Thursday, July 31, 2008

Appalling Slack

Ugh. Ugh! What's wrong with me? This whole week--well, since Monday, which was startlingly productive--has been a blur of Feeling Like I Should Be Working + Not Feeling Like Working which = Guilt + Boredom--a bad combination. I once believed, falsely it seems, that this feeling was particular to the dissertation time, but evidently it is not. I've also been pretty lethargic this week, wanting to eat and sleep a lot, which doesn't help.

So! In an effort to turn things around and not find myself facing dinnertime with no earthly idea of what has happened to the day, I am going to write a list. A public, boring list, right on this here blog.

Okay. Here's what I would like to accomplish today:
  • Reread my new, possibly terrible article, and make a set of revisions/notes for further work.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Eat lunch. (Yes, this gets an entry.)
  • Pay a couple of bills.
  • Sort through the papers on my desk and decide which can be thrown away.
  • Reconcile the differing versions of comp-related documents that I have on my work and home computers. (Should be easy, since I already copied everything from my work computer onto a flash drive, and I'm pretty sure that the work computer versions are almost uniformly later than the home computer drafts.)
  • Sketch out another day or two's readings for the one-credit seminar.
  • Finish the mediocre novel I've been reading for the past three weeks, for the love of God.
  • Select a scholarly book to start reading, and start reading it--even just a couple of pages.
See, I think that part of the problem is that I don't have a well defined activity that I need to be accomplishing right now. My syllabi need work, but I'm finding that I do better with those if I let them just gradually develop (hence the plan to work a little bit on one syllabus today, and that's all); I've finished the draft and preliminary revisions of the article, and I'm not exactly sure what I need to do with it now (although it needs work--that much is clear); I've written up my book review, and need some distance on it before I finalize it. (Besides, it's not due for a month, ha ha!) The manuscript is out for review, so I can't work on that.

I guess the problem is--research-wise; let's ignore course prep--that I've basically accomplished my summer goals. Yeah, a big problem, I know! But instead of feeling liberated from them, I feel that I should still be working. The article is definitely not finished finished, and while my goal was just to produce a draft over the summer, I should also revise it as much as I can before school starts. (And yet, I don't wanna!) It seems that I'm still in academic-work mode, but without a clear direction in which to channel that energy, and without having kicked the habits of procrastination that accompany all such work.

Maybe I need some wholly other kind of goal for the day. Hm. Here's an experiment: I propose the following alternate to-do list (some overlap is inevitable), which contains a lot less work and a bit more activity:
  • Practice yoga.
  • Eat lunch.
  • Finish reading mediocre novel.
  • Organize filing cabinet, which is still a mess from the move.
  • Clear off random piles of paper from desk.
  • Reorganize books that found their way into odd places--linen closet, stack on the floor by the bed, inside cabinet. Figure out which books would do better in my office, and put them in a pile.
  • Glance through closet to note gaps, etc. Sort out a few items for donation.
  • Pay bills.
  • Make granola.
  • Mail silly thing to brother.
  • Write in diary.
Let's see, shall we? From which of these lists will I do more today? Weary and lethargic though I may be, it is plain that I must do something with myself, or I'll feel deeply, dreadfully Lame. Thus, at noon, I begin. I shall enbolden each item as I do it, and, I don't know, think of it as a race?

(If there's one thing I learned teaching comp last year--and I think that there may be only one thing!--it's that everybody loves contests. Even when those contests are for 0 stakes. Pit the students against each other, and all of a sudden things like the proper formatting of journal article citations becomes riveting. So, although I have no competitors, perhaps it'll work for me, too. --That and the extra cup of coffee I just drank. Go go go!)

ETA: Putting the same items onto two different lists *really* makes a body feel more productive. Hurrah!

ETA2: The verdict is in: List 1 wins by a single item! Um...yay?


Sisyphus said...

So, are the _lists_ competing against each other? I'm confused.

Of course, if you still feel the need to be academically productive, I have quite a list of my own I could loan you...

... and a bridge to sell as well.

heu mihi said...

A bridge? I don't get it...or maybe I do...I don't know.

Anyway, yeah, I think the lists are competing. Or I'm competing with myself, via the lists. See, like, I have two different personae, one advancing the agenda of each list. Or something? And I get to see which persona is ultimately more powerf--er, productive?