16 January 2022

A cheerful, cherry-red teapot sits on a dark brown cork trivet on a wooden dining room table. To the right of the teapot is a cutting board, on which a chocolate babka is just visible. In the background are three chairs, a grey-blue wooden cabinet, and a shelf of houseplants in terra cotta pots.
A cheerful, cherry-red teapot sits on a dark brown cork trivet on a wooden dining room table. To the right of the teapot is a cutting board, on which a chocolate babka is just visible. In the background are three chairs, a grey-blue wooden cabinet, and a shelf of houseplants in terra cotta pots.

One of the Wacky Neurodivergent Grad School Strategies I’ve developed over the last couple years has been to forbid myself to do any academic work on weekends. I can’t always stick to it — I’m not the boss of deadlines, and sometimes stuff comes up — but I try to be strict. My brain has a hard time distinguishing between different kinds of time (so, “work time” vs “play time”), and I think this is made extra hard because my “work” is basically the same as my “play.” As in: I’m paid to have deep thoughts about poetry and then tell people about them. That’s pretty much my favourite thing to do in the world, and it’s hard to make myself stop once I get started. Working from home, there’s no natural change of scenery between my work environment and my relaxation environment, so I have to impose that change myself through time boundaries.

One of the things that’s hard to accept about boundaries is that having good boundaries doesn’t just mean saying “no” to the things you don’t actually want to do; it also means saying “no” to things you do want to do in order to keep from falling into a state of hyperfocus and burnout.

So: no research or writing on weekends. If I accidentally come across articles or websites that I want to read, I send the links to my university email and leave them there until Monday. No admin work, no professional correspondence, no call-for-proposal searches. Which is fine! There are a thousand other things I can get up to that aren’t work: pleasure reading, podcast-listening, fun stuff with kids, baking, cooking, going for long walks (weather permitting, so… not this weekend), sewing, crafts, Lego, jigsaw puzzles, blanket forts, gardening, staring at walls, tidying, puttering. Play. Silliness. Contemplation. Rest.

My goal in starting this was to force myself to make space for not-work. An interesting side effect has been that by the time I’m halfway through the weekend, I’m starting to miss my work. I lust after it. I can’t wait for Monday morning so I can get back to it. Being away from whatever project I’m working on gives me time to look at it from a distance. If I come up with a great idea (and I often do), I write it down and follow up during the week.

My system might not work forever, but for now it’s definitely helping keep the research romance alive. Monday mornings feel like going to meet a long-lost love at the train station.