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Transcending the Grind

I'm in Ash's position, not Marcus's, but I identify with what they're both saying, especially this:

"In essence, the odd travel vacation aside, I basically never take a break because of how bad I feel when I do. In all honesty, this strikes me as probably unhealthy, but I have no real idea how to transcend it."

To the extent that I've found a solution, it has two parts:

1. I've found a hobby about which I'm almost as passionate as my career in academics. While participating in that hobby isn't a break in the sense of chilling out, socializing, etc., it is a break from academic work that's good for my well-being. Since I'm passionate about it, I am intrinsically motivated to make the time for it, and, thus, get the break. So long as I'm still putting in a full work week on philosophy, I don't feel guilty about using my spare time on my hobby. (Although, I recognize that if I had a child, this approach may not work as well.)

2. Look for accomplishments. Like Ash, I have a long list of work-in-progress. Once I complete a major project, or otherwise reach a point of accomplishment, I usually find myself feeling naturally inclined towards a several-day break. Sure, there's a dozen more things on my to-do list, but I just worked hard for three months on project X, and with that off my plate, I can breath for a day or two to collect myself.

Marcus Arvan

Transcending: thanks for chiming in. I think those are good tips! Funny, they're actually both the best answers I've been able to find too--though not fully adequate ones (see below).

Like you, I usually try to "reward" myself for getting stuff done. Like, if I have written and gotten out a lot of papers for review (or finish a book manuscript), I'll tell myself I'll give myself a few days or a week off. Usually, though, I'll maybe take *a* day and then find myself working again. Better than nothing, I suppose--but I'm not very good at it!

Also like you, I actually did pick up a hobby last year after getting tenure—namely, writing and recording music in a home studio. I will be honest: it has been totally *awesome* (music is my other real passion, and it's been wonderful to get back to it!). Alas, I haven't really been able to use it to justify "cutting back" on research. Rather, I only permit myself to do music in the evening and on the weekends...after I'm done with my normal work hours.

In other words, while I think your tips are the best answers I've currently found, I also suspect that—at least for me—better answers to Ash’s questions would probably have to involve something much more fundamental: perhaps a change in how central research is in my life and self-conception. And that's the real sticking point, I think. Having spent more than half of my life at this called philosophy--and having been socialized into a culture of production--it can be very hard to find any better answers. But perhaps I'm just not thinking creatively enough! ;)

Transcending the Grind

I agree with all that, Marcus. If there are better answers which *don't* require radically reconceptualizing one's life, I would like to hear them too. All things considered --- the nature of our work, the ultra-competitiveness of the profession, the speed of research, our fundamental identification with our profession --- it seems to me we're stuck in the uncomfortable position you and Ash have described. Maybe others will be of more help than me.

Also, that's great to hear about your music. A quirky anecdote: Frank Spinath, a psychology professor in Germany, is also the vocalist in Seabound, an internationally known and influential synthpop duo.


Thank you for taking up this question! (I guess there aren't more replies because everyone else is too busy doing research... ;-) The suggestion about throwing oneself into a hobby is interesting.

I think what's frustrating to me about the issue (this isn't a novel point, I've seen it made many places) is that I don't really enjoy an *unplanned* break from working, because I feel a nagging sense of guilt or worry about what I should be doing. So I've read that it's important to *plan* breaks. But I have no idea when to plan them for.

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