By Roxanne Donovan - Wellness
I am ready for a real fall break. One where I choose NOT to do any academic work.
Yes, you read that right. No replying to (or even reading) work emails, no grading, no reviewing, no writing...nothing. A fall break where I choose to spend all my time (re)connecting with my family and myself.
Let me cut through the confusion and disbelief: a no-work fall break is not the academic equivalent of a unicorn. It’s real--and possible--and necessary.
That last point—breaks are necessary—is super important. Our bodies aren't made to just work, work, work. Don't believe me? See this research, or this, or this. Seriously, there's tons of evidence showing vacations increase productivity, happiness, and creativity while decreasing illness, burnout, and boredom. This means taking a real fall break is good for you AND your university.
But this break won’t just happen: planning and transparency are required. So here are six ways to set up an actual, honest-to-goodness break.
1. Tell EVERYONE your plan to take a no-work fall break. This includes colleagues, students, administrators, chairs, etc. If there's push-back, share the research above. You might inspire a few of them to take their own no-work breaks.
2. Be specific about when you will have things completed after your return to minimize questions or confusion. Careful not to let guilt and optimism cloud your judgment. Best to add at least a few days to the time you think you will have something done.
3. At least a week before your break starts, request extensions for those deadlines you just realized occur during fall break or right after you return. Next year you can make sure this step isn’t necessary.
4. Say no to all new requests that come along with a November or December due date. Any new commitments will infringe on your ability to prepare for, enjoy, and maintain the benefits of your break.
5. Don't forget to turn on your automatic out-of-office email reply. Don't hedge here. You want to clearly state you are unavailable. Feel free to use this template: Thank you for contacting me. [Name of university] is on fall break. I return to the office when classes resume on [date] and will read and respond to emails at that time. If I receive a large number of messages while away (which is likely), it will take me several days to process them all. Your patience is appreciated.
6. Finally, savor your time away. You deserve an enriching revivifying fall break. And your body, mind, and spirit need it.
In peace and solidarity,