It’s all very well to say writing must come first, or that it is the most important thing and so must be scheduled in your best and brightest working times and you must reschedule other obligations to fit around it.  Sure.  Go ahead and say it.

Now that that’s out of your system, let’s think about the lives of people who do not live a ten-minute walk from their offices at schools with low teaching loads (or at least small class sizes), few committees, and the same preps to teach over and over, people who have some combination of partners, children, aged parents, companion animals, health problems of their own or of others to attend to, and other non-academic commitments.  Their “best times” may also be the best time to exercise, the best (indeed, only) time to get children fed, dressed, and out the door, the best time to drive to work, the best time to get some sleep, the best time to talk to an aged parent in another time zone, and the best time to schedule classes or committees so as to keep time on campus to two days, or three days, rather than four or five days with the concomitant increase in commute time and expense.

I’m going to channel dear Comrade PhysioProf for a minute here: some of us are FUCKING TIRED.  It’s hard to write at night when you want to go to bed.  It’s hard to write at dawn when you haven’t had enough sleep.  It’s hard to write on Friday when you’ve had four straight days of teaching, meetings, grading, advising, blah, blah, blah.  It’s also hard to write when there are five, no, six, no, here comes another, batches of assignments to grade.

Plenty of people will give advice for writing in less-than-optimal times: always keep a document open on your computer, carry paper (notebook, whatever) around with you, scribble on post-it notes about something you’re reading so you can write up the notes later and call it writing.

But I’m going to go heretical again.  Maybe there are more important things to do than write.  Consider whether you can help yourself more by getting some sleep, or some exercise, or a proper meal.  If Friday is your only open day, do you sabotage yourself by staying up late on Thursday “to relax”?  Listen, I’m in no position to criticize if you do.  When I’ve put in a long day of meetings, or a long day of grading, I totally want to stay up late reading trash in the bathtub, or watching two hours of Downton Abbey, and because I have no self-discipline whatsoever, I usually do that thing.  And then I regret it.  But may I, tentatively and politely, suggest that you try doing as I say and not as I do?  You’re welcome to think of it as being smarter than I am.

On the one hand, I’m encouraging you to relax.  On the other, I’m saying think about what is most truly relaxing.  If you’re making things worse for yourself tomorrow, maybe you should do something different tonight.

At least try a compromise: take the bath without the novel, and go to bed.  Don’t watch the two-hour program on the DVR; watch a half-hour one, and go to bed.  Don’t drink the whole bottle of wine; have a glass, and go to bed.

Try a different compromise: if you find an hour that you could use to write, take half of it to go for a walk or do some yoga, and the other half for writing.  Or again, buy some time by getting take-out for dinner, and get something healthy that will make you feel better tomorrow (and maybe sneak in some writing time in the car or the waiting area, by heading out to collect the food before you need to).

The writing needs to get done, and it will get done.  You also need to get some sleep, eat decent meals, breathe some fresh air, and look after your family, whether it’s young, old, furry, or scaled.  Take an hour.  Take a day.  Take a weekend.  Breathe, relax, sleep.  Your writing will still be there.  Seriously.  It’s not a jealous lover that’s going to have a tantrum and leave if you’re up to the eyeballs for a few days.  It’s a longterm part of your life.  It’ll love you anyway.  It’ll save up some funny things to share with you when you come back to it.  It may even come and sit on your feet if you give your attention to something else.

Roll call:

No goal posted.
Contingent Cassandra
Work on establishing routines; finish up some leftover ancillary tasks connected to the P a-i-r. Re-familiarize myself with what I have on the P conference paper/article-in-progress.
Plan ~15 hours work of research/analysis that the MMP needs; that is, figure out when I can do that (some of it needs the library), schedule it, do at least 3 hours of it this week.
Compile the electronic copies, save to a hard drive, cloud storage, and thumb drive.
500 more words!
Get something, anything, done on the article.
Finish methods chapter. Write two pages.
Write two pages on Tuesday, dang it.
One goal only. Turn the cut-and-paste job on the paper I reverse-outlined (it needs a name…) into an actual rough draft.
Complete grant application.  Begin work on conference paper/article.
Use what’s left of this Saturday morning to write some more, and also work on planning the article more. Then try and write for 30 mins a day.
Luo Lin
Four solid hours of work. I want to finish chopping up the paper so that I can put it back together.
Finish the rest of the project; 15 minutes writing at least 3 days.
Nancy Warren
Finish draft of paper.
1. Finish chapter I’m working on now.
2. Significant progress on next chapter (it’s more than 1/2 done).
3. Get chapter descriptions out to the editor.
Rented Life
Begin reading chapter 1 of book needed to research project 1. Set aside at least 30 min every day where I do something I want to do that isn’t work or house work.
Finish chapter 1, finish seminar application, finish course proposals. Go to campus less.

73 thoughts on “Writing group, week 3: taking care of yourself

  1. What a great post. Love it. And thanks for all of the ongoing motivational quotes, too, DEH. You’re amazing.

    Goal: Write two pages on Tuesday, dang it.

    Accomplished: Wrote three pages (not on Tuesday but who cares?). Happy dance!

    Analysis: It was really difficult to close up the grading/prepping/etc. duties and feel ok about “indulging” in my own writing. However, I forced myself to do it and it felt lovely; writing made me want to write more.

    Next week: Write two more pages.

  2. Last Week’s Goal: draft conference paper

    Accomplished: drafted SOMETHING, though it’s not really the conference paper, and it’s not done. But I wrote a substantial number of pages, at least some of which will be in the conference paper.

    Commentary: The conference paper is part of a book chapter, and I found myself doing writing that will probably be part of the chapter but almost certainly will not be part of the paper. But that’s OK; I figure the work isn’t wasted, even if I didn’t exactly accomplish my stated goal.

    Next Week’s Goal: keep on truckin’ with the chapter / conference paper draft; try to identify more clearly which bits actually ARE the paper and organize them as such.

  3. I’ve really enjoyed the motivational quotations too! And this post, though it isn’t really applying to me right now–I really have no excuses when I don’t get things done because I’ve been on fellowship.

    Goal: Finish chapter 1, finish seminar application, finish course proposals, go to campus less.

    Accomplished: ALL THE THINGS.

    Analysis: I finished the seminar application on Tuesday. I just have to put it in the mail once I have my last letter of rec. The course proposals got done yesterday morning, and I finished chapter 1 revisions this morning. I managed to go to campus only twice this week instead of the 5 times last week. That helped a lot.

    Goal for next week: start revisions on chapter 5. This chapter started out as a seminar paper I wrote 5 years ago, and got turned into a journal article 4 years ago (though it was only published last spring) and I haven’t looked at it since except to copy edit it for the journal. So I need to do a fair bit of reading, both to bring it up to date and help me resituate the argument in the context of the dissertation. If I can read at least two articles or book chapters every day (10-12 total?) I’ll count that a win. If I can start actually writing the revisions, that would be a bonus.

    1. You are awesome! You did ALL THE THINGS! It’s good to know about someone who’s being productive with a fellowship: I like to believe that the more people I know like that, the more likely I am to become one of them. And my other friends, too.

  4. Umm well since when Dame Eleanor’s post popped up on my blog feed I had a pure moment of panic and had to check dates on my computer files, that should let you know how much work I got done.

    1. goal 500 more words
    2. progress UMMM apparently the last time I opened said file was Feb 17 ☹
    3. Monday school holiday, T boy child home with me Th girl child home with me. SOOOOOO project totally fell off the radar. I’m mad at myself for not even remembering about it. I could have found at least 30 minutes to work on it
    4. Set up some sort of automatic reminder (I need more of the group on Twitter!) to keep project in forefront of my mind. Get 1000 words written to make up for this week!

    1. For me, the file had been dormant since 2/13. That’s an improvement from opening a file for the first time in months.

      Thanks for posting the follow-up about the 479 words–that’s an inspiration for me!

    2. ugh….I don’t know to look at the dates on my files, but that’s probably a good idea.

      I’d join twitter, but I fear it’d be another distraction from doing other things!

    1. That is an AWESOME article! Thank you! Everybody should run off and read it right now. Not that I’m always that good at following that kind of advice, but I absolutely believe in it: do what makes you feel really good or what is really productive, and skip the screwing around.

      1. Everyone should read it! I saw the headline and thought, “This chick is crazy! I work too much as it is.” But, I was wrong. I waste time and a lot of it. Now I try to ask myself if watching Vampire Diaries or Downton Abbey is going to make me happier than finishing marking. Sometimes it will, but not usually. Less screwing around is good!

        I should also explain that, although I was super excited for another writing group, I was not smart enough to follow through and update Google Reader to follow your new blog when you switched sites. It took me weeks to figure out what had happened! Sigh. So much for staying on top of things this year!

      2. Trapped in Canada, your commect cracked me up because I’ve been meaning to watching Vampire Diaries to help with my own project (I love that I study TV for a living) but I keep putting it off!!

  5. Such a wonderful and relevant post. Yes. Yes. Amen.

    1. Finish chapter I’m working on now.
    2. Significant progress on next chapter (it’s more than 1/2 done).
    3. Get chapter descriptions out to the editor.

    Well … I worked on the chapter referenced in 1, and then had to shift to 2, which as it turns out was not more than 1/2 done. I end the week with Chapter 2 really close to done (if I want to pull a late night I bet I could finish it) and Chapter 1 … well, more done than it was. As for item 3, it wasn’t pressing and I emailed the editor and said it was coming right after spring break.

    I overestimated my work time/underestimated other things that would suck my time away. But I got a lot written in the end — over 5K words for the week and a few really complex tables created, plus I’m not behind on grading (miracle!), service tasks, or feedback to PhD students. This is all good.

    Next Week:
    Finish both chapters and get them sent out (because I don’t want that book stuff hanging over my head during spring break). Finish conference paper revisions by Monday. And if I have any steam left, I’ll work on a conference proposal (it’s a brief one). Or maybe I just won’t do that conference this year.

    There’s an encyclopedia entry due as well, but I think I’m going to ask for an extension on that (they contacted me late about it and said up front that I could get extra time as needed).

    1. I should add that I got dragged down (and lost planned writing time and/or traded exercise time for writing time) this week by work drama, complaining people I had to deal with, administrivia, etc. I find that all so disheartening. Usually it leads me to drink and be unproductive in the evening, and I’m feeling good for not letting it do that to me this week.

      1. Good on you for keeping up with all of your other obligations and not letting the evenings be hostage to the day’s drama. I know how hard it is to recover your footing when colleagues are filling your ears with their tales of woe and abuse.

      2. If only we could place the office drama people somwhere where they can bother each other and leave the rest of us alone….

        Congrats on not being unproductive!

  6. 1. Plan ~15 hours work of research/analysis that the MMP needs; that is, figure out when I can do that (some of it needs the library), schedule it, do at least 3 hours of it this week.
    2. Mostly done; that is, I’ve listed the THINGS, and I’ve done 3+ hours of it today (like feMOMhist, meeting the goal at the last minute!—her post inspired me.
    3. This was a hard week. I was so exhausted after the conference and over 5 hours of meetings on Monday (in spite of trying to stave off this result by taking Sunday off) that I gave up on going to campus Tuesday. I got someone else to give a quiz for me, and spent the day napping/staring into space, like the cats. But today was good. I got back to the MMP, and spent time on yet another set-up document: other people might tell me to stop screwing around, but the thing is, I’m OCD enough that it drives me nuts not to have all this data tabulated just so. Thus it makes more sense to just DO it rather than waste the energy on trying NOT to do it. I have what is probably a few more hours work on this part, but the big tedious part of it is done-de-done-done and I am happy about that.
    4. Goal for next week: schedule 5 hours on the MMP. Do the next two research-analysis tasks on my list. Maybe do some focused free-writing about a topic my RL writing group identified as being relevant.

    1. You know, I wrote most of my undergraduate thesis at the last minute — as in, on Thursday nights (and very early Friday mornings) before my regular weekly meeting with my adviser. It came out very well (at least according to the readers, and I’m still not too embarrassed when I look back at it, which may be more than I can say for my dissertation after an equal amount of time), but it wouldn’t have if I’d tried to write it in the other time one might call “the last minute” — the month or so before it was due. That, I think, is one of the virtues of a writing group — it helps define a bunch of small “last minutes” rather than one big looming (or infinitely receding) one. Thanks again for helping create those “last minutes,” DEH.

      And I’m glad you found a way both the rest and recover after the conference and to get back to work fairly promptly. I can see where this week’s post came from.

  7. 1. Complete grant application. Begin work on conference paper/article

    2. Batting .500 for this week. Grant application got tabled. I started outlining the conference paper and assembling the material needed. Total of 380 words done.

    3. Big editing project is raising its zombie head and eating my brain as well as my time. In fact, it’s going to continue to dominate my productive time between now and March 9. Marking is going to eat up the rest of my time up to then and after. Oh, and other editing project needs to start up as soon as this one’s done. Eek!

    Your advice is very timely. I had to take a few hours off from even reading when my eyes started to give out this afternoon. When it’s painful to focus on a screen or a book because of straining your eye, you know you’ve been working too long. Sadly, I can’t do much to rejigger the timeline under which I’m working here. But I can try to take care of myself along the way.

    4. Finish grant application: really! Identify and start acquiring outstanding sources for conference paper/article.

    1. Yes, when any body part (eyes, back, wrists, etc.) start to show signs of serious distress, it’s time (in fact, probably past time), to STOP! and at the very least find another approach, position, and/or means of absorbing the information. Otherwise, you’re only going to spend more time dealing with a worsened version of the condition later. Of course, all of the above is sometimes more easily said than done.

      1. Editing is the biggest academic time suck I’ve ever encountered and that INCLUDES marking papers. Other people flake, do crap work etc and you have to spend all this time dealing with it. I find editing oddly satisfying but after my third major project, I don’t know that I’ll be chomping at the bit to take on another project any time soon.

  8. Yes ma’am. Interviews start tomorrow at 8:20am. I will go to sleep right after I finish flossing. An hour past my bedtime is already too much mucking about. Especially since I could have been reading Timeless during that time (if I hadn’t been passively avoiding doing work instead)!

      1. Admissions weekend…

        8:20-5:30. I opted not to go to the dinner. Finished my grading this morning… need to write a book review this afternoon (thankfully I have read the book!) Monday is meetings all day… but Tuesday, Tuesday I might be able to work again (along with more grading).

  9. 1. Last week’s goal:
    Four solid hours of work. I want to finish chopping up the paper so that I can put it back together.

    2. Achieved:
    Half an hour of solid work this morning.

    3. Comments/analysis of what worked or what went wrong.

    It seems I was on the same wavelength as Dame Eleanor this morning. I got myself to sit down with a timer set for 30 minutes before even logging on to see her Friday morning suggestions.

    Since it had been more than a week since I looked at the paper, I spent most of the 30 minutes figuring out where I was in my re-organization process. That’s better than needing a lot more time to re-orient after a whole semester away from a writing project, but still not ideal.

    Tenured Radical’s post about getting writing done during the semester with its description of her past “selves” (including the one who planned to get all the writing done in the summer) described my past methods almost exactly. I have a good idea of what doesn’t work, but I’m frustrated about getting myself to the point where I work in a way that works.

    It’s hard to describe “what went wrong” without getting mired in self-flagellation, but I made choices that kept me away from the writing. My son’s day care was closed on Monday, and I chose to keep him at home and do errands and see a movie rather than take him to the drop-off child care center and write. I chose to procrastinate during my grading time and to grade (and also procrastinate) during writing times. That is, I had plenty of real things that used up time, but I also had missed opportunities to get at least a bit done

    Writing is not the most important thing in my life (let’s hear it for heresy) but it is important and it is part of taking care of myself, along with the sleep, exercise, and proper meals Dame Eleanor talks about in this post.

    4. Goal for the next week:
    Again, four solid hours of work. Specifically, my next tasks are to read through my newly-organized draft, write and delete as necessary, incorporate some sources, and put the paper back together. I can do most of this in four good hours, so the real task is to get myself to focus.

    1. I, too, enjoyed TR’s post, and could identify with several of those selves (and with the denial involved in thinking that one will get huge amounts done over either short or long vacations, especially if as much as possible of the household work/routine maintenance also gets mentally deferred to those time periods).

      And I can also identify with not getting things done during their allotted times (or any time at all), and generally feeling miserable/frustrated over wasted time (the article to which Trapped in Canadia linked is, indeed, a good one, too). And I don’t have a child, or even a furred or finned dependent, to care for — just my ornery, complicated, and sometimes quite frustrating self.

      1. I must be one of the few people who disagreed with that. I have a whole post on how to write an article over break, and if I hadn’t done that during the years when my kids were small, I’d never have published anything!

      2. I’m not totally with feMOMhist here (can’t seem to get a whole article done in a few weeks), but I did feel like TR was talking to people who . . . aren’t me, let’s just leave it at that.

  10. ::cough:: ::sniffle:: I’m getting my ‘real life got in the way’ excuses in first – I had a cold! Great post, it really chimes with a lot of what I’ve been thinking this week (in which I cancelled some classes because my voice was goING, not because it had already GONE, which counts as a definite improvement on the self-care front).

    Goal: turn a pile of notes into a rough draft for the paper I’ve been fretting about.

    Accomplished: OK, I did it this morning. But I sort of mostly did it. The important thing is that I worked out yesterday the problem with this paper – it needs to be framed as a ‘mini-review’ with some new data, rather than as a research paper (yes, the mini-review is an official option for my target journal). That gave me a little more freedom in how I arrange my material, and suddenly the paper feels possible. I now know what the structure is probably going to be and all the bits and pieces are now slotted in under the right sub-heading or cut out and stuck in a holding file. I copied some bits from other papers I’ve written that were relevant to the introduction now it’s more review-ish, pasted them in, then rewrote the lot into two pages (single spaced – I sound like one of my students now) of actual introduction to THIS paper. The rest is still too lumpy to be called a draft, but it has a shape. And some notes on where the figures can go.

    Analysis: It was almost decandantly enjoyable being sick this week – no office, minimal politicking (some via email but really, so much easier to ignore than when people are in your space or waylaying you for little chats in the corridor), plenty of cat petting and naps and detective story reading. Almost worth the coughing/sinus-eating-crud/sleeping with loads of pillows and waking up with a bad back! I hadn’t realised how much I needed a breather. I didn’t write during the week because I mostly made the ‘look after me’ or ‘more sleep’ choices, but this morning (Saturday) I got up and wrote first thing (nearly first thing. I fed the cat, put my contact lenses in and put a bra on since I can’t work with a droopy chest for some reason, THEN wrote) without getting dressed first, took a break after an hour for some breakfast and then another couple of hours of productive fiddling around just sort of happened. Yay!

    Next week: a) Smooth out the rest of the lumps into a rough draft. b) type all my notes into the outline of the Unexpected Paper that started last week.

    1. You are making good progress! And becoming wise about looking after yourself, not to mention working out the things that really do have to be done before writing (cats, don’t get me started).

  11. Wonderful heretical post, Dame Eleanor. I needed to hear it, as well. Family and friends are more important than writing, but I also find writing relieves stress and makes me feel better. Well, some writing does; I found last fall that being told what to write by my chair was extremely stressful, but when I am deep in the research and writing of what interests me, I surface refreshed and relaxed.

    Also, I have written journals through tough times. I find that truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. If I hang in there past the misery, I have felt empowered. If nothing else, I can write believable characters.

    I have been awful about taking care of myself in the past several years, but plan to use the new day job’s closeness to outdoor recreation as well as campus resources to get back into shape. I was in great shape when I was studying for my quals, swimming every day as a break from reading. It relieved stress, it freed my mind. I miss that feeling.

    1. Compile digital copies of the dissertation, saving to hard drive, cloud and thumb drive.

    2. Done! Yippee!

    3. It is easier to compile iterations of digital copies thanks to the details of size and date and time of last “save operation.” I am more structured in adding notes to the digital copies than I am the paper copies.

    Unfortunately, I prefer to proofread from a paper copy, so I have some habits to correct and reform. When I get to the new house, I am buying an industrial strength shredder to handle the paper copies until I get used to the new habits—only one paper copy at a time, which will be shredded once the notes have been added to the digital copy.

    4. Goal for next week: Pack, move, stay sane.

    The next two weeks are the crux of the move; the movers will show up on Thursday; we will leave town on Friday. I have to work through Thursday to preserve health benefits and income to bridge the gap until the new job’s income and benefits kick in, so the packing is going to take over the rest of my waking hours this next week.

    The following weekend will be spent visiting our eldest daughter, who lives exactly halfway between the old town and the new town. Then it will be on to the new house to spend the next week undoing all that I have done this coming week.

    I will check in this coming weekend, even if I have not managed to stay sane.

  12. Last week’s goal: Work on establishing routines; finish up some leftover ancillary tasks connected to the P a-i-r. Re-familiarize myself with what I have on the P conference paper/article-in-progress.

    Accomplished: finished one ancillary task; two more popped up; finished one of those, too. Spent about two hours this morning with the P conference paper/article-in-progress; realized that the outline/brainstorming document isn’t quite ready to be turned into a more formal outline yet, but probably will be fairly soon if I keep working on/with it. I also realized, in part because I’d read Nancy’s check-in yesterday, ithat this document, in addition to being a conference paper and article in progress, probably also contains parts that will eventually become part of the introduction to a book that I think I can say is actually in progress, too, though definitely in the embryonic stages as yet. So I’ve opened a file to compile notes and themes and such, and will probably start a file with the beginnings of an outline soon, especially since the structure is clear: chronological/book-by-book through a particular decade or so of an author’s career. Less success with establishing routines; I’m behind on teaching tasks and scheduled too many non-teaching/non-research (mostly church) activities this semester, and am falling into the staying up too late but not actually getting anything done trap.

    Analysis: well, I sort of began that in the last sentence above. After a very productive early January, the beginning of the semester (and of too many Saturdays with scheduled activities) occasioned a pretty serious slump. I don’t think that was the result of the productive January; probably more a result of denial about how much teaching work needed to be done, and then feeling dispirited when it wasn’t done on the ideal schedule (one thing I’m realizing is how satisfying I find it to actually get things done, and how demoralized I can be by falling behind, even on goals I set myself). Fortunately, the good work in January helped tide me over on the writing front but it’s time to get going again, and I feel good about what I accomplished, especially today. The ancillary task that popped up is also good news, the result of somebody noticing my work and being interested in it.

    Goal for next week: continue to add to the P article/paper/outline-in-progress, with the goal of moving toward a more formal outline for the article, and a sense of which pieces will be fleshed out in the conference paper, which will be briefly mentioned, and which will be skipped. Work on this first thing for at least an hour at least 3 mornings this week (which promises to be a busy one, so goals need to be modest/manageable). Take care of remaining urgent ancillary task and chip away at others on the back burner at some time(s) other than first thing in the morning. Continue work on establishing routines, especially late-evening habits that foster early-morning writing.

  13. The introductory post really resonated for me, too. I’ve noticed that both time and money are subject to a similar phenomenon: various individuals and groups insist that if you’d just devote 10% of whatever you have available, or your most productive hours, or one significant block of time a week, to a particular priority (writing, exercising, cooking/eating at home, attacking some world problem, retirement savings, college savings, tithing, NPR — okay, they’re not asking quite 10%), you’d make a real difference in that area. And it’s true. But if you add up all the things competing for a significant but manageable chunk of your time and/or income, the total significantly exceeds the discretionary portion of either. I’ve had success both writing first thing in the morning and exercising first thing in the morning, but so far I haven’t been successful in combining them (I’m hoping that this summer may bring a breakthrough). And I have a bad habit of mentally scheduling more than one thing — cooking/cleaning, dealing with finances, church projects, planning and/or catching up on prep and/or grading — for the couple of significant blocks of time I have available on weekends, then realizing that each thing I have scheduled really does require a significant chunk of time, not being able to decide which project I should actually try to accomplish and which ones I should abandon or defer, and not getting any of the planned things done.

    The good news right now is that making progress on writing and research seems to fall into the category of self-care, or at least of activities that energize me (it probably helps that they are *not* officially part of my job, and may in fact be a way out of that job and into a better one, though the latter part of that proposition is debatable). That hasn’t always been the case, and almost assuredly won’t always be the case. And I also need to do a better job of making time for other things that count as self-care, or at least necessary maintenance: sleep (as mentioned above), exercise, cooking, housekeeping, sorting out some financial things.

    For the moment, since we’re having freakishly warm weather, I spent some time in my community garden plot yesterday, weeding and mulching and harvesting some mesclun that has wintered over without protection (not the norm in our climate). And I walked to the farmer’s market this morning, and earlier this week I transformed a block of vegetables I had sauteed and frozen the last time I made lentil soup into a second pot of lentil soup, thus successfully implementing a strategy to save both freezer space and time and put healthy, convenient, relatively cheap food on the table. And I got some laundry done (admittedly under duress; I was close to a crisis point). So perhaps there is progress on the self-care front as well.

    1. I know what you mean about the mental scheduling. I refer to that as the “four o’clock/four-thirty problem,” meaning that if two things start half an hour apart, I believe I can do them both, even if both last for an hour and it will take half an hour to get from one venue to the other.


      1. I always forget about travel time… and definitely recognise the weekend problem too. I am getting better by writing weekend things to do into my diary in big writing across most of the day’s ‘things to do’ space (I have a week-to view diary so each day has a section of page. I then split the page vertically by folding it or drawing a line, the left half is for actual appointments, right half is things to do list), because the normal weekend stuff (laundry, market, soup-making, napping, reading, that sort of thing) will need its own time even though it isn’t scheduled. If I don’t write one job big and fill the space, I let myself put another thing in there and then fall into the same trap you describe….

  14. You are right, DEH. Writing is still and always here and there, and need to be done, anyway. So what I should do?

    1. This week’s goal: finishing the rest of the project; wiriting at least 15 minutes a day.
    2. Achieved: only a part of one item done, only a two days of 15 minute-writing.
    3. Analysys: I have been working on other things: grading, proofreading of my other project, and I must confess, I have been lazy for a couple of days after grading, and sending the proofread paper to the publisher. Well, well.
    4. Goals for next week: finishing the rest of the project; writing at least 15 minutes a day. Goals are the same as this week, but my motivation is different. Organizor of the project finally e-mailed me and asked me to submit the draft as soon as possible….

    1. So, another analysis question: what went RIGHT on the 2 days you were able to do your 15 minutes of writing? Congratulations on getting the proofreading done and the piece sent off; that’s also writing-related, and does deserve celebration.

      1. Thank you for your congratulations, and analysis question, Dame. What went right onn the two successful day in terms of 15 minute writing? After I arrived at my office on these two days, I had one hour before meetings started. I usually check e-mails and my schedule of the day, and read something those short morning pre-work time, but I had no e-mails to reply immediately on these days, and I had something in my mind, so I used the short time to write. It was just a kind of memos, but it made me feel good. I did write something!

  15. Goal: Begin reading chapter 1 of book needed to research project 1. Set aside at least 30 min every day where I do something I want to do that isn’t work or house work.

    Achieved: I did not start the book. The huge things just stares at me. I did however have an insanely productive week where I finally caught up on all grading and prep, which is a relief after putting that aside from being sick. I haven’t “mastered” the 30 min a day thing for myself, but I have taken up people’s suggestions of adding it to my planner.

    analysis: Adding things like “do X for this long” to my planner has been a nice start, in that on Friday when I actually achieved X I got to cross it off and I felt pretty pleased. I also took advantage of the momentum and got some extra things done on Friday so that this weekend I didn’t *have* to do any work work, but I can if the mood takes me. It only took 6 weeks into the semester to not be working 7 days a week. (As a result I started cleaning my office, a “taking care of myself” project I’ve wanted to tackle for a few months.) I continue to work on taking care of myself and I really need to sort some things out re: my health. I tried very hard not to get too discouraged that I didn’t do everything I wanted, even though I’m setting smaller goals. I did however start actively thinking about my writing project—a huge step forward for me as the creative portion of my brain seemed completely inaccessible for awhile. (Even now it’s not fully there.) Why is it so hard to take care of ourselves? Writing or otherwise.

    One of my other challenges is to sort out how to use time when husband and I are both at home. We feel like we should be spending time together but we each have our own things we want to do (we also both suffer from depression, compounding the issue), and for the last several years we’ve rarely seen each other because of conflicting schedules. Now he’s home in the evenings which is great for dinners, but we’re still sorting out how to be around each other. (I’m open to suggestions, we’re far from newlyweds.)

    Next goal:start the damn book! seriously. Also either begin writing the scene that’s in my head or begin reviewing previous writings that have been left along for a month and a half. (In other words: find motivation despite not feeling it.) And continue the quest for 30 min a day for myself–including actually putting it in my planner and then following the planner.

    1. Would it help to read the TOC, or scan the index, or make some other broken-smaller goal on the reading? Are you looking for something in particular, or to get a sense of how the material can be organized, or for the author’s “take” on the topic?

      1. More for the author’s take. I’ve read her other stuff, I know I like her writing style, but I feel like I need the complete view of her work before I contribute.

        I’m a good reader once I get started but I’m terrible at starting new books. Even as a kid. No clue why. Some of this is just the whole “well…I could read…or go to bed….or [some other thing I don’t need to do.]”

  16. Great post. Taking care of yourself is essential to research, and doing research is part of taking care of yourself. This appears not to be self evident although it always seemed so to me.

    [I stopped being an efficient researcher after being told too many times that taking care of one’s health was self indulgent (earlier I would have said it was simply essential hygiene, and I am sure I was right).]

  17. 1. Goal: do something.
    2. Accomplished: did something. (More specifically, figured out what I want the argument of the article to be, but that’s about it.)
    3. Analysis: I’d intended to work on Wednesday as well and outline the paper based upon this new formulation, but exhaustion set in Tuesday night and I barely struggled through the rest of the week.
    4. This week’s goal: Do the outline. Maybe get some rewriting done?

      1. In fairness, the article that I’m writing is from a dissertation chapter, so I had a bit of a heads up on argument, but I’m changing it somewhat. Still: I rarely have an argument this early in the writing game, so I was very excited about it.

        I’m still exhausted, but only a week away from spring break, so I’m using that as motivation/momentum.

  18. 1. Goal: Read a methods chapter. Write two pages.

    2. I did these things! And a little extra reading. On Monday, the holiday, I just chucked all of the grading and prep work so I could get a few solid hours in during the afternoon. I and stayed committed to my two mindful inflexibility hours.

    3. I’m having quite a bit of self-pity about work lately. Because of the crisis at my college,nI have the work schedule of an administrator. I’m in class or meetings or office hours for the full day everyday, M-F 8:30-5:30, and then all the grading and prep work must be finished at night and on weekends. And it’s a lot of grading and prep. My home life and PhD life are definitely suffering, and my health is in the toilet. Your topic this week is very poignant because I’ve been thinking that I need to stop staying up quite so late, and I need to start exercising, even if it’s only taking the dog for a 15 minute walk after dinner. I’ve been staying up late to make sure that I stay caught up and organized. But now those those goals are out of reach. There is no way to stay caught up, so screw it. I might as well try to stay somewhat healthy while everything else falls apart. I’ve been looking at my schedule to see when, in the next few weeks, I can try to get an afternoon without meetings that I can use to grade papers. The sad part is that I might have to schedule half a personal day just to get a few hours on a weekday to do my teaching-related work. And I feel like such a self-involved, unhelpful writing group member b/c I can’t make lots of comments! But I do look forward to reading what everyone else has written over the next few days.

    4. Goal for this week: Find and procure a book review for a theory text that I find difficult. Read a methods chapter. Write one page.

Comments are now closed.