Monday, June 05, 2006

On the clock

Because this is my first non-dissertating summer in several years; because I have historically been very productive in the summer; but especially because I'm feeling rather at sea with all the odds and ends of various projects that I really should accomplish or make significant progress on before September, I have drawn up A Plan for my summer.

The Plan is modelled on my orals-studying strategy. The summer before my orals (which were held in early September), I worked for eight hours a day, seven days a week, for 15 weeks. I did take one or two weekends off and a few half days--but otherwise, I was a machine.

And you know what? I liked it.

So this summer, my goal--which I fully expect that I won't meet most days; that's why it's a goal--is to work for six hours every weekday and three hours every weekend-day. That time is to be divided into three unequal parts:

  • one or two hours on lesson planning and syllabus work, until my fall classes are ready to go
  • two or three hours on research for the book project
  • two or three hours on other projects (in late July, these two or three hours will be transferred over to writing for the book project)
The Plan went live on June 1, and so far I've haven't actually logged six hours (or, okay, even five hours) on any one of those day--but at least I've been working on a variety of projects, and given that George Washington Boyfriend is currently in town and I'm distracted by a million move-related details, I think that's pretty good.

I also have a list of things that need to be accomplished--a much more detailed version of the one that I've put up on my sidebar--and a diary in which to log what I get done each day (I know: how very Puritan of me), and I'm hoping that this is all the organization and structure that I need to keep me from either succumbing to my native sloth or becoming paralyzed in the face of everything I have to do.

Because frankly, I hate having to self-motivate. I'd much rather someone else gave me the schedule and the deadlines and kept me on the clock. . . but since no one else actually cares what I'm doing, it looks like I'm going to have to review my own damn time sheets.


RLB said...

People who can self-motivate impress me so much. I always find that even if I make myself a schedule and a detailed plan, I don't stick to it, because I am too good at rationalizing: "well, I'll actually have more *uninterrupted* blocks of time tomorrow, so it's okay to goof off today because I'll be able to really buckle down in those bigger chunks of time." That sort of thing -- stuff you can say to yourself and it seems okay, but that another person would not let you get away with. Without an external taskmaster to keep me on track, I get derailed almost immediately. Plus, I really do get the most done under the pressure of an imminent deadline -- I find that I *can't* really focus on the task until it's almost too late. That's a large part of what made me realize I could never manage to get a PhD. Hats off to you and everyone else here who has survived a doctoral program -- clearly all better at self-policing than I!

Hilaire said...

That is an *awesome* plan, Flavia. I was just going to hammer out my own schedule today - but now I may steal yours! :)

Anonymous said...

I was talking to the prof after my computer communications systems class today.. we had been discussing cell phone networks and standards. I was commenting on how I hadn't paid attention for the past few years, and so much had changed. He told me that he has to rewrite his notes every quarter because things change so fast! Fortunately a lot of the basics stay the same, but.. yeouch.

see you in a little over a week!


Breena Ronan said...

Wait, I'm confused! You didn't have to do anything but your own research and prepping for fall classes during the summer? I'm so jealous.

Flavia said...

RLB: it's definitely a learned skill; I wouldn't say that I'm natively a self-motivated person, at all, and I found my first couple of years of grad school really trying for that reason: classes that only meet once a week and where 90% of the course grade is based on a single paper written at the very END? Nothing in one's undergraduate or working-world experience is quite like that. Studying for my orals, and then starting my dissertation, were where I finally managed to take control of my own time, simply because I HAD to. It's still a struggle, but I can do it.

And Hilaire--steal away! We can compare notes in September, and see if it worked for either of us...

Anonymous said...

My husband the Astronomer had a PhD advisor who told him that you can get a PhD on FOUR HOURS of work per day...but it has to be four hours of actual work...which for most of us is at least eight hours of messing around. So he suggested getting a chess clock and hitting it every time you get up to go to the bathroom, check email, blog, etc., so you can tell when you have really done four hours worth of work.

I was always way too scared to do this; I'd probably find that it took me 20 hours to do four hours worth of work!

Anonymous said...

I found my first couple of years of grad school really trying for that reason: classes that only meet once a week and where 90% of the course grade is based on a single paper written at the very END? Nothing in one's undergraduate or working-world experience is quite like that.

Think yourself lucky you're only a scholar of Milton not somebody from his part of the world . . . in my day, being examined at the end of one's undergraduate degree was still the norm (as it still is at a few places like Oxford and Cambridge). Try classes that meet once a week where ALL the course grade (a mere 1/8 of your final degree grade, after all) is based on a three hour unseen examination taken a year later ;-)

Flavia said...

Theodora: ooh! A chess clock! That's a great idea.

I do try to be scrupulously honest in my time-logging, but in the absence of a time clock there's inevitably there's some slippage.