In three weeks I am going on study leave. You may wonder whether it makes any difference since we are almost on the verge of holidays, but it's the "almost" that makes it problematic, On the last day of term, masters students turned in their first essays, and first-year PhD stuents turned in their first chapters. Since we double-mark all student work, I have twice as many essays to mark than I supervise. Twelve, to be precise. That's twelve times 6,500 words, each of which needs substantial written feedback. It takes at least two hours to read and comment on an essay, often considerably longer. If I mark on average three essays a day, it will take me four days, which takes me to the end of this week.
On top of this, I have three-score postdoc applications which I also need to read and rank before I can breathe out. Let's say, optimistically, that it takes me half an hour to read an application. That means that in a normal 8-hour working day, I can do sixteen applications. So if I start on Boxing Day, I may just about have time to cook lobster thermidore for the New Year dinner.
The thing is of course that you cannot read sixteen applications a day because it will be unfair toward the last five since you will be tired and furious and rank them low. You cannot even read three essays a day without losing the attention these essays deserve. Therefore you need breaks in between and do something else. And no, I cannot take a break from essays and read applications, nor the other way round. The breaks need to be focused on something unrelated. So I tell myself. Like, let me see... for each essay I am allowed to write a blog post. Or better still, for each essay I am allowed to make one object for my dollhouses. (In summer I would of course negotiate with myself that for each essay I can do an hour of gardening).
This is why I give myself a margin of an additional week. Besides, I have all other small tasks that need to be done by the beginning of January. For each recommendation letter, a miniature object. For each reader review, a miniature. For each PhD examination... two miniatures. Maybe three.
When I am finished with all this, estimated three weeks from now, I am going on study leave. No classes, no supervisions, no marking, no meetings, no admissions, no examinations, no recommendation letters. Too good to be true. I will be writing a book. Full time. 24/7. For three months. It will be 100,000 words, which.means slightly over 1,000 words a day, including weekends. For every 500 words, I will be allowed to make a miniature.