Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Day One

The confusing thing about sabbatical is that I'm not sure exactly when it does (or did) "officially" start. Did it start at the end of the previous semester/term? When I handed in my grades? Or does it start at the start of the new semester/term? So I arbitrarily decided that my sabbatical "officially" starts today.

I think this is going to be a recurring theme throughout the sabbatical---the uncertain markers of time, that is. I won't be following the flows of the semester/term anymore. I get to set my own rhythms. This is both tremendously freeing and tremendously terrifying.

The last time I had this much freedom was when I was finishing up my dissertation. Back then, I developed a schedule that worked well for me, and largely stuck to it. (Tight deadlines can be a great motivational force.) But this arose somewhat organically---I don't remember sitting down and saying "this will be my schedule". It just sort of happened on its own.

I've decided to try out a schedule of sorts, at least at first, to keep myself in the habit of working every (week) day and keep myself on track and productive. I've structured it according to my "natural rhythms": I'm most productive in the morning, least right after lunch, etc. I'll try it for a few weeks and see how well it works. Roughly, it looks like:
* AM: work on the really tricky research stuff, the stuff that requires the most thought and concentration, between breakfast and lunch.
* Lunch break
* PM: work for an hour or two after lunch on less taxing things: email, networking, maybe some teaching-related stuff (I'm thinking of revamping one of my electives during my sabbatical), finding ways to spend my research money. :) Maybe catch up on professional reading here, too.
* Workout
* PM, part 2: work on research again for a couple of hours before dinner. Define tasks/goals for the next day. This might be extended or pushed back into the evening, too, depending on what else I have going on that day.

This should give me somewhere between 6 and a half and 8 hours of work-time per day, if all goes well.

I'm interested in your experiences: do you consciously schedule your days? How well does it work for you? What pitfalls and successes have you found?

7 comments:

Jordan said...

So, what is the goal, or more bluntly, the point of your sabbatical. I apologize if it was mentioned in your previous posts. I know certain fields have very different goals associated with sabbaticals.

ScienceWoman said...

This isn't really related to your post, but I'm wondering what sort of requirements you have coming back from sabbatical next semester. For example, my mom had to commit to teaching full-time for the year following each sabbatical. If you have a requirement like that, how do you plan to handle it with the arrival of baby jane? (timing's not all clear in my head)

Chaser said...

I never established a good schedule while on sabbatical. I just don't seem to work that way. However, my friend follows a very similar schedule to yours.

Jane said...

Jordan, good question, and one I don't think I've addressed before. The point/goal of my sabbatical is to concentrate full-time on research, with no teaching or service obligations. My institution's kind of vague on things like how productive one should be while on sabbatical, but I did have to turn in a "sabbatical plan" mapping out what I wanted to accomplish during that time. I'm not sure if someone's going to pull that out when I return and check off what I've done, or if it's more to help out the person going on sabbatical to think critically about what will get done.... I guess I'll find out soon enough!

Sciencewoman, good question. As far as I can tell, there is no requirement to "give time back" after a sabbatical. It seems like here, sabbaticals are considered to be "earned time off from teaching", which means you've already paid for your sabbatical before you take it. But I will need to check this out, since I will be effectively taking a leave of absence in the fall, and I have no idea if my institution treats/views those sorts of leaves differently.

Chaser, how did it work out for your friend?

BrightStar said...

I am on sabbatical this semester, too, and I hear you about the undefined start of it. I like that you just claimed your beginning!

Also, I think a schedule like the one you proposed was one that I thought I would try this summer, but it was more like: Get up, loiter, drink coffee for a while... work for 90 minutes on challenging research, eat lunch, get back to challenging research for 60 more minutes, move to less challenging tasks for 90 more minutes, work out, eat dinner, go back and do about 60 more minutes of work, including planning for the next day. I guess my only point in sharing this was that (a) our schedules were similar, and I found it to work well, and (b) I needed to schedule in loitering time in the mornings, because I knew I'd take it, so I might as well schedule it!

Also, I have to pay back the time I take for sabbatical at my uni.

Jane said...

b*, I agree that scheduling in loitering time is important! It takes me about a half hour in front of the computer before I can really start working seriously in the morning. Glad to hear it worked well for you---are you planning on doing something similar during your sabbatical?

Cari said...

I've had a term off from teaching, so not quite sabatical (and, given the amount of service I've done, far from it), but I've learned some interesting things. I was far, far too flexible in my schedule, and now as I look back on it I don't have much to show for it.

So, I think I can agree with the other commenters that being realizetic about loitering time is essential. And being very firm on sticking to the schedule. I'd also advocate working somewhere less accessible.