Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More on "Mindful Inflexibility"

Well, now that vacation is over (and it was AWESOME! I love the mountains so much), I've been thinking about how to be more productive when school is in session. Recently, several bloggers have been blogging about how to make the academic work day as productive as possible. Dr. Crazy has been analyzing how to ensure that service work doesn't squeeze out her research. And during our winter writing group, Dame Eleanor brought up time management strategies that involve carving out dedicated research time. In the comments to that post, Sitzfleisch used the phrase "mindful inflexiblity," a notion that Dame Eleanor explored further in a follow- up post.

My first reaction to "mindful inflexibility" was that it couldn't work for me. Every time I try to set aside time to research or write, a meeting gets scheduled or the kids get sick or whatever. And for the past two years, I've held a reassignment position on campus which requires a lot of meetings and which requires me to be (somewhat) at the beck and call of other people. I teach every morning and have meetings almost every afternoon. So whenever I start to think or hope that I might have a couple of hours at the end of the day to do my work, I am thwarted.

But this semester, I'm auditing a class from 12-1:15 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's a philosophy class taught by one of my colleagues, and I think it will help me better understand the philosophical issues I'm dealing with in my dissertation. I was thinking about my concerns that other duties would interfere with that class, and I realized that there are very few meetings between 12-1. And then I started thinking about how, typically, meetings don't really get going until 2:00 or 2:30. And then I realized that I might be able to sneak in an hour of reading/writing after the class if I go straight to a back corner of the library. And this would be an especially great time to write since my mind will already be on the dissertation as I sit in the class.

So my plan is to set aside time for my dissertation work between 12-2:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I'm sure the transition back to meetings and service work will be unpleasant, but maybe it will seem less so since I'll know I made time for my own research and writing before hand.

It's worth a try.

6 comments:

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Think about some transition rituals to help you move from class to dissertation work to meetings smoothly. Even if the rituals cut into your work time, it will probably be worth it if they make you happier and better able to concentrate. It depends on your personality and what your library allows (ours allows drinks with lids): coffee to pick up between class and writing? Or coffee afterwards to take to your meeting? Sit by your favorite window and breathe deeply while repeating five times, "This is my special time to write"? Carrying some inspirational book (a how-to-write book if that's your thing, or something more spiritual if you prefer) and reading a paragraph before you get started? Since you're worried that the transition back to meetings might be unpleasant, I can imagine (this probably says more about me than about you) that if it's unpleasant enough, you might start avoiding writing in order to avoid the pain of going back to service, so it could help a lot to have some little ritual on both sides of the writing.

Good Enough Woman said...

Dame Eleanor, That is a great suggestion. I think that the transition from class to the library may be smooth enough because my brain will be staying on a similar thread even though my body will be changing location. However, it's highly possible I will be stopped by students or colleagues during the short walk from class to the library, so a brief mantra when I arrive at my study spot, while looking out the window, is a grand idea.

Although our library doesn't allow any food (a rule that totally chafes my Dept Chair who thinks libraries should be inviting, welcoming places for reading, eating, and sleeping), the coffee cart is just downstairs from the library and my office, and it stays open until 3:00. So I think it will be perfect to plan a trip to the coffee cart at the end of my study time (~2:25) to get a cup of hot tea. It will be a transition to look forward to, and the tea will perk me up a bit. Plus, I love to nurse a cup of tea in my meetings. Makes them much easier to bear, somehow.

Thanks for the great suggestions!

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

At this point, I am being shepherded in my research by colleagues who are more motivated than me. It's nice to have people to talk to about what I'm doing, as I wrote about at my place tonight. I hope you can find that time to work on a regular basis. It's so hard to carve out time -- especially if you're jam packed with meetings all the time. Good luck! I think your plan sounds great!

C. Troubadour said...

Staking out time is so, so helpful. I'm trying to do the same sort of thing for my own writing, and it is so easy to tell myself that there are other more pressing items that need attention. I'm glad you found a window that looks like it will work! Coffee cart treats are a bonus :)

Ink said...

"Sit by your favorite window and breathe deeply while repeating five times, 'This is my special time to write'?"

I vote for this one. May snag it for my own use, too...

loveskidlit said...

"Dedicated time" has a target painted on it in our household, but it always proves its worth when it is preserved/observed. I hope you manage it this term!