I liked what I said in a recent posting about the importance of making time every day for writing, in order to keep the momentum going. Robert Boice, author of Professors as Writers, makes the argument that even spending a half hour every day when life is busy is enough to keep the momentum going.
When I realized that I needed to reorganize my files, I knew even then that I must not let this take over my summer research time. I wrote a note to myself to continue to preserve mornings for research and writing, and then spend afternoons continuing to organize my papers.
But I did not follow my own advice. I stepped up my efforts to get better organized, in part because I wanted to get it done before my surgery, knowing that facing that mess afterwards would be daunting (and physically difficult, for a while). So I lost the momentum for writing. But also, I did not finish getting organized either.
So, now I'm in the worst of all possible worlds, in this respect. I still have piles of papers all over the floor. I've lost my momentum for writing. I also have been forced to stop running for a while (but can probably pick that back up in a couple of weeks).
Yet, in a way, I don't mind. I rather appreciate the radical disruption of all of this, as it provides me with an opportunity to regard my life from a very basic level and see what's what.
And here's what I see: I find myself surprisingly, and wonderfully, restless. I feel a deep energy stirring, wanting the restoration of my health so that I can pick all of this up again. I have needed a deep and total rest. I have needed to attend to nagging health worries that I had been denying or putting off. I feel re-made from a basic, physical level, and ready from there to re-make my life.
One of the things I have done lately is to put together my fall schedule in a new way. As usual, I put in my class times, meeting times, office hours, and such, but then I also scheduled in daily times for writing that I vow to hold as sacred as class time. I gave a lot of thought to where in my days to schedule these times -- where will my energy be fresh, and my motivation high? Most of my classes are in the mornings, and so I scheduled this time to follow my classes, because I do come out of classes on a kind of high, filled with ideas I'd like to develop more fully.
So, after every morning class, I am going to give myself a half-hour to check e-mail for anything urgent, and get a cup of tea, and then I will go to my library carrel to work on writing for an hour or an hour and a half (2 hours on Fridays, when I have no afternoon classes). I will restrict administrative work to the afternoons.
Key to this plan is to regard these times as inflexibly fixed as class times. Professors do not skip out on classes to attend committee meetings or catch up on administrative work. Class times are the most solidly fixed features of a professors' schedule. So, why not regard writing time the same way?
I anticipate that there will be pressure to sacrifice these time periods now and then, and so my rule for such occasions is that if I must change one of them, I can do so only if I also reschedule the writing time to another time that same day.
But I actually think it may not really be too much of a problem. Most committee meetings are in the afternoons, because the morning times are popular times for teaching. One of my writing times, for example, is Tuesday, 10:30-noon. If someone is trying to schedule a committee meeting, it is highly likely that someone else involved teaches during that time.
So, the art of scheduling in time for writing involves (1) choosing a time that does work well in terms of your own energy flow, and (2) finding a time that also is not likely to be a prime time that others will want to use to schedule meetings.
Another new scheduling experiment: I'm going to try to adopt the practice of spending one hour every weekday evening on grading or otherwise attending to student work, instead of bunching it up for marathon sessions on weekends.
And I will leave weekends completely open, letting myself spend some time on Saturdays catching up on whatever needs catching up on, or working further on writing. Sundays I will try to keep as "sabbath" days again -- this worked for a while last fall, but fell apart towards the end and was hopeless in my ultra-busy spring (but I have good reason to think that this year won't be that ridiculously busy again).
My rule for sabbath is really pretty simple: I ignore anything anxiety-producing but otherwise do whatever I want. Ignoring all "work" altogether is the ideal, but I do not make this a hard and fast rule. It can be hard to precisely define what counts and what does not count as "work." And sometimes what technically counts as "work" can be fun and soul-restoring for me. But more to the point, what the sabbath is for me is especially a time for reorienting myself to being guided by the Spirit. I try to live like this all the time, of course, but my busy and highly-scheduled life can erode that sense over time, especially when things get really frantic. And so I find it helpful to have sabbath days as weekly times to "reset" how I orient my life, in case that is necessary.
Having thought through a schedule for my days and weeks, based on past experience of what tends to work well for me, makes me very optimistic about the start of a new school year! I have a feeling that this will really work for me. We shall see...!
5 years ago