All work and no play makes Jack and Jill dull scholars

In addition to teaching and service duties, most professors are required to engage in scholarship. Although this can take various forms, scholarship is usually resource intensive, cerebral, requires lots of concentration, is often done in a solitary setting, and more challenging then most outsiders to academia realize.

This work has a number of downsides. Some the drawbacks include the proclivity to develop a kind of tunnel vision, and the possibility of evolving into a one trick pony, and becoming an intolerable bore; the person people quickly avoid at academic and nonacademic social functions.

That’s why it’s important for scholars to do non scholarly things besides commuting, grocery shopping, cooking meals, cleaning up, taking care of dependents, and maybe even a modicum of physical exercise.

At a basic level scholars need some sort of distraction. This can be as simple as going for periodic or regular walks, or even taking regular vacations, and here I am not talking about going to an academic conference and calling it a vacation. Sometimes this non research activity can take the form of activism, but I’m talking about something qualitatively different here.

At a deeper level scholars need to take up something beyond researching and writing that consumes their energies and interests, that they find challenging, but also enjoy and on a regular basis.

For example, scholars might consider engaging in (and perfecting) a creative activity like painting, photography, or cooking. Some of my colleagues, for instance, love learning to play a musical instrument and then joining a band, that performs on weekends and holidays, at social occasions or even local bars.

Alternatively scholars can pour themselves into a physical pursuit like distance running, hiking, mountain climbing or horseback riding.

In short, the hobby forces scholars to get away from their labs, offices and computers, use another part of their brain, and possibly interact not just with their significant other, children if that is the case, friends and acquaintances, but people other than colleagues, students, and university administrators.

If scholars are adept in these social venues then they have more opportunities to hone their social skills because they will be exposed to different kinds of audiences that they may rarely interact with.

The good thing about devoting oneself to one or more hobbies is that it could also provide scholars with ideas that they can bring to their research and teaching. And overall that’s a good thing.

Photo Credit: Plashing Vole
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