How to use your academic break to improve your writing productivity
Academia works in regular patterns of intensive study and classwork followed by scheduled breaks between or in the middle of academic terms. Whether your institution works on a traditional semester system with breaks between the spring, summer, and fall semesters or on a year-round or quarterly system with breaks strategically scheduled throughout the year, it is important to use these breaks in a way that they can improve your productivity and move you forward.
In this article, I offer two suggestions for using breaks, like the winter break beginning now for most of our readers as we close out 2020, to improve your writing productivity either during or following the break. The advice depends on your regular practice during the academic year.
Suggestion #1 – Revive your writing habits
For most academics – whether student or faculty – our academic terms are filled with curriculum requirements that are put on pause during the breaks. Those curriculum requirements often leave little to no time for concentrated work on the writing we want to get done. If you find it hard to make the time during the school year to work on your writing, dedicate time during the break to build a writing habit that moves your projects forward.
But, doing this requires that you take a break from your regular work efforts. I know that the break is a great time to work on planning for next term. It’s a great time for reorganizing your office and reflecting on the previous semester. It’s a great time for getting stuff done while everyone else is off campus. But, if you keep working through the break, you will not have more time for writing!
Set goals for yourself during the break to move one or more of your “someday” projects forward, and then take advantage of the “extra” time away from work to write. Reward yourself for the work you do for others throughout the school year by focusing on your interests in between terms.
To not only accomplish your writing goals during the break, but to carry your writing habits forward into the next term, look ahead at your class schedule and routine, then build a daily writing habit that will not only work during the break, but can be maintained when your return afterward.
Suggestion #2 – Take a break from writing
If your academic year, however, is laden with writing projects and research, it is time to pursue something else for a couple weeks. And it’s okay to take a break from writing. That bears repeating. It is okay (and healthy) to take a break from writing.
Plan for the end of the term to be a stopping point. If you’ve already moved into your break and are still writing, find a stopping point by the end of the day (or week at the latest) and put a pin in your writing projects for the rest of the break. Don’t worry, they’ll be there when you return next semester.
Let your brain rest. It’s why the breaks exist. Give your mind and body time to rejuvenate, to connect with other people and interests, and to enjoy life outside of your research. As with the curriculum-related advice above, you can focus on building healthy habits – reading, exercise, social interaction, etc. – that can ideally be maintained when you return to the routine of research and writing in the new term.
All work and no play, right?
Regardless of which suggestion you find most applicable, the goal is to take a break from your routine, to focus on other interests, and to prepare yourself for a strong return when the break ends, ready to face the next academic cycle with renewed enthusiasm for your daily routine – and perhaps a manageable habit of balance as well.