Productivity-Talk Here at the End of All Things

panic button
People always say that one of the great things about academe is its familiar rhythm–the academic calendar, which has its moments of stress, can also be weirdly comforting. It’s also makes it sensible for blogging–it’s easy to know when it’s recommendation season, or when people are likely to be grading, or when a note about starting the semester by committing to self-care might be helpful.

And then sometimes there are weeks like this last one.

Today I wanted to link to two posts that have helped me this January:

  • First, Eileen Webb’s “Productivity in Terrible Times”: I’m a huge proponent of setting up your physical and digital environments to support your larger goals. Most of us were full of work worries and family drama and existential concerns even in The Beforetimes; now we’ve added on American facism and the literal threat of nuclear war, yet we still expect to get our work done by strength of will alone.
  • and second, Aimée Morrison’s splendid post on how to get stuff done when you’re too panicked about your work to get stuff done, “Two-Hour Blinders”: It goes like this. Me and my list sit down to do a task, maybe for what I know is a short chunk of time (30 minutes between meetings) or what is a more amorphous block (nothing scheduled, working from home in my track pants all day). I open up whatever I’m working on–assessing grad admissions files, say–and start.

    Then: I take myself out of the moment and start to extrapolate. I’ll be reading a file, and start to ruminate so: “Ugh, my eyes hurt, and it’s been 5 minutes and I am still not sure if all the reference letters are here, and I should have looked at this yesterday or last week and there are 10 more to do today, but if I do it at this speed it will take three hours and I don’t have three hours because I have to do that grading and I’ll be tired of assessing things by then but maybe I should be writing now while my brain is fresh but I can’t write now because I’m worried about how many of these files I should read so I should just read them so I can stop worrying but OH! I’M TEACHING A YOGA CLASS TONIGHT so I should prep that, and god I’m a terrible person because now it’s been another five minutes and I’m no farther ahead on this and I think I’ll clear the mental decks by making a status update about almost forgetting yoga because that would be a funny way to reference mindfulness. Ooooh, a link about Twitter and the National Park Service? This is research …”

They’re both great essays, and can help with the new un-normal. Because things aren’t normal this January.

Do you have excellent strategies for coping with uncerta–did the Doomsday clock just get reset?–with uncertainty? Let us know in comments!

Photo “PANIC!” by Flickr user Krysten Newby / Creative Commons BY-ND-2.0

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