I was on vacation for a week. While I was on vacation for a week, I got an email from a colleague asking me how I can afford to take vacation time, given how thinly our staff resources are stretched. It wasn’t criticism — it was “how do you make this work? I want to make this work…” I thought my answer might interest more than just him.
Honestly, the work part of my brain says I shouldn’t have done it. My to-do list is terrifying and classes start in 2 weeks and holy crap.
But I needed the break. I needed to think about things that aren’t work, things that aren’t intangible whatifs, and just do some things I enjoy. I slept a lot. I hiked. I camped. I went to the beach, and talked to my grandmother, and ate lobster, and played with the family dogs. It was great.
And now, after triage, there are 66 emails I need to read, all likely with a to-do item attached that only I can handle. I have 45 items on my current list, many of them big time-consuming thought exercises with lengthy reports/plans/projects as output. I have every intention of working 60 hours this week and next, because I don’t know how else to get it all done. I also took thank you notes for donors, Ed’s State of the Crane Library report, and the transcripts of the student/faculty researcher interviews i hired consultants to conduct last year with me on vacation, because those were things I could read/do while sitting in my grandmother’s living room in the evening. I have a pile of notes and project plans in my iPad, which got just as much productivity use on vacation as off. I planned my fall trip to New Zealand — a speaking engagement, so technically work — while at the beach. I deleted spam and not-important email every morning, and responded to a couple of personnel issues in my pajamas in a tent, using the 3G on the iPad. And then I put it away each day, and went and did things that matter to Jenica, not to the Libraries.
It’s just like anything else, I think — you decide it’s important, so you make it happen, and you deal with the fallout. And I’ve decided that taking some time for myself — in whatever form it ends up taking — is just as important as anything else. Two really long weeks will be the fallout, but last week was great, so I declare it worth it. Your mileage may vary. 🙂
And so. I’m back. I’m recharged. I have a pile of work to do, new ideas and new approaches to old ones, and some new energy to do it with. I’m ready and willing to work my ass off to get this semester launched right. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a moment of sadness when I turned off the email vacation auto-responder and set my phone to accept voice mail, again.