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Should I Write Over Break?

by | Nov 30, 2017 | academic writing, time management

OK, here’s the short answer: no. Now for the long answer.

If you’re like me, you have amazingly good intentions to do all kinds of things that end up being pushed aside until classes are over or you have some sort of other formal “break.” These things often include writing and other projects that require sustained concentration or focus. The time-sensitive, “urgent” tasks push out the career-building “important” tasks as the semester begins to boil.

The Importance of Disconnecting

But when we turn off the burner at the end of the semester, we are still simmering. And (to take this metaphor all the way to its logical conclusion) we need to cool off. That’s why, despite my best intentions to get writing done over break, I usually don’t. I need to completely disconnect from academia for a while.

Here’s the thing about disconnecting completely: You restore your energy and, by doing so, your ability to think about projects in new and innovative ways.

In academia, you need your brain. You can’t publish an article by just going through the motions. Just think about any time when you have sat down with a deadline looming and can’t even get a 250 word abstract out. You have to be able to clear your mind at some point so that you can start again recharged. That’s what the break is for.

Now I know that some of you are saying: That’s great for you, but I don’t have the option to not write over break. If that’s you, then here is a plan for how you’ll get writing done during a three-week break.

What to Do if You HAVE to Write Over Break

Week 1: Disconnect completely from academia. Do not go to your office, do not check your email, do not read that one article you’ve been meaning to read all semester. Allow yourself TOTAL disconnection.

Week 2 & 3: Sprint on ONE project until it’s done. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but you will not finish all the left-over things on your to-do list during break. You will not even finish half of them. What you CAN do is finish ONE high-payoff writing project. A needle-moving project. A project you DESERVE to finish.

You may NOT finish committee work or stupid reports during your break. If you are going to work during break it had better be on a project that is enriching for your career. A project that is stimulating and that brings you JOY.

The reality is this: there are things on your to-do list that you should just not do. I mean, things that are not worth doing. It’s time to eliminate these tasks from both your list and your mind. Let them go. Release those unanswered emails. Say goodbye to those committee reports. Just don’t do it.

Now let’s talk a bit more about that one project that you can work on during break if you don’t have the luxury of taking the complete break off. This one project should be a writing project. A project that is going to result in a publication that will get your unique message out into the world where it needs to be. Why? Because writing for publication is an investment in YOU, and if you are going to use your precious off-time for something work-related it should boost you and your career (not just tie up loose ends).

Writing for publication is an investment in YOU.Click To Tweet

So, take a few minutes to really think about whether you can take a true break between semesters. If the answer is no, then I encourage you to choose ONE high-payoff writing project and design a sprint to move the needle on it. To learn exactly how to design a writing sprint, check out this blog post: How to do a writing sprint.


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