Is renewal all about context?

It’s the end of another teaching week. My mom has left town. My head is filled with mucous. And my motivation to do anything substantive has entirely left the building. It’s taking a huge amount of effort just to write this blog post. I blame the cold, but I also blame being burnt out by the pace of my life.

Fortunately, next week is spring break at Mystery U. Ah, a chance to wind down, catch up, grade papers, write a paper, take care of some service obligations, do some lab work, plan a field trip, go the doctor, get a haircut, do my taxes, play with Minnow, take long walks with the dog, finish the quilt…

Oh, wait, that’s an impossible list for any week, much less a week that marks my only respite from hectic teaching days. What I really need is a week that rejuvenates – a week that gives me the mental and physical energy to finish the semester without losing my marbles.

How am I going to fit renewal and rejuvenation into my schedule? (And if I can’t fit it into my schedule during an off week, what hope do I have of allowing during a normal week?) Maybe the first step is to identify exactly what I want to get out of the week – not in terms of specific tasks, but in terms of the big picture context.

  • I want to make the weeks ahead easier.
  • I want to come out of the week feeling like I accomplished something.
  • I want to spend some time outside.

OK. I can do that. Getting those taxes done will take them off my to-do list in subsequent weeks. So will getting papers assigned and labs written for the rest of the semester in my upper level class. But if I want to feel like I’ve accomplished something, that means completing a big project – say, revising the last chapter of my dissertation. It’s something I’m working on already – and I think it’s doable on top of the class prep work. I also resolve to get out of the neighborhood on walks with Princess Pup and Minnow at least twice during the week – I’ll get outside and get to spend quality time with them.

Hmm…I’m back to the big to-do list, but at least I’ve now managed to put it into context. And maybe it’s that big picture context that’s most important for not getting so burnt out in the first place. Dare I say that renewing my energy is all about stepping back and putting my to-do list in context?

I guess that’s what I’m betting on for next week.

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  1. #1 guppygeek
    February 28, 2008

    Nice list and nice job putting it in context (I would call it triage, maybe).

    I am really fortunate to have a tiny lull in the action (which in my experience is likely to disappear without warning, oh, tomorrow morning). Anyway, I also realized that any spring break list will be too long and hence frustrating, so aside from dealing with a couple of reviews for NSF, I decided my spring break goal would be to relax for maybe an hour each morning and just fool around a little (read blogs, have another cup of coffee). I’ll lay odds that the hour becomes 30 min, but that might be enough.

  2. #2 sciencegirl
    February 29, 2008

    Sounds like a busy week – I hope you enjoy your walks!

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