How to start working after holidays (part 2)

The summer is over and most of us are back in our reality of working and studying. When I return from holidays, I employ three strategies that help me to engage faster in my everyday working routine:

1) Setting a time-table of my island-goal (I discuss this in previous post)
2) Participating in writing groups
3) Working (i.e. writing, reading) in cafes

Kerry Ann Rockquemore in Inside Higher Education offers a very informative post about the second strategy:

Writing groups

Kerry Ann Rockquemore in her post answers three common questions:

1) What types of writing groups exist?
2) How do I figure out which type of writing group is right for me?
3) If I were just more motivated and disciplined then I wouldn’t need a group, so how can I change myself?

I think it is very important to dismiss the myth of “shut up and write” and I found very useful her post in which she discusses:

Faculty development researchers have demonstrated that accountability and support increase writing productivity among new faculty members.

And yet, when graduate students, post-docs and new faculty talk about needing support that goes beyond substantive feedback, they’re often met with some form of shaming: “Why do you need a support group?” “Can’t you just motivate yourself to write?” “This is your job dear, so if you don’t want to write there’s plenty of unemployed people who would love to be in your position.”

In short, many are advised to shut up and write. And because shaming moves people into action, that may actually work for a week or two. But true needs have a way of resurfacing. So instead of taking the tough-guy, ignore-your-needs, shut-up-and-write approach, I want to suggest the opposite.

In other words, I believe that embracing your needs will help you to develop a support system that will move you from the occasional shame-induced writing binges towards a healthy, consistent, and sustainable daily writing routine.

While it should go without saying, it’s OK to have needs. In fact, if you wait until you are perfectly motivated, flawlessly self-disciplined, free from anxiety, utterly fearless, intellectually energized, and emotionally resolved before you start writing this summer, you may never begin!

Instead, I want to encourage you to release yourself from the idea that having needs means there’s something wrong with you.

It’s OK if you need support and accountability.

It’s OK if you’re not productive in isolation

It’s OK if you need community, feedback, a safe space to take risks, and a group of people who genuinely celebrate your accomplishments.

It’s OK because meeting your needs for community, support and accountability will not only increase your productivity, but also your enjoyment of summer writing.
Although Kerry Ann Rockquemore focuses on the activity of summer writing, for me writing groups are equally useful and important through out the year. But what are those “writing groups”? Kerry Ann Rockquemore categorizes writing groups in 5 types:

Traditional Writing Groups
• Writing Accountability Groups
• Write-On-Site
• Online Writing Groups
• Coaches and Nags

Depending on your needs you can engage in the corresponding type of group. If you like working with other people and you have friends that are also studying or working on their thesis, you can arrange to work together either on a café or in a library. However not all people like to work in public spaces with others. Many people prefer to work alone because they can concentrate better.

No matter in which category you may find your self, you’ll find really useful to have an accountability group or partner.

First, you find other people who are interested in engaging in an “accountability relationship”. For example I have a friend with whom at the beginning of each week we mail each other our weekly goals. At the end of the week (or during weekend) we communicate through skype and we discuss if we accomplished our weekly goals, if not for which reasons we think we didn’t accomplish them, and which are our new goal for the next week.

Second, be committed to this “accountability relationship” and keep doing it. Be honest to yourself and to your partner or group.

(Note: the purpose of this “accountability relationship” is not to criticize each other)

Working in cafes

My third strategy is working on cafes or places different from my working office. Cal Newport at his blog Study Hacks propose to do “adventure work” and calls us to rethink the “the Power of Context”.

He argues that “the context in which you do academic work is extremely important, yet most of us give it little consideration…”. The place where we work and study is important and Cal Newport stress that “the setting for your academic work is as important as your methods”.

I am using the strategy of studying outside or at cafes since high school. I remember reading history in our garden, lying down on the grass and under the trees. However, studying or working either outside on garden or at cafes is a misunderstood practice. Most people perceive that you actually work or study when you are “closed” in an office or library for hours. Going outside even for a break is something that “weak” people do.

I remember a funny incident when I was in high school. A neighbor of us (who had a son in same age like me) was telling my mother that it is not possible to study outside and that I’m mocking them: “Our son is closed in his room for hours and he doesn’t let us in because he wants to be focused. How your daughter is able to study outside in the garden?” Oh I really laughed a lot when I heard it!
The funny thing was that I succeeded in the exams of entering in university while he failed! You can imagine her face when she heard the news…

Of course every person is different and not all people find it comfortable or practical to work in cafes or public spaces. Do not feel obliged to do it if you don’t like it, but I suggest at least trying it. How can you be sure that you don’t like something if you never try it?

Personally I find it really useful. When I am in my working office and I feel that I’m tired or that I need something to boost my energy, I take my laptop and go to a café. And it works! Changing place makes me more productive!

I use both two strategies (accountability groups and working on cafes) not only after holidays but throughout the year. I find them really useful for enhancing my motivation and productivity.

Especially after holidays I find really nice to start working on cafes because I feel that I am still on vacation while working. I perceive it like a bridge, a transition between holidays and working.

I try to find cafes that have big tables, suitable for using my laptop and also having my papers around. Wireless internet is also a plus for choosing the café, although not a perquisite.


This is a café I like to go for working

Well these are my strategies for getting back in work after holidays!
Which are your strategies? What do you do for getting in the mood of working?


1 Comment

Filed under Managing time, Writing

One response to “How to start working after holidays (part 2)

  1. Pingback: My weekly goals: 22-26 October 2012 | The PhD…"war"

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