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I am about to take a sabbatical period of 6 months. I have planned it with a series of short visits to oversea colleagues (my department does not provide a lot of financial support), but most of my time will be spent in my home country.

The plan is:

  • to work/submit 4 major journal publications, and
  • to write a proposal for a local funding agency

This means that I will be mostly on my own, tinkering and pondering and less of a morning routine to go to work.

That scares me: having built a routine throughout all these years in academia, then suddenly spending a lot of time at home, or at the library, risk to become monotonous and ineffective.

What are effective ways of organising one's time during a sabbatical?

  • 1
    Can you be more precise? Perhaps elaborate on your fears. – user2768 Jun 10 at 15:36
  • Do you have a place where you can work without distraction from your regular colleagues? – Brian Borchers Jun 10 at 16:05
  • @BrianBorchers: as said, either home or library, but both seem reclusive – ElCid Jun 10 at 20:54
  • 3
    And I thought sabatticals were done in order to take a break from work, not for work! ;) – Jonas Schwarz Jun 11 at 14:35
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I work remotely as an academic editor and writer, and have done so for 5 years. The transition from full-time employment to part-time remote work was interesting. I tended to work all the time without leaving much room for self care. What we do in our jobs, we tend to do when our boundaries are relaxed.

I often have large blocks of free time. My productivity suffers (I have personal writing and creative projects) when I don't organize myself well. After years of fine tuning, I have a system that works well for me.

I discovered and addressed three issues:

  1. I am effective for only about 5 hours a day. Anything more and the quality and efficiency of my work suffers; moreover, my physical and mental well-being declines. Accordingly, I work 2.5 hours (with a 5 min break) then take a large chunk of time to play; then I work 2.5 more hours (with a 5 minute break). I find that during play time, I often have creative insights.

  2. Unless I schedule in fitness, fun, and socializing I am likely to waste my time with unhealthy (Netflix) activity. In your case, you might spend your whole time writing 4 articles! That is quite a hefty commitment and your sabbatical time likely should include time for pondering life's meaning and reading the stack of books that is piling up.

  3. Get up when the sun rises and go to bed soon after it sets. I've done all combinations of working all night, playing all night and everything in between. I feel the best when I follow the sun. When I was in Orkney the nights were 4.5 hours long and it was enough sleep for me though I usually sleep 7-8 hours a night. I don't understand it, but there it is.

Although there are many options the productivity tool I found most effective is bullet journaling. It is simple and quick and there's no software involved (although you could buy some if you want to). I create a daily plan bar https://bulletjournal.com/blogs/bulletjournalist/daily-plan-bar

and I also have a weekly plan https://bulletjournal.com/blogs/bulletjournalist/top-5-bujo-ideas-in-2016

And I never beat myself up for varying from the plan if something more enjoyable arises.

Have a great 6 months.

  • Good points, except on sleep hygiene. People are to a large extent hard-wired to be 'larks' or 'owls'. Trying to change that deliberately likely leads to bad sleep quality. – henning Jun 18 at 10:12
  • these are great points, and most likely to resonate with anyone who's now required to working remotely a few days a week. These points might come handy, and I am looking forward to the challenge of reverting back to the original weekly schedule, once the sabbatical period is over – ElCid Jun 18 at 11:26

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