Given the fact that at the moment I am working with no strict time frames and I can manage my time and other activities on my own, I wonder is it possible for someone to maintain the concentration during the Christmas period and keep working on important tasks? And what are some techniques to enable that?

I am asking this, because I want to plan my vacations during December, but I am not quite sure if it is a clever idea to do the vacation in the first half of the month (so I can save some flight costs, because prices go up as the end of the year approaches), and keep the latter part to work, having in mind that everyone gets into the festive atmosphere and it is hard getting things done?

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    This seems like a question about you personally that none of us can answer. I have certainly gotten a massive amount of work done during the break since no one was around to bother me!
    – Bill Barth
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 13:13
  • If you have no managerial responsibilities, you might be able to follow Nate's advice in his answer and take an extended break (say perhaps from early-mid December to mid January). You would need your supervisor / boss's approval, and strong self discipline, but you could spend a lot of that time working remotely. The clincher is that most of your friends and family probably only take time off around Christmas, so it's usually worth the extra flight costs to maximize your time with them. (I feel your pain, my home country is almost antipodal to my current country)
    – Moriarty
    Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 16:55
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    "everyone gets into the festive atmosphere" - who's "everyone" and where will you be during the time you're not on vacation? Techniques to resist the festive advances of your own children in your own home would have to be radically different from techniques to resist the festive advances of colleagues if you're living alone on a campus. You can fob the colleagues off with one evening of attention, not so much your kids. And how important is Christmas to you, are you going to be depressed on your own and need a technique for that? Not sure this can be answered for "people in general". Commented Sep 4, 2014 at 17:22

1 Answer 1


A major perk of being an academic are the long breaks between terms, when we have the freedom to travel and make our own schedules. However, this comes coupled with the responsibility to keep being productive during these breaks, and this is harder than it sounds.

You are wise to be thinking ahead about how to manage this. I'm not sure exactly what you have planned, but I'm going to guess it may include extended visits to see friends and family. Here are some things I have found useful:

  • Explain to them that, although you are glad to get to spend time with them, you're not on vacation from work the whole time. (Non-academics often don't realize this and assume the entire break is free time for you.)

  • Look ahead to set aside specific times in your schedule for work. Ask your hosts to check with you before planning any family activities, to make sure they don't conflict. Again, they shouldn't assume that all your time is free. ("Oh, but you can't work on your paper tomorrow! I've just arranged for us to go on a picnic with Uncle Jürgen!")

  • Consider going somewhere else to work, such as a library or cafe. Trying to work with relatives around is often distracting, especially if some are children.

  • Set specific goals for what you want to accomplish during the trip. If you share them with your family (and can convince them that they are exciting) they may be able to help encourage you to work toward them, and to arrange things so that you have the time to do so.

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