Time management

Finals are to Curry Powder as Winter Break is to ____.

Curry in the spice-bazaar (egypitan) in Istanbul

Image via Wikipedia

The end of the semester is so close I can smell it. In case you were wondering, it smells like hot madras curry powder.

Today’s the Sunday that leads us into the dreaded Finals Week. I’m currently at my desk sipping on pumpkin ale while I commit my schedule for the week to paper. Vacation is right over the horizon, yet here’s what I have left:

  • I have a prospectus due tomorrow on Sissy Bounce. It’s about 80% complete and I’ll finish it tonight.
  • I have 60 pages worth of lecture notes and a teaching philosophy due in the morning. It’s finished, but since I have ’til the morning I’m going to do a few last minute edits tonight which will take an hour or two,  including the addition of some potential audio/youtube clip links.
  • I have two exams this week. 1. bibliography – I have most of the week to prepare for this.  2. a global listening exam. While it doesn’t hold much weight, I’ll spend most of the week prepping for this.
  • A stack of 300+ papers to grade ranging from 2-12 pgs each.
  • 1 exam to proctor

This list is so much smaller than it was just a few days ago and that makes me a very happy grad student. My house looks like a tornado swept through it, I’ve been eating junk for a month, and my sleep patterns are ridiculously erratic. I’m ready for a break.

Of course, being the perpetual self-reflector that I am, I am already thinking of ways I can take things up a notch next semester. My biggest obstacle is time management, although I’m excellent at it when I’m under pressure. It’s not that I under-manage my time. I tend hyper-manage it. During the first half of this semester, I actually charted out each day by half hour segments. I was incredibly productive, but by October I had to tear myself out of the box and I haven’t been quite as productive since. It was a strangling experience. I need to find a balance.

In the spring there is a built-in time management system for my mornings in place as I’ll be TA’ing pop music courses at 8am five days a week.  I’m also taking on a wee bit more with the addition of two more ensembles, a Buddhist-text study group, and (if I get the okay) sitting in on two undergrad courses: Tibetan Historiography, and Ancient Tibetan Religions.  I also wanted to sit in on a Bollywood course being offered because I think it would integrate well with the Music of India course I’m registered for, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

I feel like I should personify my blog and thank it for being here for me to vent all semester. One almost down, a hell of a lot more to go –

on finding motivation

I realized tonight, as I sit here spooning out the tail-end of a quart of Breyer’s, that for whatever reason, my system can’t handle procrastination. Once the flood gate is open, it compounds until I’m left sitting here with a mile long to-do list, an extra 10 pounds to carry around, and no motivation. Well I’m pretty ticked off at the whole thing.

I love what I’m doing. I mean I love it. I grew up with the kind of folks who said “you aren’t supposed to have a job you like. You’re just supposed to have a job”.  That was never me. It never will be. So then, if I love it so much then why am I self-sabotaging this week? Yes, all of my assignments are in. I’ve been staying on top of TA duties, my readings, and everything else that’s externally important. More than on top of them, really.

Yet this is the very first week I haven’t kept track of my productivity. I didn’t sit down this past Sunday and schedule my week, make lists, or clean off my desk. Am I really that OCD that the failure to schedule my week would cause this kind of chaos? I’ve started eating terribly again (hence the ice cream), anxiety is back, I’ve been getting 3 hours of sleep a night, I’ve stopped exercising altogether, physically I’m feeling pretty terrible, I’ve had headaches all week, I have no interest in playing with my pups, and reading has become a chore. Those are a few of the symptoms anyway. My partner’s out of town, so at least she doesn’t have to put up with me.  I feel uncomfortable in my own skin when I’m like this.

It’s about halfway through the semester. I know I keep reiterating this, but I really am enjoying my courses/job tasks, etc – with that said, it’s not “work stress” causing this. It’s not a lack of social interaction (which can sometimes happen as part of the lonely existence of graduate school). I really have no clue what the cause is. I only know it needs to stop. I need some motivators – and a bath. Or maybe I just need to sit down, clean off my desk, and feel the satisfaction of crossing things off a to-do list. Bath first.