02 November 2007

Notes on Fisher Files, Sequence II, Episode 10 - Vacation

Here are my notes on the Fisher Files episode entitled "Vacation."
  • Your life as a professor will involve a lot of administration and meetings, managing people, and reviewing other people's performance. All of this stuff wears down on you and you need to take a vacation that gives you a respite from these responsibilities.
  • If you don't take a vacation, your body and mind will impose a little vacation on you. Frequently, this appears as a lot of drinking, a short temper, or inattention.
  • Requirements for a vacation
    • Don't respond to email. Set up an auto-responder.
    • Vacations should not be work of a different kind (e.g. fixing up the house). It should be unstructured time with no goals, deadlines, or appointments.
    • You have to remove yourself from your daily mode of thought and your daily routine (e.g. no reading physics papers on vacation).
    • Minimum of two weeks of vacation a year. You are typically paid 9 months a year by the university and up to 2 months by your research grant, so there is one month every year where you should not feel obligated to do anything. We need to push back
      against the university and colleagues who demand that we work all the time. This is hard to avoid in the modern age where we can potentially work anywhere with a laptop and wireless internet.
  • How to plan a vacation
    • Treat your vacation as a project
    • Start thinking about your next vacation 1-2 months after you get back from your last vacation (e.g. make a project heading in your todo list)
    • the vacation project will be a source of positive energy every time you review your project list during your weekly review
    • if you have family, make it clear to yourself whether or not visiting your family is vacation
    • if visiting family is actually fulfillment of an obligation, that does not count as vacation
    • Remember that vacation is an investment that pays dividends
  • Encourage your colleagues (grad students, postdocs) to take vacations
  • Advisors should tell their grad students and postdocs that it's OK to take vacations
  • In particular, people who have children really need to be careful about setting aside time for themselves and their relationship with their spouse. Their time will be eaten away by work and taking care of the children, but the relationship with the spouse is really important to both being productive and having a good family.

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