As we come close to the end of the year, and we’re entering the holiday season, time management is becoming a hot topic in my dissertation coaching sessions.

Almost every one of my clients is asking about how to get more done in less time.

This is definitely a key concern, especially when you are juggling multiple responsibilities or an impending timeline.

A concept that can help you with the dissertation time management is thinking about how you are (and have been) structuring your time off.

A key distinction is whether you are taking time off by default? or by intention?

What’s the difference? And why does it matter?

The difference between “time off by default” and time off by intention, simply, is this- when you take time off by default, it means that you’ve taken time unexpectedly, without a plan, and probably dictated by external forces. This type of “time off” usually doesn’t feel all that good. You might be engaged in other activities, but you have this nagging sense that you should have worked more on your dissertation or somehow gotten more done. You also feel anxious and stressed about the project, and may not enjoy the time off anyway. You see this kind of ‘default time off’ behavior when people plan a vacation but then take stacks and stacks of dissertation materials with them- which, almost 100% of the time, they never open. These materials become a daily reminder of what you said you’d do, but never got around to doing.

Contrast that scenario with what I call “time off with intention”– this is time off that you’ve planned for, accounted for, and maybe even worked for. I encourage my clients to set goals which see them accomplishing a milestone just before a major holiday break or a planned vacation. This way, they can enjoy their time off, knowing they have accomplished something important just before. This type of goal planning process often allows my clients to feel entitled to enjoy themselves- they travel without extra dissertation materials and give their minds, bodies and spirits a chance to refresh.

Because that, after all, is the purpose of time off anyway.

So if you are taking time off but feeling anxious, worried, or stressed about it, I’d invite you to shift your thinking and try out my goal planning process. Set yourself a small goal that you can reach before you take your vacation, and then work to reach it. Do everything it takes to reach that goal. Then, take your time off and enjoy yourself.

You will have earned it.