I’ve been spending the past week or two trying to get my groove on with respect to work. I scared myself quite badly with how overwhelmed I got at the end of last semester, and how quickly. I vowed to myself not to let myself get sucked into such unhealthy patterns, and then beat myself up over and over because of how often I tell myself not to get sucked in, and then how I get totally sucked in again.
However. It is a new year. So I have another chance to start over. And am apparently trying to do so publicly, as what else would a blogger do? Besides, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I hate my job. I don’t. At least, I don’t hate it when I actually feel like I’m spending my time doing important and useful things. And I wasn’t feeling that much or often in December.
So, how to do my job differently? It comes back to reminding myself what I am supposed to be *doing.*
Over the holidays, when people at parties asked me what I *do,* I tended to say, “I’m an assistant professor of engineering education at Purdue University.” Sometimes I got questions about what that actually means, but I didn’t really realize until today I don’t describe what I *do.*
In November, December, if you’d asked me, I would have said that I attend meetings, and jump when other people tell me to. And then I would go crawl into a little cave of self-loathing.
So, early in 2009, I’m trying to clear some mental space. And to start with, I’m going to restate what my job is, what I’m supposed to be *doing.*
My job is to think creatively about gender and engineering education, and to think about, write, and teach in ways that result in a change in how engineering education is done in the US. That is supposedly why they pay me the big bucks.
My job is not to jump to the email whenever someone needs something from me. My job is not to bend over backwards for others because I am a nice person. My job should be structured so I eat and sleep enough, and should not twist me into a horrible person to be around (my husband, in case you haven’t figured it out already, is a saint.)
In fact, Merlin Mann of 43folders fame sums up my predicament pretty well here:
So I’m trying to clear some space to actually get down to *doing* what I *do.* Here is a start I’ve made:
- Pure procrastination is not really a problem for me, but brain static is. So I’ve made my first page of Safari go to this page. I’m not sure it is helping too much yet, but it is having me think a second about whether I should be interrupting my task to do whatever it is online.
- I’ve bought copies of OmniFocus (on the advice of a friend) and OmniPlan and I am planning my research out for the next 6 months. I’m doing mental sweeps on OmniFocus, and setting time estimates for how long each task should take. I know this risks overplanning and making me inflexible, but at the moment I’m paralyzed by the thoughts of how much I have to do — so far, these have helped unclutter my mind and start to grapple with the broken-down tasks that will build up to the big tasks. We’ll see.
- I’ve redug out ATNFM and put it next to my bed. I’ll try and read a little each night again.
- I’ve started writing down what I’ve done in a cool little book so I can see what I’ve done, as well as what I have yet to do.
- I’ve done massive triage on my email and I’m going to try to be more vigilant about a) doing email at the end of the day, and b) not feeling guilty about not being able to respond to everything.
- I’m going to start holding meetings *only when there is no other way to accomplish what needs to get done beside meeting face to face.* And the Law of Two Feet will hold, especially for me.
I know, this is just a start.
All of this is intended to help me learn to actually spend time on the creative, innovative work I was really hired to be able to do, and to be WAY more intentional about how I spend my time. Hopefully that will include more thoughtful and content-rich blogging, and less whining. Which should be good for both me and you.
Wish me luck…