Sunday, November 26, 2006

Caught in the Undertow

Hello to my faithful readers!

I'm still caught in the undertow of the impossibly busy time of the semester. I have been working hard throughout this Thanksgiving break: working on my Quakerism and Science paper (that I'm presenting on Wednesday), and trying to catch up on grading. Unbelievably, classes resume tomorrow. I cannot believe that the time flew by this quickly! I thought I would have a moment to catch my breath, but not really.

Maybe I have assigned too much this semester. It looked reasonable back in August. But I've been having trouble keeping up with all the grading.

And it doesn't help that other things happen as well. Some are routine: for example, I still have classes to prepare for; meetings to attend; music to prepare for a concert (even though my group is no longer in existence, I've been asked to perform as part of another concert); etc. But in addition to the expected busyness, there are the unexpected things that happen too. I'm actually making good progress in dealing with the "normal" and expected complexity of my life more calmly and confidently than ever before, and I am happy to see this. But the unexpected can really throw off the precise (and, it turns out, precarious) balance of my complicated life.

So, maybe I haven't assigned too many assignments. Maybe that's not really what the problem has been. Or, maybe we need to "expect the unexpected," in which case, lightening up on assignments is a good way to hold space for the unexpected?

At any rate, it's not just me. Everyone at my college is stressed this time of year.

Someone recently told me that the word at the root of school, schola, means "leisure."

I laughed.


  1. Yes indeed. If every second of your time is already allocated then any additional demand becomes an overload. So a plan without time set aside to deal with the unexpected is just a disaster waiting to happen. I've always known this intellectually but it is only relatively recently that I have been able to have the foresight to put it into practice.

    How's the running going? The gym was closed over Thanksgiving and I wanted to exercise so I went down to the track at the local middle school and jogged a few miles. It felt pretty good actually and it didn't hurt my knees. I may do this again soon.

  2. Yes, but part of what is hard is not really knowing how long things will take. It does make it hard to predict. Reality hits when deadlines start rolling in, one after another, in quick succession (which is kind of where I am now, sigh).

    But, I have been somewhat successful in getting the running going again! I went just this morning, in fact!

  3. Good for you, keep running. You've inspired me to put running back into my exercise routine. I'm going to try to schedule one run per week along with my other exercise. It just felt good.

    This isn't really Quakerly but the standard time management gurus would listen to what you are saying and tell you it's an old familiar story. Welcome to the club we all tend to underestimate how long tasks take in reality. "Oh, I'll grade these papers Tuesday morning and then spend Tuesday afternoon working on that paper." Sound familiar? The time management gurus will tell you to start keeping a log of how much time you actually spend on various tasks. You will probably find that you actually take 5 hours to do jobs you think you are doing in 3. Once you know how long these jobs really take you can be more realistic about scheduling.

  4. Just wanted to leave a quick hello. Things are also a little crazy for me.