Monday, February 26, 2007

On Being (Less) Productive (Than I'd Hoped)

One of the things that is a challenge for me about doing research-related projects during the academic year is that I feel most motivated to work on research-related projects at around 9:30-10:30 PM during the academic year, which doesn't really make sense as it's not wise for me to stay up until all hours of the night completing what I start. Unless I am entirely unscheduled (i.e., unless its summer, or unless I'm living with my parents and not working and my only job is to write - ala when I wrote my dissertation), I have a very hard time making myself get going on research-related projects at a reasonable time of day, especially if I'm out of the research groove, as I have been this academic year because all of my research mojo was channelled into the job search. And so, because this is the case, I've been procrastinating since about 1 PM, and all I've accomplished is to make a to-do list and to revamp my midterm for one of my classes. The midterm thing was on the to-do list, so that's good, but I've got so much that I need to do, and yet I've pissed away approximately 8 hours.

While I don't believe in waiting for inspiration in order to do research stuff (as I'm constantly trying to hammer into my students), I do believe that we all have natural rhythms for when we do certain kinds of work best (as I keep quiet about around my students). And my natural rhythms are such that research-related stuff seems like the thing to do right around what should probably be bedtime. I don't think that this is all genetic - I think part of it has to do with conditioning. When I was in high school and working, and then later in college and working, The time to write papers was after work. But I do think that part of it is a natural disposition - and part of the reason why I don't carve out other blocks of time when I am scheduled is because it takes too much energy to do so because I really do prefer to write at night. But so I had all of these high hopes for today, and now I'm doing my best not to beat myself up about how I didn't achieve all of what I wanted to achieve. Because, really, it's ok. It's only day one of the current push, and I've got about 30 more days to go. It's really ok if I get off to a slow start. This is a marathon, not a sprint, yes?

But so I'm writing this blog post to get me in the mood to work on revising a chapter. Again, these are superficial revisions rather than substantive ones - I'm saving the substantive revisions that I've procrastinated about doing for spring break, when I've got uninterrupted time. Today I requested some stuff through interlibrary loan, and I'll probably request some more (and print out some stuff, and go to the actual library) tomorrow and then Friday. So I am making some progress. The problem is, my mind has been too scattered all day (thinking about teaching, thinking about other crap I've got to do) to sit down and focus on the hard work of editing and honing. See, that's the thing: this stuff is hard work. And it's really hard to motivate oneself to do hard work, because hard work in itself is not fun. Sure, the end result is satisfying, but the actual work part is, well, work.

What makes teaching easier in a lot of ways is that you have an outside source to motivate you, i.e., students. But with research, if one lets oneself go down this road, well, there really is no point to it. Who is it for? It's not like the house is on fire and the only thing that will put it out are some ideas I have about some books. It can wait, right? I suppose this is why God invented deadlines.

(I've decided that if God is responsible for Jennifer Hudson's Oscar win, then he's also responsible for all things in the world, including the tinfoil shrug she wore last night. And by the way, the whole "God made this happen" thing is really fucked up, because it means that God does great stuff for some people and then he shits all over other people. I hate it when people thank God at award shows. Not that one can't thank God if one believes in him/her, and incidentally, I do believe in some God-like force and I thank that God-like force for lots of stuff, but I don't announce to the world that I'm God's chosen person whenever anything happens to me. It's gauche.)

Ok, so on that note, it's time for me to buckle down to some work. Double-triple-quadruple UGH.


Professor Zero said...

My rhythm: never start anything difficult in the afternoon, it never works. If it cannot be started in the morning or the evening, it is not worth trying: wait until the evening or the morning, use the afternoon for something easy.

life_of_a_fool said...

I have the same problem -- I have a hard time writing when I have something pressing to do in a few minutes (like get ready for or go to class). I've decided I have to write every day, and so far this doesn't happen often until midnight. I'm hoping I can establish the habit, and then work on making it happen earlier.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if "natural" is the right terminology because I think rhythms can change when there are drastic changes in circumstance. By this, of course, I'm referring to the advent of infants and small children! For me, when I had Kizzy, I suddenly got really into the rhythm of working mid to late morning, when I had always been a 9:30pm or later kind of woman before that.

my point is, natural makes it sound like it's innate and could never be altered and I don't think it is. I think its habitual, which is not to diminish the need to be aware of and sensitive to your own best working habits. I'm just saying, it isn't something that couldn't or wouldn't be changed by a drastic change in circumstances.

I say drastic there because I do like that "natural" implies that it's damn hard to shift your work rhythm, which is an argument for going with it instead of working against it. I agree with that bit completely.