Sunday, November 30, 2008

Priorities

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.

3 Comments:

At 1:13 AM, Blogger EcoGeoFemme said...

My goodness, that's a lot of stuff!

EGM spends a lot of time away in the field and I'm amazed at how much time it really takes. There's so much to do to prepare and then to much to do after to wrap up. Six weeks in the field is more like 8-10 weeks devoted to field work, I think.

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger Amelie said...

good luck!

 
At 9:03 AM, Blogger saxifraga said...

Thanks EGF and Amelie and good to see you. EGF, you're right. Fieldwork takes a lot of time. Especially because it takes out a big chunck of the year where nothing gets done at the office. Spending June to September in the field and most of May on logistics before the field season essentially leaves only eight months for everything else. that's definitely part of the problem. However, field work is also fun and relaxing in its own way and I also feel priviledged to do these things as part of my job. I hope EGM enjoys his fieldwork as well.

 

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