Although I keep trying to focus on a single project at a time, the Octopus Touch remains in full force. Or maybe it's just that my ideas breed like rabbits, and then grow like weeds, so that (for instance) I start with a conference paper to revise into an article, and wind up with a book-in-progress and a fellowship application to base on the project, in addition to other projects that began as conference papers and need to develop further.
I know: I should just say no to conferences. But I keep having bright ideas that I want to do something with. My ideas and papers are, at least, on closely related topics, and contribute to a reputation as an expert in a particular area. Or will, when I get the blasted rabbits caught, spitted, cooked and served up. Ugh: no wonder I don't like these writing metaphors. I can't imagine eating rabbit, any more than I could eat cat. But really, what else do you do with rabbits? OK, comb them for fur and make Angora sweaters. My brain as sweater factory; fuzzy ideas; no wonder I have these problems. Maybe I should go back to the "growing like weeds" idea.
So anyway, given the list of things I have in hand, I've been trying to set weekly goals for both research and teaching, for the semester. I've got through the first three weeks, things like "get coherent chapter outline to send to recommenders" (it can be edited and polished later, but I need to give people time to sit with it) and "give one 'practice quiz' to be graded in class, then collected and checked for participation credit." As I work later in the term, it will be things like "work on project X for 2 hours," where I'll have to determine later what that work should be, and "grade 20 papers." I'm hoping this will keep me focused.
I talked with a friend yesterday about this, who couldn't believe I was planning so closely—"I've been flying by the seat of my pants the whole time I've been here!" (not a short time, either). I did not say "How's that working out for you?" though I admit the phrase crossed my mind.
Instead, I said, "So have I, and I'm not really happy with how that's going. Also, I'm going to be teaching pretty much for 21 months straight unless I get that fellowship, which I don't want to plan on, so I won't have big chunks of time in which I can get caught up on things I put aside. I need to keep the momentum going even while I'm teaching."