….but we are all fabulous.

The art of taking time off

I’m an academic, which means that my work cannot be easily parceled into a 9-5 day – it has blurry edges – there is always more to be done – more papers to read, more papers to write, an email to send, marking to get done etc etc. The blurriness is one of the things that drew me to the profession – I like being able to arrange my own time, to start at 10 and finish at 7 or whatever times suit that particular day, to increase my publications by working extra hours, to go shopping mid-week when there are fewer crowds and compensate by working at the weekend.

out of office

I also do not have children. Now I know that working and having children is hard – many column inches are devoted to this and I can see from the effort friends put into keeping their lives on an even keel that this takes constant vigilance and great skill. However, being an academic without children also has challenges. Some are reasonably well-documented – the fact that childless or child-free colleagues are asked to cover weekend open days for colleagues with children for example. However, I am not interested in a who-has-it-worse debate. What is less well documented, to my knowledge, is the fact that without children, or having a hobby which requires regular attendance for example, work, especially work one enjoys can expand to fill ones evenings and weekends. In my case this has become so chronic that I no longer see the extra hours worked as bonus hours but rather as necessary to get everything done.

Unfortunately, this leads to low efficiency – I will waste time on the internet – reading newspapers or whatever because I have all the time in the world to be at my desk. I will spend disproportionate amounts of time marking an essay because there are few deadlines and ultimately, however much I love my work, without enough of a break from it, I start to get stressed, fed up and resentful.

If you have glanced over my other posts, you may well think, but you are always swanning off to art galleries, visiting London and so on and therein lies the heart of the issue. I am reasonably good at taking goal oriented time off – I book spare time activities – galleries, theatre, concerts, visits to friends, a couple of times a month but the thing I am dreadful at is non-goal oriented time off. I am not good at saying, right, 7pm, time to stop work, unless there is a specific activity involved. If I have a free day at the weekend, I will think, right, what work can I do. I like specific television and watch boxsets and films, but I don’t enjoy randomly watching TV or too much time spent in front of it and books can feel like a busman’s holiday. I need to exercise more, but again this is goal oriented.

I am not sure what the answer is – probably a mixture of being more spontaneous rather than planning things in, persevering with my meditation practice which enhances living in the moment, and devoting more time to hobbies such as drawing and gardening which are themselves meditative. It has also been suggested that signing up to a 7pm exercise class might provide a structured end to the working day. I know I am unbelievably lucky to have a job I love, I just need to make sure I make time to love the rest of my life as well.




One comment on “The art of taking time off

  1. habibilamour
    April 13, 2014

    Find hobbies or other things to do but don’t have children if you love your career!

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2014 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .
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