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?

7 thoughts on “Re-booting the semester

  1. Last year I did the no answering e-mails after a certain time. It took me a long time to break the habit of constantly checking my e-mail at home though.

    This: “I find that it’s a great stress-reliever to say ‘There is a time for that, and it will get done then.’ ” really struck me. I like the idea of structuring time like that. I tend to put off certain activities (fear for some activities, just plain not wanting to grade/deal with class for other things), and then I get overwhelmed because so much is supposed to be getting done. I’m going to borrow your ideas.

  2. I am rebooting. And I was AWOL for writing group due to getting stuck in a non wired airport for more than 12 hours, plus the flights on either end. I made it to class, though, 3 hours down and 1 seminar to go, after 8 hours of grading in an all night session while waiting for a plane!!!

    Late writing – research report: 1 tiny block. Goal for this week: 2 blocks before Sunday night. Structuring time, I like it, too.

  3. I’m rebooting, too! It’s the midpoint of the semester and all of my classes did appallingly bad on their recent tests. I feel like I need to reboot my schedule, as well as start over with them somehow. I decided to break up my days into task-oriented time slots, too, including dedicated time for writing to get back on track with that.

    I’ve had a vague schedule thus far, but it hasn’t been working. I’m hoping that a more specific, almost hourly breakdown will help me stick to it better because I’ll know that I have time scheduled later to return to something if I run out of time.

    As for how I get my students back on track, well that will be more difficult, I’m sure. Maybe their test grades will help them realize they need to start doing their readings if they want to pass my classes.

    1. I just did the hourly on a writing weekend, and it was really helpful. I tried to schedule more time than I needed, and I made the rule that if I used 2/3 of the time productively, I could do a fun (but productive) task for the last third. The combo of a planned out schedule and small rewards really made it work. As did 5 minutes of exercise between chunks of time.

      I hope the class reboot goes well.

  4. This was a really useful post for me to read, and I’ve decided to re-boot too.

    The past three weeks I’ve been swamped with marking and reading student work which was depressing (generally medicore standards), frustrating (after 9 disciplined months my own research fell by the wayside) and unhealthy for me (no exercise because I was too busy; no mindful eating because I was too busy; many, many potato chips). I’d fallen into a mindset of feeling victimised and disempowered by my job.

    It was fantastic to be reminded that I can stop, reset and start again. I did this this morning, and feel better for it already.

    Thanks!

  5. Well, I’m trying. I’d hoped that going away to a conference would provide needed perspective, if not exactly a break, and that was the case to some extent, since I came back and made infinitesimal progress on a writing project I hadn’t touched since mid-August (just before classes began).

    But I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle freelance writing and a lot of church work in addition to prep and teaching and grading (on which I am seriously behind), all while maintaining something that resembles healthy sleep, exercise, and eating habits.

    I really like the idea of having set times of the week for doing certain things (so one can forget about them at other times), and that has worked for me in the past to some extent (usually, interestingly, when I’m medium-busy — not possessed of so much free time that I have too much choice, and thus have trouble starting on any one thing, and not so frantic that I’m just cramming in whatever’s most urgent *because* it’s about to become an emergency). But it doesn’t help much when my schedule is variable; I end up just as worried about missing stuff, and/or spend all my time re-jiggering what happens when. I think my ideal involves some combination of regular weekly slots where certain important things happen regularly, and some slots that are more variable, available for whatever most needs attention at the time. When things are as busy as they are now, I have trouble doing even that, probably because it would mean admitting that there are some things I’m just not going to get done (or get much of done) in the current semester, or break, or whatever (for this semester, I fear that my own research/writing (as opposed to the paying freelance assignments), and at least one of the sleep/exercise/healthy eating triad, are going to fall in that category).

    So I’m trying to figure out if I can make at least some small adjustments. At the moment, one potentially fruitful possibility seems to be working out a target schedule that represents some sort of reasonable compromise between my ideal early-to-bed/early-to-rise one, and the reality that I’ve got a lot of scheduled late nights (teaching and church meetings) this semester, and tend to come back from those unfed and/or unorganized for the next day, which leads to late, not very productive nights. I think some combination of accepting that my schedule is going to be a bit later than I’d prefer this semester and making a concerted effort to wrap up the loose ends of the day and plan for the next *before* I head out to evening commitments might help.

    I’m also trying to make at least modest progress on research writing, healthy eating, and exercise, even if none of the above gets as much attention as I’d like. That seems smarter at the moment than prioritizing one and dropping the others, and will hopefully help create a foundation for future progress in all three areas. The last 10 days or so has seen a bit of cooking and freezing of dishes based on farmers’ market produce, and one short writing session, and I think I’ll take a walk today, whether I have time for it or not (among other things, in my climate, this is one of two times of the year when it’s easiest to establish or re-establish a walking habit, since the weather is temperate, eliminating one obstacle to getting myself out the door).

    Finally, I really need to find a way to grade efficiently and effectively — to simply keep that work going at a good clip without agonizing over it or letting it become an ever-increasing seemingly unscalable mountain. I’ve never mastered that, and it’s hard to do so with a 4/4 writing-intensive load, but I have made some progress, and I need to continue doing so, especially given the fact that relatively few of my students seem to spend as much time with my comments as I spend creating said comments.

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