Way back in January 2017, I made a resolution. I would aim to take every weekend off from work, excluding email from my students, as a way to avoid burnout. At the time it felt radical, in part because I had both my regular teaching load and was just starting out as SIGCSE chair which is a huge service commitment. I didn’t think I would succeed. As it turns out, I did. I haven’t worked weekends, except in very unusual circumstances, since then. Even more, I no longer have to think about it. It’s genuinely become a habit.
Now I have to be honest in identifying what I lost as a part of that decision. My research definitely stalled, because teaching two classes a quarter and being SIGCSE chair is an overwhelming amount of work. I also worked longer hours during the week. But I think that it helped me to manage my burnout, and I would make the same decision again in a second. I’ve even become an evangelist for taking a break from work on a regular basis, trying to convince as many of my friends and colleagues to do the same. And in case you’re wondering, no, I’m not terribly successful at it. I know way too many workaholics.
Which brings me to this year. 2020 has been particularly tough for me, like other people, when it comes to burnout. While working from home and not commuting have for the most part been great, what’s been tough has been not having a way to escape from what is now both my home and office. This summer was particularly tough since I usually take some fun trips to relax but didn’t feel comfortable travelling this year.
So I decided to try a new summer resolution: I would take long weekends every weekend. Some weeks I just added Friday to my weekend, but some weeks I managed to take four-day weekends. I didn’t do anything special or different on those extra days, since I’m still too uncomfortable to do much outside the house. But having extra time away from thinking about work felt like a real vacation to me, even if I was only napping, watching TV, or reading. And as a bonus, I don’t think I lost anything since I still managed to submit a bunch of papers at the end of the summer. I liked it so much I might continue it in future summers as a way to augment my trips, because in many ways it was more relaxing than travelling.