A brief list of things I’ve declined while on research leave (and a list of things I’ve said yes to)

Colored notes paper on a cork board

I’m on research leave. Hooray! I have the 4 weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas to work on my book. At Indiana University, all pre-tenure librarians have up to 5 months of research leave available before tenure. Admittedly, the end-of-semester and holiday season isn’t the most ideal time to do this, but I’m working with what my work schedule and book schedule allows. In order to take research leave, I had to apply to the Grants and Leaves Committee and be approved all up and down the administrative chain.

Many people who apply for leave end up postponing it, not taking it at all, or find that work commitments creep in and eat up the valuable time. I worked very hard to protect my time. As I said previously, the time is a gift but it is my responsibility to protect the time. I’ve spent much of the fall semester working towards these 4 weeks, wrapping up projects, getting a head start on things, putting others on hold, trading reference desk shifts, and making plans for leave and the brief time immediately after leave but before the semester starts. In addition to all the self-organization, I’ve been setting expectations with others about what I will and (mostly) won’t be doing during leave. Here’s a short list of things I’ve declined:

  1. Most committee meetings (with two exceptions in which I can participate remotely and in which my presence is critical to ongoing agenda items.)
  2. All requests for my in-person attendance/input/presentation, including (especially) those that asked for “5 minutes” of my time. Even when those requests have come from friends or for causes I would typically support. You and I both know that 5 minutes doesn’t include travel time or “oh hey, I haven’t seen you in a while” catch-up time.
  3. All work-related holiday parties. So many holiday parties.
  4. Being readily available by email or chat. I’m loud and proud on that out-of-office reply.
  5. Any work-related request or project that doesn’t directly advance my scholarship. I have a few other scholarly irons in the fire aside from my book. These qualify for some time (but with less urgency than the book) during my leave. Anything else can wait.

In addition to setting up strong boundaries to protect my valuable research leave time, I’ve also worked hard to set reasonable and achievable goals for myself. I don’t want to get to the end of leave and find that I didn’t get very far on what I hoped to do. These goals all shift and change as the projects develop but having a short, reasonable list is critical to my process. Being on research leave, however, has certain perks, and I also don’t want to be such a taskmaster that I can’t appreciate the flexibility research leave provides. Here are some things I’m saying yes to:

  1. A detailed daily schedule and goals list.
  2. The final two Faculty Writing Group meetings of the semester.
  3. A $50 unlimited pass to a local yoga studio.
  4. Working:
    1. in coffee shops (and trying a few new-to-me places)
    2. in the public library
    3. on my couch with the fireplace on
  5. Co-working with others on research leave
  6. Grocery shopping on a non-weekend day
  7. Way too many snacks from the way too convenient pantry

I’ve had no resistance to the boundaries I’ve set at work. I love my co-workers and will be excited to see them in January. I love them even more that they have all been as respectful and careful of my research leave as I’d hoped.

Do you have access to research leave? How does scholarship support work at your institution?

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