Winter break is now upon us (or quickly approaching for schools like mine, U of Illinois). How will you spend it? For graduate students, semester/quarter breaks are often not breaks at all. Many of us use this time to get as much research done as possible – getting ahead before the next semester starts, or catching up from things that you wanted to get done last semester (the latter is probably more likely). After a hectic semester, the break can provide a time free of interruptions by students, meetings, administrative tasks, etc,… just hours of your own research time (or, as I like to call it, “me-search”). Even though this may sound appealing for productivity, it’s important to not get too buried in your work and actually take a break! Several articles discuss why taking time off work is actually good for you, and can even boost your productivity!
The work culture in the US is certainly different than other places around the world. Our French colleagues, for example earn about 37 vacation days a year and use all but two of them. Americans, conversely, earn about 18 on average and take only 14. Even in academia, grad students and post-docs in France take 6-8 weeks of vacation per year… and they actually take it! This lifestyle seems so foreign to me. But, wouldn’t it be great to actually take a vacation without feelings of guilt that you should be working?
So, I encourage you to take a page from the European’s book and give yourself a break this holiday season. I will be giving myself 2 weeks of work free vacation starting Saturday. I must say, knowing that I have a break coming is giving me the extra drive to finish this last week of the semester strong. I’m confident that my productivity will be improved when I come back from vacation too. I’ll be sure to keep you posted! What are your winter plans?