-a-day.
You could alternate between grading and doing research. Grade for an hour, read 19th Century newspapers (or the equivalent) for an hour.
Your goal is to rediscover your love of research
Don’t set yourself goals for the research that will make the doing of it harder. Who cares if you finish an article? Who cares if you aren’t quite sure if examining this particular source material or data is going to be productive?
It’s perfectly okay to find the easiest or most enjoyable research task on your list and do that. The grading is soul-sucking enough. The point of the research piece is to get your soul back.
Then bake cookies*
That’s okay, too. And eat them. Possibly while playing Settlers of Catan* with your kids or a bunch of friends …
*substitute the food and leisure activity of your choice
If you are a member of the Academic Writing Studio, there is an audio-class on Planning Your Short Break in the Resource Room. If you’d like to be part of a community that is based on the principle that you can be an excellent academic AND take real breaks, and have access to resources to help you plan and develop your writing practice, consider joining the Studio.
Originally published Dec 17, 2009. Edited May 27, 2016.