This week I’m on research leave. My family believes this to mean that I will abandon all work in favour of sitting in dark corners “researching”. This isn’t true.
What research leave does mean is that I’m able to spend more time away from the office and the distractions that inevitably follow. I love talking to students about their work and developing new teaching strategies with colleagues, so it’s easy to start the day declaring that you’re going to write an article and end up with only a few words on the page. It’s not that I don’t write when I’m in the office (we had a great shutupandwrite session last week!) but it’s useful to leave that environment from time to time.
So now I have this freedom. I can write anywhere I like this week.
But where to do it?
Well, I’m going to test out different places and see what happens. Today, it was “the kitchen” (more of this below). Later on this week it’s “the cafe” and “the University library”. I’ll be reporting back on what happened and pros/cons.
I’m very lucky to have one of those extended kitchens which has lovely skylights, room for a big table and chairs in the middle, and you can fit a sofa in the corner (I’m sitting on it now). When I get home from the office, this is where I go if I need to work. It has doors out on to the garden and you can hear the birds chirping. If it rains, the droplets patter down onto the windows in the sloping ceiling and you get that satisfying ‘I’m indoors and it’s raining above me’ feeling. It’s the heart of the house, so despite there being an actual room upstairs which is informally known as ‘the office’ no-one ever works in there.
Today, I worked in the kitchen. I started early and began to write my sections of a co-authored piece on enhancing creativity in the law curriculum. It’s a follow up article to the paper which my colleague and I delivered at the Commonwealth Legal Education Association, and which we are due to send to the associated Journal at the start of next month. I wrote for nearly three hours undisturbed. By undisturbed I don’t mean doing nothing else. I still dealt with other issues as they arose via email. But I wasn’t distracted, and I kept going back to the writing when I had finished dealing with the other issues.
But then came lunch, and the kitchen started to create its own distractions. Like loading the dishwasher. And wiping the surfaces. And trying to find the best playlist on Spotify to wipe the surfaces to. Even though I had only taken an hour’s lunchbreak, it broke my focus. Doing chores and being in the house started to pull my mind in another direction. There was also a plethora of food on hand. Toast, crisps, dark chocolate, crisps, hummus, crisps – all freely available. In the end I fought through it and had a successful and productive day. I wrote 2000 words in total and completed all of the tasks I set myself. Perhaps it was the afternoon energy ‘slump’ (apparently 2:16pm is the time where workers feel most drained) but I’m not sure if the kitchen is holy grail I thought it was. For a morning session – yes. But perhaps not for the whole day. So later on this week I’m starting in the kitchen and then heading to “the cafe”. Join me again to see what happened. There’ll probably be pictures of food.
- Availability of food and drink: on tap, no need to distract yourself by wandering to the university cafe.
- No-one to chat to. Unless you count the postman.
- Windows: Useful for feeling at one with nature, and looking jealously at next door’s bouncy castle.
- Availability of food and drink: why have one bag of crisps, when you can have five?
- If prone to cleaning as distraction, beware. In the kitchen, there be ovens and microwaves and other equipment all looking like they need a bit of a rub.
- Not much changes. A static environment. It’s essentially an empty office with more food.