Monthly Archives: November 2015

No “Guilt Machine,” No Work

No "Guilt Machine," No Work {New Faculty}

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The American holiday of Thanksgiving was last week. I took the whole week off. It was luxurious. I had made a giant list before I left town and then forgave myself in advance for not working. I also didn’t bring any laptop home, just my iPad and external keyboard. I like the set up, but it’s not quite as slick on some things and I was sure I wouldn’t have any huge emergencies come up.

In not working all week, I observed several things: I went hiking with the dogs every day. I went to the barn and helped my mom feed calves several times, I made breakfast for everyone each morning, and whatever else we were eating, I made Thanksgiving dinner, and I had very little worry about it. Maybe taking my laptop is my silent trigger. When it goes in the bag, it’s more than a computer, it’s a “guilt machine.”

My sister came home Wednesday night and she was working on the holiday and again on Friday. I didn’t envy her one bit. I know she had a lot of stuff to get done and the nature of her work is much different than mine. I can empathize with her but it made me very glad I was not in that boat. The situation could have been reversed if I’d had a grant due or some looming deadline, but thankfully I didn’t. I sent out an article the day before our break began and had my classes ready to roll for post-break. I’m sitting at a local coffee shop chugging (sipping daintily) a mocha, chowing down on a piece of something strudel-rific and have a few more grants to review for another project this afternoon. Leisurely time for once. When the students come back to begin tomorrow, I’ll be ready.

By not engaging with my Mac (AKA: the guilt machine), it allowed me to engage in other things that are much more important. Don’t get me wrong, I can play some games on my iPad and stalk social media with the best of them, but it was a purely psychological undoing. I’m going to keep trying to not bring my guilt machine with me when I know my odds at getting work done are slim but also understand I’ll need to tow it around sometimes too. It’s taken me four years to get some clarity and this was one week. I’ll consider this a “W” and keep moving forward to the end of the semester.

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The Writing is Never Done

A Lull in Writing? {New Faculty}

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I’ve had a lull in manuscripts lately. There’s a few reasons for that. Some are out to co-authors to write/edit/revise. I’m waiting for grad students to light fires under their keyboards and I’m also in the middle of reporting season for a few projects.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s writing happening  every day, but it’s not necessarily the manuscript type. Reporting on grants annually is equally important, getting my undergraduate researchers headed in the “right” direction has been important, but I noticed I went almost two weeks without a manuscript sitting in my files or inbox needing work. Two came in last week and I’ve already put a dent back in one, but the luxury of time gave me the opportunity to do other things:

  • catch up on grading
  • contribute to a new NSF proposal
  • read new articles and new books I’d purchased this fall that had been sitting in my pile
  • time to reflect on work, the direction I wanted to head
  • pick up new grant work

The time is not time wasted. Even though I wasn’t actively banging on the keyboard every day, it was nice to reflect, it was nice to read chunks of a book uninterrupted, and it was nice to have a smidge of time to contribute to new work that I want to do, but had not had time to previously look at.

The writing has trickled back in and will trickle back out. I’m mindful of several things:

  • writing for publication is important but so is writing for reporting in order to keep grants and/or get more.
  • writing for a grant proposal is very academic in nature, but the nice part about the collaborative nature of my last proposal was that I wasn’t tasked with all 15 pages, but about 5-7 per say.
  • not banging on a manuscript helped refresh my brain. When I picked one back up that had come back in, I was much more efficient and got through it. The  writing was distant enough where it was a little “foreign” in a sense, I had forgot about it some.

As we race toward the bottom of the semester and a break is near, it’s important for me to set myself up well for that break. I will take some time off from work in general but I want to be set up to return to work and get my boots back on the ground starting with day one. A conference proposal is due right away and I will make an effort to start that before I leave for the holiday.

Planing ahead, using a writing calendar, and making sure I’ve got the pre-work done will be key to hit the ground running post-holiday. The writing will never be done, but it’s nice to try and keep up with it.

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An Email-less Weekend

An Email-less Weekend {New Faculty}

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Something weird happened. Weird is a relative term, so let me rephrase. Something weird for me happened.

I didn’t receive a single student email this weekend.

Strange for me. Very strange….and then I remembered it was Halloween and that students had many other things to do besides email me. And I was very, very happy.

I was away on family vacation last week as well. Disney World and Universal Studio was AMAZING and a ton of fun, but it also didn’t leave much time for work, much less email. I knew I was going for months so I could set myself up well. I did read email during the waiting for rides and in lines, but really, there was very little work that took place. It was a cognitive break that was a nice change of pace and appreciated. I returned to work with lots of mental energy and graded 60 mid-terms to get the day started right. (Ok, I also finished the day grading too meaning I graded all day and my brain was in great shape, only my feet had averaged about 7-8 miles a day walking).

Email has turned us into these monsters that we cannot escape from. My love/hate relationship with email continues, along with my calendar, my writing habits, and my intake of carbs. I had not realized how UN-common weekend email was until I realized I had received ZERO from students this weekend. Murphy’s law states that as soon as I hit “publish” on this post, 12 will come in back-to-back, but it’s a good reminder that I don’t have to read them or respond to them immediately either.

As October is now a fleeting memory and the rush of the latter third of the semester falls with the rest of the leaves, it’s nice to remind myself that technology is great, but I need to engage less to get more done.

I wish you an email-less weekend too!

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