Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Pots: Time Off and 2013

I cannot believe it has been almost a month since I last wrote on this blog. I would love to say that it's been a manically busy period, I've got loads accomplished, finished my PhD and got a million journal articles accepted but that would be a big fat lie. In fact, I have been away. I brought articles and a work book with me, but I didn't read them. I lay on the beach, and visited some amazing archaeological sites in lands far far away. They pushed me right out of my comfort zone- I knew nothing about them, and very little about the people who made them. I just gawped along with all the other folks standing looking at them.

The reason that this is a Pots post is that I am starting to think that time off should be an everday thing. BECAUSE the gawping and sunning time that I have just spent has been one of the most productive times in my life. I was getting pretty tired and run down by the end of last academic term- with no holiday apart from 3 days off in March since my honeymoon, which itself ended up very stressful, I had no idea how much I needed a break. I turned off my twitchy Twitter spidey senses, stopped looking at emails, and just absorbed the world for 3 weeks. It was blissful. By the end of the first week, problems that I had been worrying over constantly were suddenly small and solvable- I can just ask this person for help, I can just apply for that. By the end of the second, I had a massive breakthrough with my PhD thesis- I suddenly realised exactly what I wanted to conclude, and what I had learnt. Just before I went away, my wonderful supervisor told me that I was "banging on the door" of having my work completely sussed. All it took were 2 weeks away to burst through the door and come out the other side elated.

So, I am thinking that time off, time away, is perhaps one of the most important aspects of academic practice. Before my dog died, I was very good at this- I had to make space for 2 hours each day to walk, with no gizmos or phone or anything, just me, him and our feet moving and thoughts flowing. All the positive breakthroughs of my time away have shown me that this is something my brain is missing. So, I am going to try and take time more regularly to just switch off- stop tussling and worrying over tiny issues, making them bigger instead of smaller. It's like my mind just needs a bit of time to process, before it can come up with an answer- unconscious thought whirring away in the background. I didn't realise how important this space and time would be, until I wasn't letting myself have it anymore. Everyday time to reflect, time to empty my mind and refresh myself. I think this can only make my work better, and certainly my work-life balance better. So that's my New Year lesson, I suppose. 2012 was a year that started with heartbreak and ended with burnout. I'm not going to do that in 2013. I'm going to do things aside from work that I love- running, yoga, and volunteering. I've just volunteered to work in two different museums, which, now that I'm not teaching any more, I have time for. Hopefully they will stop me getting bogged down again, and provide a little more regular respite from the Etruscans in my head! (Caveat: I don't think there are actual Etruscans in my head. They are definitely metaphorical, just so you know I'm not crazy).

What are your plans for 2013? What do you do to take time off? Is it an important part of your academic life? Do you have past people in your head?

PS- a sneak peek from my trip away to Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. I will blog about this in more detail another day... but you can see why I was glazed over with amazement... maybe mindblowing archaeology should be a prescription experience?

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What do you think? I'd love to hear what's in your head.