ah, friends: first week back to school, and what happens to me?
I get laid up with a nasty flu bug that leaves me flat on my back on the couch for a day and a half (only getting up to run to the bathroom, if you know what I mean). I’m up and about now, but man-oh-man, what an ordeal! The ONLY good thing about being sick, is the fact that I’ve been feeling absolutely NO GUILT about spending this afternoon with my novel (I’m reading the oh-so-engrossing ‘Freedom’, but Jonathan Franzen), rather than the stack of more thesis-themed reading material quietly asking for my attention.
This, of course, isn’t exactly the way I was hoping to take on the new academic year! Although I don’t have any classes and am not T.A-ing this semester, I still have a lot of stuff to do. I’m supposed to, for example, be working diligently on my thesis project now — especially if I want to get it all wrapped up by the summer. I had some inspired ideas about how I’d built some automatic structure into my structureless weeks by scheduling in dedicated work-sessions (ie. spend every morning, no matter what, doing thesis work — leaving the afternoons more flexible and ready to deal with whatever comes up), but I haven’t managed to make that work yet.
It’s a funny time of year, really. Every time you turn around, there’s something on the radio or in the newspaper (and, presumably, on TV — though I don’t watch much of the stuff) about how to keep focused on your New Year’s resolutions. I find they are particularly oriented at people trying to lose vast amounts of weight or get back into some kind of exercise regiment. But it has occurred to me that there is something for procrastinating academics in all of it.
When it comes to sticking to your resolutions, one of the best pieces of advice I’ve seen recently is this: aim low. Like the people declaring their intentions to lose 100 lbs. by Christmas, it just isn’t realistic to throw yourself an incredibly difficult challenge without the proper support. Instead, losing, say, 10lbs, would be a good place to start, right?
Well, same goes for us in academia. Though I sometimes feel tempted to declare “Ok, it’s the new year! So, starting now, I’m going to do school work from nine til five, just like any other working person… I’ll get lots done!”, I know that’s an unrealistic goal. Academia isn’t necessarily set up to work that way.
I think it’s fair to want to start off the new year on the right foot, work-wise, but it’s important to be realistic. Other good pieces of resolution-keeping advice include ‘Don’t Overwhelm Yourself’ and ‘Tell Everyone You Know’ because, theoretically, telling people allows them to give you a prod when you need it.
So: my plan, once I’m better, is to try and spend my mornings with my academic work (YOU HEARD IT HERE!), no matter how many distractions may come my way.
But for now, I’m not feeling the least bit guilty about spending my time with a good novel.