I am lucky enough to work in a sector where there is a tradition to allow a block of time every 6-7-8 years of employment to focus on research. The time has come to me and this spring, Jan-May, I will be 100% focused on thinking, reading, and writing.
It is exhilarating – so much potential! – and scary. I am worried I will somehow squander the time, get derailed by emails, or just get less productive when the walls of structure that I am used to are gone.
Three weeks into the sabbatical, I am still a bit worried, although have read much more research already than I did all of last semester, and asked senior colleagues for help and guidance. I am also walking more, both to lessen the anxiety and to think better. But should I continue to work from my house with all distractions that come with it or should I find an office space away from home? For now, I am taking up colleagues on their offers of co-writing sessions and paying a short-term visit to a research environment in Sweden for focus and inspiration.
- I hope to finish four papers that are almost (some just halfway) done and send them off to academic journals (and attend fewer conferences and workshops).
- I also want to publish shorter texts with more popular outlets (and write fewer emails and blog posts).
- I also hope to read more, especially classic texts like Nkrumah and Mamdani but also new ones, especially on decolonial theory and higher education, as well as monographs by researchers I know and aspire to write like (and do fewer lists of books and articles I should read).
- I want to do two-three sets of interviews to deepen projects already started (and not only rely on previous data I have collected)
- I want to apply for research funding (and not think too much about what I am teaching next).
- Finally, I want to relax my body which has patiently supported a four-hour daily commute for years!
What would you do if you had five months of work time to plan yourself?
Something about being human just clicks with new beginnings. They are chances to redeem our (wicked) ways and start fresh, kick off some new habits, become more productive and more…ourselves? As a educationist, the new year is not so much a new beginning compared with end of August when the new SCHOOL YEAR, but alas, I take what I can get.
This year, I aim to transform in the following six ways:
- Back to paper. There has just been too much screen time in my life lately. This needs to stop and one way of edging closer to this goal is my new paper calendar (see photo above). I always had one and stopped only a few years back when tech savvy friends were laughing at my Filofax.
- End justifies the means. No excuses towards the road to impact. I have a few fields I want to influence the world and nothing shall stop me. I will not need cheer or public acclaim, I just want my heart’s desire: to make a small impact with my short life.
- Less driving, more fun. After my car broke down last year, I had to live without it – and in some ways it was great. Yes, it does add uncomfortable minutes and sometimes hours to my commute, but also relaxation, connection and saving of resources.
- Dinner parties. I just love them, so why not have a few more of them in my life?
- Delegation. I want to do a lot so delegation becomes key. That means letting go of control and perfection for the benefit of more production and more time with my children at home, meanwhile the party must go on.
- More personal blogging. The trial I started last year went so well: both in terms of positive feedback and how writing the more personal posts make me feel.
- Charging for appearances. I have done my last free (non-academic) appearance. From now it costs money to hear me talk! I guess this is a version of delegation and getting stuff done. I had a few bad experiences with saying yes to free gigs last year, and will have none of that this year!
What are your new beginnings? And do let me know, if you want to attend a dinner party of mine!