Re-booting the semester
by Dame Eleanor Hull
I said I’d do this for yesterday. I should have known better. If if didn’t happen over the weekend, it wasn’t going to happen on a Monday.
Nonetheless, the re-boot did begin yesterday. I did yoga, though I did not exercise (slept too late and had to cut something); I did two hours of research-related activities (counting going to the Post Office with my fellowship application, and thanks to having a meeting cancelled). What’s more, my classes were fun, and I met with a grad student, and in the evening I bought some beads that I decided were a reward/ celebration. I was in a fabric-and-craft store to buy scissors for something else entirely, but the sale on beads caught my eye and I decided certain strands were exactly what I need to go with these semi-precious chips my mother gave me years ago. Now all I need is a few hours to play around with them all. Actually, that seems like an ideal reward: instant gratification plus the anticipation of a future pleasurable activity.
So, goals for the re-boot: yoga and exercise every day, preferably in the morning so I’ll be sleepy at an early bedtime; two hours of research five days a week; at least two hours of teaching activities (grading, planning) on non-teaching days; get papers back within ten days; reserve two hours a week for reading service-related documents.
Obviously there will be more work than this, but the point is to have reserved time for certain activities so that those tasks don’t gang up and mug me, and so that I can say, “No, I don’t have to do this right now, it can wait for the next scheduled slot for this kind of thing.” If it’s clear that there’s more work than scheduled time, that’s why it’s good not to have the whole week scheduled—I can find some more slots for grading or reading service stuff. At the same time, if it’s a slow week in one category, I don’t have to feel like I “should” be doing something in that category. I have “open” slots to work with.
I find that it’s a great stress-reliever to say “There is a time for that, and it will get done then.” It also makes me feel calm and happy when I think that I will do 80 hours of research before the end of the semester.
And I’m trying to work with the rhythms of the week. Thursdays, as I keep saying, are not so good for work because Wednesdays are such long, late days. So my two hours of research on Thursdays will be reading, because I can do that on the couch and it will feel relaxing. I’ve picked the medieval text that will be the default reading for the rest of the term. If something else comes up at the beginning of the week, like an article that I want to read, then that’s fine; but if there’s nothing else definitely calling for attention, then it will be a particular EETS edition. Limiting the number of decisions to be made, especially on Thursdays but really in general, is also a stress-reliever and efficiency-improver.
And finally, though I have long insisted on the joys of a flexible schedule, for the moment I am trying to work (more or less) nine to five. Why? Because I am perverse. Administrators lately have been sending out e-mail very late at night, and on weekends, and that just makes me want to get things done in normal business hours and ignore anything that comes in at a non-standard time until it is a standard time.
So those are my ideas about re-booting for the second half of the semester. Anyone else trying to get a fresh start?