It’s the first weekend of the term and I have not opened my email since late Friday afternoon. It’s now late Sunday afternoon and I have checked my email and did a couple small tasks before shutting down my laptop once again. Yesterday I drove to a fiber festival about an hour away from Toronto and visited the St Jacob’s Farmer’s Market. Today I did the food shopping for the week and visited the Cabbagetown Festival. While there is nothing remarkable about my weekend, I cannot help but feel indulgent for taking off two whole days from work. I feel guilty for taking time off and feel angry with myself for feeling guilty for taking time off.
Achieving an ideal work/life balance is not an easy feat to an academic. One of the attractions of the academic profession is its flexibility and independence, yet these ver characteristics make it difficult to compartmentalize one’s work. There is always something that needs to be read, prep to do for class, meetings to plan, administrative tasks to complete. And the writing. Let’s not forget the writing. It is very easy to let all that work spill over into one’s weekend. An academic friend of mine posted about the weekend arguments she has with herself over feeling the need to work during the weekend to catch up but not wanting to do it because, frankly, she needs her rest to face her very busy week. And that’s the issue, isn’t it? We *have* to rest. Without rest we will be stressed, cranky, inefficient.
I have been lucky to have a significant other who is not an academic and who had a 9-5 job before he retired. From the first day of my PhD, despite the flexibility of the student life, I have always split my time between a working week and the weekend. I felt it wasn’t fair to my husband if I worked all weekend. Some friends are able to not work on weekends because they have children. Of course, I sometimes need to put in a few hours on a Sunday at crunch periods or when the marking accumulates. I try very hard, however, not to make it a habit. I firmly believe that being able to disconnect on the weekends allows me to be more creative, efficient, and less stressed throughout the week. Of course, it also means that I never feel caught up but then the academic work is never quite done, is it?
If you feel difficult to take even one full day off, take a look at Jo Van Every’s suggestions on how to take weekends off. I have started using part of Friday to plan what I need to do on Monday. Luckily this year I do not teach on Mondays, which means I can make it a prep day. My challenge this year will be to maintain a regular exercise routine and a diet of home-cooked meals even on those busy days. We’ll see how it goes!