22 October 2011

Re-booting the semester

Even before Notorious Ph.D. suggested the theme of the re-set button, I had been thinking that I need to re-boot my semester. While I have achieved a couple of significant goals (submitting the fellowship application; adding some polish to a drafted chapter), other areas of my life have suffered: I'm slower than usual to return papers, am not exercising enough, and often don't get enough sleep. I'd like to start over and aim at a better balance for the remaining weeks of term.

Fortunately, I don't have any more conferences to go to (I think in general it is a mistake to go to conferences during term-time, at least in three-course semesters). And I have no more hugely significant deadlines, either. There are six more weeks, I guess, for the current ADNWG term, and about the same before I have to turn in a book review (IIRC; maybe I should check that e-mail).

Last week I was suffering a bit of let-down after getting the application done, and also from withdrawal symptoms (oh, am I not supposed to admit being a research addict?). I enjoyed the focus I needed to exert on the application and sample chapter, the feeling that this was the most important thing I had to do and that I could justify dropping everything else lower on the priority list. I also enjoyed having an external deadline, which forced me to put aside some of my perfectionist tendencies. Put those things together with a resolution made earlier this year to submit something, somewhere, in 2011, and I had to look over my various projects to see what I might be able to finish in the next couple of months.

(I know it's a good thing to have a book that really wants to be written, and I love the conference-paper-turned-book project. But I was so set on sending it out as an article this year. I want more publications!)

So there's the Macedonian Marginalia Project, which could probably be done in a couple of months; but not these months, when I need to catch up on grading and then prep and grade final exams and projects. I planned to work on the MMP in January-March 2012, and that still seems like a good idea. I will have two courses with the same prep in the spring, and (most likely) a lighter workload on my major committee; that will give me more head-space to think about a fairly complex project in which the argument stands or falls on tiny details. I'd like to wrap it up by spring break, on the theory that the second part of the semester tends to have more grading in it, and also that I will have at least one conference paper to prepare in the later spring.

Then there's the Unexpected Project that was a conference paper in the summer. When I got that digitized scan that proved I had a third manuscript to deal with, I got all excited and thought maybe that was the piece that I would push out the door by the end of December. And then I checked on what the manuscript actually is and realized that I have a huge problem with the dates, and because of that, I have far less of a viable draft than I had thought. I have to start all over on part of the research for that essay, which is rather discouraging. I wish I'd thought more about this third manuscript at some earlier stage. I knew it was a possibility, but no scholarly source I found said for certain it was the same hand, and I hadn't seen it myself, and so I just pushed the possibility aside and tracked something that seemed plausible. But "plausible" is now "provably wrong."

Another possibility for a submission this year was a note related to the Big Volume of Manuscript. But the issues involved are similar to those in the Unexpected Project, and so now I'm spooked about that kind of research and want to be very sure that I'm right before trying to publish anything along those lines. It's bad enough feeling that I've given conference papers that are so wrong; at least I didn't publish the incorrect Unexpected details.

Anyway, those were the options for alternate goals for this fall. And none is viable, so I'm back to Plan A: finish a decent draft of another chapter of the book, and work steadily if slowly on the Big Translation. It's a relief, really; my motto for the past few years has been "stick to Plan A," which works for both small and large plans. I can drive myself crazy thinking up alternate plans and wondering which would be best, for everything from "what to wear tomorrow" to much more significant decisions. I am so much happier when I make a plan and stick to it, with only minor modifications (if it's colder, wear a wool blazer instead of a linen one; if it rains, wear the rain boots; if short on sleep, stare at a draft of the writing project and tinker with sentences instead of trying to work on the organization).

As an aside, I think a lot of my difficulties with planning and organization are not native, but learned. For me, the Myers-Briggs categories explain a lot. By temperament, I'm fairly strongly J (in the sense of wanting plans and to stick to them; there are other elements to J-ness, and I think finer granularity in the sub-elements makes the MB types work better: when I took the test, each of the four axes had ten sub-elements), but I grew up with parents who must have been super-P. Thus I both had to learn to tolerate the chaos of our household and did not get any decent modeling of how to plan and stay organized. It's only relatively late in life that I've realized how stressful and irritating I find P-ness, in most areas. Sometimes I want to put off a decision while I collect information, but that is something I plan for, and once I make up my mind I don't want to revisit the decision.

Then wouldn't I just have stuck to the plan about the chapter all along? No, see, the original Plan A was to write an article, not a book. That's where the recent thrashing came from. Must. Have. Article. But no. The better part of valor, considering long-term goals, is to accept the change from article to book, and get a chapter finished this fall, so that I can cannibalize it for a conference paper in the spring (if that abstract is accepted) and have two reasonably complete chapters when I start (oh please oh please) a fellowship year of writing.

So the plan for the weekend was to get all caught up on stuff, get enough sleep, get enough exercise, and re-boot the semester this coming week. Goals: continue to write every day, but stop after half an hour or so (unless I really am caught up on everything else). Turn back papers promptly. Prep more thoroughly for the grad class. Exercise an optimal amount on non-teaching days, and a sub-optimal but acceptable amount on campus days. Set a manageable sleep schedule, and stick to it.

It's a great plan. Sadly, I think Sir John and I both accidentally got caffeinated coffee earlier today. So I'm still wide awake, and expect to be up for awhile yet. I have things to do, of course: grading, notes on books I want to get off my desk, planning. I may not get the sleep schedule sorted out this weekend, but I can at least get caught up (if I don't start remembering more things I have dropped the ball on!), and I'll keep working on the sleep thing.

No comments: