Longtime readers of the blog will know Research Degree Insiders is a big fan of time off — there’s a whole category of posts tagged ‘Taking A Break‘! But I’m not actually particularly fussed about whether you work on evenings, weekends, or over holidays.
You absolutely can take a break then, of course! It makes sense for a lot of people to synch up their diaries with the traditional school or work day; and to synch up your rest periods with traditional times to take off. However, many people work to other patterns, because they are working shifts, or are in jobs like hospitality or retail. So that 9-5/Monday-Friday routine isn’t the only way to organise your research work time either.
Doing a PhD, you have the opportunity to decide on the pattern of work and rest that works best for you. You get to make quite a lot of decisions about how you will manage your time. Of course social norms and your family and community expectations can play into what you decide, but the choice, in the end, is yours. This can be a bit scary and a bit liberating!
In Australia, like many of the places where (according to my blog stats) most of you are coming from, Christmas and New Year, are major festivals where its common to stop working and see family and friends. In fact, in Australia, the whole university shuts down for over a week. A week of quiet, with no meetings, emails, classes or traffic can be a gift.
What you do with that gift is up to you. You might choose to use that time to spend with family and friends. You might use it to catch up on sleep, hobbies or leisure activities. You might choose to use it to sit down and really pump some words out.
You might do a mix of things. This year I am doing just that. My partner is very busy with work over Christmas, and I’m planning to use some of the time to do to the first edit of my book about finishing your PhD (the one with Peta and Liam). We’ll also be having a few family and friend catch ups, so tomorrow I will be cooking and getting the house ready. I’m also planning to spend a lot of time in the garden.
All of these are choices that you can make with positive energy and zero shame. Often these posts are inspired by conversations I have with students, and this one is inspired by students who were being made to feel bad because they were planning to work over Christmas. (Also, don’t be the person making other people feel bad because they aren’t celebrating a festival the same way you do!)
The only thing to remember is that if you work over Christmas, you must take that break somewhere else!
You can chose when to work and when to rest, but you can’t chose to work and also to work–or you can, but it leads to burnout and low productivity. If you want more evidence about why time off is important, check out these posts: Why everyone should stop work more often, or An Ode to Sleep, or Self care for everyone, or the Critical Distance Break.
Anytime you move countries, you’ll notice that your major holidays don’t always match up: whether that’s Canadian vs American Thanksgiving, or Chinese New Year to western New Year. I’ve been speaking a lot recently to students from Muslim-majority countries, where the Christmas holidays obviously aren’t such a big deal. So this post may be more relevant to you for another holiday period–please feel free to repurpose it! And Happy Holidays!