How do YOU take time off?
August 3, 2018 4:56 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for ideas, anecdotes, and experiences of academic/writer/artist types-- people who work on long term projects on a flexible schedule. How do you schedule your time off? Weekends? Pick a week day? Ad hoc?

I am trying to take better care of myself these days, and one of the things I know I need to do is learn to rest better.

My time-off model as a graduate student for the past decade has been: work (often sluggishly) until I can't, either due to fatigue or migraines or illnesses or my life/relationship threatens to fall apart. Then I stop work, tend to these other things, and jump right back in to work.

This is a terrible way to take time-off, because 1) I never feel rested and 2) it's not conducive to cultivating any meaningful hobbies, since I don't feel great in the time I'm not working, and since it's so sporadic.

I've read blogs, books, and articles about how to take time off as a freelance writer, but I'd also like to hear some real life examples, especially if it's been working well for you, your family if there is one, and your health/finance needs!
posted by atetrachordofthree to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I'm an academic. And you're right that we have a severe work culture.

In my graduate school and pretenure years I tried to take half of one weekend day off - but I also had a small child at the time. I also tried to not work in the early evenings.

But now looking back, it is also a matter of working more efficiently. For example, set time limits on a lit review or paper grading. Take a walk every few hours. Use the later part of the day when your brain is tired for reading references and other small tasks and use the beginning of the day for harder writing.

Also you will get more efficient with time. I promise.
posted by k8t at 5:28 AM on August 3, 2018

I’m in a staff scientist role in academia, and I confine my work almost all the time to a standard workday, usually around eight hours, and a five day workweek. On top of that I use a modest amount of the (generous) vacation offered at my state institution, most of it organized around days when my kid has no school or childcare. I am not winning awards, but I am gainfully employed and my boss seems happy enough. I don’t know what your goals are, but some academic roles are consistent with taking the regular restorative breaks that other working people get.
posted by eirias at 6:46 AM on August 3, 2018

You're right that a schedule makes it easier to relax. I'm a programmer and work when I want. I aim to do no work at weekends, and aim too for a walk outside every day.

Prior to "scheduling my time" like this, I'd find work invading my free time.
posted by anadem at 9:40 AM on August 3, 2018

You may enjoy Deep Work, by Cal Newport. It has some unfortunate 'follow my tips to outcompete your peers in the capitalist machine' framing, but it is very specifically about how to balance focused, productive work with proper, restful time off and balance your life. He's also an academic, so there's a fair bit in there about working on long-term projects in a self-directed way which may be useful for you.
posted by Happy Dave at 12:41 PM on August 3, 2018

It is a bit of shifting from a deficit approach - can I carve out time to rest - to "I only work these hours, and the rest of the time is for myself" for me. So a schedule, and the important corollary to that is the willingness to sacrifice some quality in order to stick to that schedule. I know that I can keep editing my text for another hour, but I make myself stop and publish it - perfect is the enemy of the good and all that.

I have a colleague with whom I can work in person from 9-5 - even if we aren't doing the same thing and occasionally distract each other, my boundaries are so much better because I can stop once I walk away from our workspace.

I don't know that "meaningful hobbies" is necessarily the end goal for everyone. I recharge, more or less, by 1) reading 2) wasting time on the internet - and that's enough for me, which is a function of my personality and the nature of my work.
posted by ahundredjarsofsky at 6:37 PM on August 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't know, I have the same problem, if I'm honest.

The only thing I found works is starting a hobby which I turn into an obligation (for example personal training, this way I keep healthy and rest my mind), placing it on my regular schedule. And I cannot skip personal training - I paid for that, it's my obligation, someone is waiting for me in the gym.
posted by Liliana at 5:25 AM on August 9, 2018

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