Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Feathering the Intellectual Nest*

A few weeks ago, for almost 48 hours, I didn’t grade, read, or think (much) about department issues.  Crazy, huh?  The semester had just started and I should have been preparing new class lecture notes, finishing up projects from the past semester, or otherwise trying to “pre-organize” so that I don’t feel like I’m putting out proverbial fires every day over the next few months.  But that weekend? Forget it. That weekend was for me - and a few of my girlfriends.

I felt guilty about it (for a little while) and then I got over it. Paperwork can wait. I needed some “me time”, some fattening food, a glass (or two) of wine, and most importantly, I need to re-establish ties with some of my oldest and dearest college friends. 
As it turns out, social activity is one of the keys to staying healthy, leading to emotional and mental vitality; people who feel connected to others are more likely to thrive than those who are socially isolated.  AND, because you’re not focused on your work, these kinds of distractions can actually lead to more creative thinking and thus, greater productivity.  Who knew? 

By the end of the weekend, I had revised a paper, written a pop quiz for my advanced astronomy students, and started the next set of lecture notes.... all without sitting in front of a computer or holding a pen.

My point is this: Get out of your office. Leave your research papers and grading behind. Call up a friend or two (who’s not a colleague) and start talking. Reconnect with friends with whom you haven't talked in awhile.  Who knows? Maybe your next great idea is waiting for you in a ski lodge!
* I thank one of my colleagues for this phrase. Her husband appears to be dilly-dallying around the office and the house, but he claims he's thinking.  And now I believe him.

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