- Rebecca Wald
Writing Week Guide - A guide to a successful and enjoyable worcation
Worcation - a certain time period (most likely 5 to 7 days), in which you dedicate specific attention to one (or two) projects of your choice, while not missing out on a little vacation feeling.
For researchers, such a worcation is often called a ‘writing week’, which means you spend several days on writing up a journal paper or book chapter etc. But it can just as well be turned into a week in which you analyse data or read into literature. The most important part lays in the way this week is spent, namely focused and relaxed, and dedicated towards one main goal. My name is Rebecca and I recently went on another writing week myself. Here are my 10 tips for making your next (or first) worcation a real success.
Tip #1: Pick a different place you feel comfortable at
As you often travel somewhere different for your holidays, your worcation can also be spent somewhere other than at your (home)office – and maybe it even should. It’s personal choice of course, but getting away into a new surrounding can be extremely helpful to get a fresh mindset and to physically separate this week form your normal work routine. And, of course, it helps to cultivate the vacation feeling. Where to go? I recommend places that offer you comfort, quiet, and as little distraction as possible (see also tip #5). So, accommodations in nature/on the countryside are perfect. Most important thing for the selection of location: You should feel comfortable. For some inspiration, check out the places I went to here.
Tip #2: Pick some writing companions (or not)
Almost everything is better when being shared, right? For your worcation, think of friends and colleagues who are in more or less the same transition phase - from holiday back to work or in the middle of kick-starting/wrapping up a project. It does not matter too much if the projects you work on are similar or completely different. Sometimes it is valuable to have someone from your field to discuss questions, other times, conversations are even more fruitful when talking to people who have literally nothing to do with your work. But, of course - especially for all me-time lovers out there – you might also want to consider going just by yourself.
Tip #3: Pick your project(s) wisely
While a writing week is meant to help you focus on one project, if you find this challenging, I suggest picking one main and one side project that require different brain power. For instance, during my last writing week, I decided to work on writing up a journal paper (main project) and to set up a website for myself to talk about my research outside of the academic bubble (side project). This combination allowed me to handle the writing waves better (see tip #8) and get more visually creative (because that’s rarely the case when writing up a paper – except when you are making shiny ggplots).
Tip #4: Pick the right moment
The moment of your worcation is very important. Obviously, it needs to fit your schedule. Withdrawing yourself from meetings and other responsibilities for an entire week is not always possible and requires quite some organization. But I promise you it’s worth the effort. My favorite times to take such a week are right after a holiday. Pro-tip: the week after the Christmas holiday is a bliss, because January is dark, post-vacation-depression is strongest and calendars might be lighter.
Tip #5: Eliminate as many distractions as possible
How to best get and stay focused? Correct, no distractions! Emails, meetings, and other appointments typically interrupt the day and the workflow overall. So, if possible, get rid of as many of them as possible during your writing week. Set up an automatic reply and keep your inbox closed. That being said, dinner plans, movie dates or something similar with your writing companions do not count of course, and highly recommended! (see tip #10).
Tip #6: Prepare and set realistic expectations
In order to know where to start best with your work project on day one, it is worthwhile to think about what you want to have achieved on the last day of your writing week. Discuss this with your team members (aka supervisors for all fellow PhDs) and perhaps even draft up some first bullet points to figure out the narrative of your paper (or identify steps of analysis etc.). Setting realistic expectations helps you to have a real success moment at the end of the week.
Tip #7: Communicate your plans
This tip is closely connected to tip #4 and #5. Once you picked the time period for your writing week also communicate this to your family and friends so that no one typically depending on you during that week is left in the dark and replacements for your normal day-to-day tasks can be found. If you tell people about your plan to get away and write, they are also less likely to interrupt your flow with messages or calls.
Tip #8: Go with the flow
Remember, I recommended to choose two projects to work on, one main and one side project? This is mostly because writing typically comes in waves,. Sometimes, words don’t come out so naturally, or words won’t come out at all. What can help here is to stop aiming for full paragraphs and instead to note down some bullet points. This way you have something to pick up later when you are back in flow. Another important aspect is to know the times during the day at which you normally function best. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Since you most likely have no other meetings to worry about (following tip #5), you are free in how you schedule your writing times.
Tip #9: Be kind to yourself
Next to all those tips above that are meant to help you find and keep your focus, there is one thing you must not forget: Be kind to yourself! Regardless of how many hours a day you sit at your desk, and also regardless of how many pages you produce during your writing week, the real progress is made in your head and not necessarily on paper.
Tip #10: Last but definitely not least, remember to live out the worcation part
This is the last tip but actually half the deal! Working while cultivating some vacation vibes requires to save time during each day for activities that bring you pleasure and joy. Maybe you want to take long walks, a bath, spend more time than usual on preparing a delicious meal, sleep in, or do sports. Your goal is not to work your ass off for one week so that you need a vacation after! Your goal is to combine work and vacation in one. So, take it easy and enjoy!