I recently experienced a huge setback when my proposal required major revisions. I thought I was ready to move forward, but the proposal needed more work and my committee was not going to approve it as is. It felt like a slap in the face. I had worked hard and, in my mind, hard work equaled success. I was utterly confused and angry when I was told that I had to rewrite the proposal.
Rather than jumping into another several months of exhaustive work, I decided to redirect my focus. Yes, my proposal needed work, but I needed rest. I listened carefully to my advisor’s advice about how to improve my work. I took copious notes about what books I needed to read and what steps I needed to take and then I set it all aside and drove out of town.
I spent two weeks with my family and a week on vacation in my favorite part of the country. After three weeks of rest, I was ready to get back to work. Being with my family gave me a chance to be in an environment free of judgment. My mother thinks that all of my papers are wonderful and that my research will transform the world. This is the opposite of what we often hear from our professors, whose job is to see our mistakes and point them out. Taking time off allowed me to clear my mind of my own judgment about myself and my work. Vacation, ultimately, freed me of worry and stress and allowed me to continue being productive once I returned.
Those of us who enter grad school are often overachievers by nature. While our natural inclination might be to plug away, it is important to remember that rest is a key part of this process. If you have not taken a break from your writing, consider doing so. Coming back to your work after having rest will increase your productivity in the long run. So take vacation before the summer is over, even a little one. It’s in your own best interest.
-- Hope Rias