I got back into town at about 1:00 pm on Monday from a weekend at my other house. I ate lunch from leftovers in the fridge from at least 1.5 weeks ago (ack), and proceeded to waste much of the rest of the afternoon. While I did call some landscapers for help with our blank-slate back yard, and go to the grocery store, and make risotto and sauteed cauliflower for dinner (with leftovers!) and eat it outside, I did no *real* work – ie, work for which I am being paid. And while I should indeed have time without work in order to recharge for the next day, I don’t yet feel enough on top of work that I feel I can coast in the evening. People assure me things are different in one’s second year.
And, more immediately, while I can afford the odd day or weekend with little official work being done, I can easily see my lazy afternoons taking over my summer without any trouble at all. And that will be very uncool.
So how am I going to get my groove back over the summer, while also getting a research project started and 3 papers submitted for publication, and advising 2 students?
Of course, the real answer is, I don’t know. But I’ll start by making a list, as in my world, all solutions come from starting a list.
Time-sucks at home:
- Aimless television-watching. Usually prompted by avoidance of work, or eating dinner alone and wanting company.
- Internet-surfing: morning. Usually prompted by waiting for the tea kettle to boil. Replacement for newspaper which I canceled when they couldn’t sort out whether I was in town or not for the umpteenth time. Plus I felt bad about wasting the paper.
- Internet-surfing: evening. Usually prompted by procrastination of various sorts, including going to bed. (Why on earth would that be?)
- Driving to the other house and back. We’re working on moving everything to West Lafayette, so this should get better…I hope.
Productive things at home:
- Evening writing: I find that about 8 pm I can get my writing going. Something about watching the sun going down through the window that looks onto my backyard, and writing under a spotlight. Especially with Pandora playing. I seem to get more written in the evening than setting aside the time in the mornings. But if I wait until the evening to get writing done, what if I’m too tired and skip it?
- Time after yoga: If I can get myself onto the mat for 30 minutes, I feel much more focused afterwards.
Time-suck-busters at home:
- Only allow intentional television-watching. Can I possibly make a plan of the programs I want to watch in advance, and then otherwise not turn on the box? Maybe unplugging it would help (including with vampire power). We can see.
- Shut off the computer at night and don’t turn it on in the morning before going to work. Spend time waiting for the kettle by making lunch to take to work, and feel virtuous on multiple levels.
- Rather than come home and flip on any TV, even the News Hour, do half-an-hour of yoga. (Frankly, I think this will only work if I start getting home at a regular time. But maybe I can plan to do this over the summer.)
- Not sure how to combat the evening internet surfing and email avoidance, especially if I’m xxing out TV. Maybe I could plan in 30 minutes of email, and then shut off the computer? Or should I use Firefox in the evening, and then deal with the guilt that this Meetimer provides?
- Being interrupted. Happens when I have my door open, or mostly open, and people pass by and pop their heads in. I find myself terribly scattered at work, trying to respond to everyone else’s needs right now, rather than allowing myself to put those off and focus on whatever I was already doing.
- Leaving research until Fridays. Many of us avoid scheduling meetings for Friday, so we can get some work done uninterrupted by meetings. But I find that I use Fridays for catching up, or for driving to my other house and then getting distracted by all the work that happens there. Either way, research doesn’t get done. Somehow I have to disperse research better across the week.
- Facebook, Chainfactor, Google Reader. Usually invoked when avoiding work.
Work time-suck-busters (over the summer):
- Schedule meetings for one day a week. Don’t schedule before 10 so I can still get something written before going in.
- Clean up desk at home, set it all up for writing.
- Get ass out of bed at a reasonable time over the summer, and use the time before meetings as writing time.
- Use coffee as a bribe to get writing done in the morning. If I make coffee, I must do some writing.
- Schedule writing time for the evening too. This will mean making dinner at a reasonable time, which will be easier without the time-suck of television.
- Ignore (work-related) or delay (friends) IM distractions. Sorry, friends.
- Break down goals into hour-long chunks of time, whether they get finished or not. My list has recently consisted of “Grant 1 IRB; Grant 2 IRB; Paper 2 draft submitted” on a yellow post-it — guess how many I’ve finished? :-S Clearly this doesn’t work.
- Start the brain static list again. Maybe this will help me stay focused through the interruptions too.
- Get enough done during the week that I feel I can take weekends “off” and focus on the fun things, which are…
Fun things, dammit:
- Gardening and cooking.
- A couple of trips – St. Paul, Cincinnati, Washington DC, Davos, London, Paris, Isle Royale. Some of those are purely for fun, some are conferences. Remember to have fun while on the fun trips. ?
- Exploring kayaking possibilities in the area (or is that too much to hope for in my corner of Indiana? Any suggestions, anyone?)
Well, that’s enough to get me started. Probably too much, actually. How long do you give me? A week? A day?
While I’m still trying to make progress on my new year’s resolutions, I think I am learning that we can use all kinds of dates as deadlines to challenge ourselves to change. So maybe I can have a renewal every Sunday or something…
What are your goals for staying focused over the summer while also renewing yourself? Give me some good ideas, please!!