Sunday, November 30, 2008


I'm back home after another three weeks of travelling only interspersed with a few days last week of continuous grading and student presentations. I've been to Russian metropolis to work on a paper, to the capital of this country to attend a committee meeting and to nearby city for a project meeting. All good and interesting and part of the reason why I love my job, but it also means I've been away from home for more than half of the time I've been living here and that I've been living more or less in a suitcase for six months. I've sort of had it for a while. I have barely read my email for the past three weeks, much less responded to anything. I'm behind on some important course admin related things and feel I've really not been doing that part well enough. I have a deadline for a manuscript revision that has already been extended twice and which will require some serious effort on my part this week if we're going to meet it. After that there are other tasks which do not feel extraordinarily urgent because the deadlines haven't actually passed yet, but which will fall into that category soon enough. I don't think I've been doing a poor job here in general. I've taught a new course, contributed to the department activities with an upcoming course and committee work, maintained an active research agenda, developed a new additional research agenda for this geographical area and developed contacts for a future proposal for funding and general networking. But I've been doing all these things in the most superficial way possible and it feels like a lot of important things are falling through the cracks all the time. I definitely have too many things on my plate, but it's hard to see which parts it's possible to let go.

I figured out the other day that I've been working a little more than 50 hours a week on average since I got here. I realise that the actual number of hours could have been much worse, but with all the travelling and the amount of full day meetings and semi-work social events in evenings on top of that I haven't had much regular free time at home for months. The few weekends I've been at home lately have been spent in a state of collapse. I feel guilty when an entire Saturday goes by doing nothing but sleeping and watching a movie, but I haven't got the energy to be creative when keeping this kind of schedule.

I have three weeks here before Christmas break. I want to spend those three weeks putting out most of the fires that are immediately urgent, but also to make room for something resembling a life. I want exercise, sleep and developing social connections in my new hometown to be a priority. I also want to be able to engage in things at home that are not work, like cooking, reading, learning something new and getting back to blogging. I have made lists like this in the past, and somehow they never last for long, but I think that starting over again and again is better than just giving up completely. In order to keep the get-back-to-blogging goal and secure some accountability, I'm going to check in here to report how it goes.

Exercise, sleep and food: Uh oh, this is the one that always falls to the bottom of the list, but really should be at the top. I want to have one hour a day for exercise and to go to bed at a time where 7 hours of sleep is still a realistic figure. I normally have quite ambitious ideas on what to eat, but some semi-ready made solutions might be what is needed to not spend half the evening on shopping and cooking. Instead I want to cook some proper food on the weekends, since I'm actually going to be near my kitchen for the next few weekends (yay).

Writing: I didn't join InaDWriMo because I knew writing just wasn't going to happen for me in November, but that doesn't mean I can't have my own December writing goal. I want to spend at least four hours a day on writing (probably more during the first week while finishing up revisions of the first manuscript). This is not going to be easy because there are a gazillion emails to reply to, travel reimbursement forms to fill out, exams to grade and papers to read, but this exercise is about getting the priorities right and writing really must be high on that list right now.

Teaching and admin: Regular teaching for the semester is over. My students will have an exam next week, which needs to be graded and I need to read some of the papers on the syllabus this week, I'm also giving a talk, which must be prepared and have a mountain of neglected correspondence and admin tasks. This could easily soak up all my waking hours, but I want to try to limit this to four hours a day. We'll see how it goes, if I'll just get even more behind or if it's actually possible to get the most important things done if I just keep my priorities straight. The development of projects and collaborations is really well under way and much can be done now by a few emails and phone calls to the right people. My main projects have received a lot of attention recently, and if I just get the writing done, they don't need a lot of admin attention right now either. The really important things are the course admin stuff, the upcoming talk, a paper to review, get the few but important emails sent and read for exam questions.

Personal activities: I want to keep up blogging and have some free time at home now and then. I think I need to do some work on the manuscript revisions in the evenings during the first week and possibly also some preparation for the talk, but I don't want to feel guilty every time I do something not work related. I also want to spend about an hour twice a week of picking up the online Russian course I've been trying to do.

My goal is to spend a lot of this time at home. We have some pretty rigid rules for how much we must be present at work, but I'll try to find a way to work around that. The teaching and admin part needs to be done at work anyway, but I'd prefer to do the writing part at home at least on some days. I'm still not sure how I want to organize this tomorrow. Part of me wants to come in to do the admin part first, because I haven't told anybody I'm going to be away all morning and everything is urgent. Another part of me thinks that this is exactly what causes the days to slide and that I will probably not get any writing done, if I do it in that order. We will see. And right now I have one hour to write a course description before bedtime.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

An update from the trenches

I've been at University above the Arctic Circle for a little more than 5 months now. I've actually only been here about 4 months since my official start date was while I was away in the field, but anyway it seems about time for an update.

I've been here for 23 weeks:

Of these I've been:

Doing fieldwork for 6 weeks

Been on field excursions with students for 3 weeks

Attended an international conference for 2 weeks

Taught intensively for 5 weeks

Done labwork in Grad School City for 1 week

Been away for a family event for 4 days

Been sick for 3 days

Had family visiting for 10 days


done final edits to a manuscript and submitted it

written two abstracts for meetings and submitted titles for two other talks

started revisions on a reviewed manuscript

developed ideas and an outline for a new paper based on new awesome data

developed a table of content for a book proposal with colleagues

dealt with department politics

spent time on course budgeting

attended a two-day workshop for a project I will have a significant role in

attended several follow-up meetings on new project

typed up half of my field notes from this summer

developed ideas for one new graduate level course and a make over of undergrad course

sat in on several lectures by co-teachers in undergrad course

been advisor for 15 undergrad research projects all of which are due tomorrow

tried to be helpful and accesible for my one MSc student

made progress in learning about the local geology

made some contacts with potential collaborators

made progress towards a real plan for fieldwork in this location next summer

made progress towards possible collaborations and funding opportunities in my other field area

Sadly I've not been:

Sleeping enough

Spending enough time with my husband

Exercising enough


Blogging enough