The rhythms of academic life have a certain predictability: no matter how grueling a particular semester may feel, it will eventually end. That end of semester crunch, which brings with it extra grading, meetings, and administrative tasks, will for many people temporarily override your usual research and writing routines for a week or two at the end of term. A particularly challenging semester may override those routines for much longer than that.
If you’ve been away from your research for a while, it can feel a bit daunting to know how to get back into it. You may have put aside the routines of your research life in the midst of teaching and service demands and have to figure them out anew. If you’ve been away from your research project for a while, it’s easy to lose touch with the deeper questions and ideas that motivate your research.
One of the best ways to get back to a research project that’s been cooling off for a while is to work a little bit on it most days. Doing some bibliography searches, free-writing in an idea notebook, or reviewing your last set of research notes even for just 20 minutes each day can help restart your creative and critical processes. As Gretchen Rubin notes in the new 99U book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind:
You’re much more likely to spot surprising relationships and to see fresh connections among ideas if your mind is constantly humming with issues related to your work. . . . By contrast, working sporadically makes it hard to keep your focus. It’s easy to become blocked, confused, or distracted, or to forget what you were aiming to accomplish.
Spend some time with your research project every day, and your thinking about it will inevitably grow and develop.
How do you re-engage with your research after a few weeks away from it? Let us know in the comments!
[Creative Commons licensed image by flickr user Brandon Grasley]