My original intent with my 365 Project was to work on my dissertation for at least twenty minutes each and every day for one year. I had considered building in official breaks, but decided against it. The point was to make myself work on my dissertation when I least wanted to work.
Yet, after 36 consecutive days of working on my dissertation, I took a break. A two-day break, to be specific. In other words, I had completed roughly 10% of my 365 project before failing. But, I don’t consider taking a weekend off a failure. On the contrary, I consider it to be a success.
This past weekend was a holiday weekend, but that’s not what motivated the break. After all, I worked on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I worked on my birthday. Rather, Sam and I spent this past weekend visiting both of our families. For 48 hours, we spent nearly every waking moment with relatives, and it was lovely, but it left little time to work on a dissertation. All day Saturday, I kept thinking about when I might slip away to work on my dissertation. But, after a lovely breakfast with one family, we embarked on a 2.5 hour car ride to visit the other side of the family. Perhaps I could have worked in the car, but I’m not one of the lucky ones who can read in a moving vehicle for very long. We arrived, had lunch, we chatted, we had dinner, we chatted, and finally, after a somewhat late night on Saturday, I decided that I was not going to be working on my dissertation that day. Sunday ended up being much the same. I concluded that family time and some true mental breaks are just as important to me as completing my dissertation.
The thing about being an academic is that there are few boundaries between personal time and work time. You have to self-impose the boundaries because there’s always work that you can be doing and you often feel like you haven’t been as productive as you could be. For the purposes of my dissertation, the failure to take breaks would be nearly as detrimental as procrastinating and not doing any work at all. Therefore, mental breaks and family time are imperative to completion.
So, will I schedule breaks for the next 327 days? Not exactly. I’ll wait until I really need a break (perhaps when visiting family again) to take one. Otherwise, I plan to proceed as I did for the first 36 days: dissertating at least 20 minutes each day until I hit another necessary break.