I used to subscribe to Men’s Health. Soon after each issue arrived, I’d go over the diet, exercise, and lifestyle tips looking for anything I thought would make it easier to handle my expanding waistline and approaching middle age. At first, it was fun to sit on the couch and dog-ear useful pages. It wasn’t long, though, until I was becoming less aware of what would help me live a better life and more aware of what I wasn’t doing.
I had more questions than answers. Was it protein I was supposed to eat soon after a workout to increase the benefits of exercise? And what counted as “soon”? Thirty minutes? Sixty? Ninety? And was it free weights or machines that were best for someone at my age and activity level? Was I supposed to change workouts every six weeks or six months? And which apples were the healthiest to have with lunch? Golden Delicious or Granny Smith? A chant started growing in my head: “You’re screwing it up, you’re screwing it up, you’re screwing it up.”
It’s extremely easy to focus on what we could be doing to make our lives easier. We would have to sit alone in silence in the dark to avoid encountering advice on how we can make our lives better, whether it’s a story on the local news, CNN, Oprah, NPR, Google News, or something atop the New York Times bestseller lists. The fact is that we want to do things more easily and effectively, but we can’t expect ourselves to get it right all the time (even if we could figure what what exactly counts as “right”).
At Prof. Hacker, each writer offers her or his particular perspective on how we handle different aspects of life in academia. We hope readers find strategies that speak to their particular situations, but we know that not everything will appeal to everyone. It can’t and shouldn’t. And even things that some PH writers swear by do not necessarily work for the rest of the group. Some of us couldn’t live without Dropbox, but my flash drive works best for me. I would be lost without a timer, and others don’t even own one. Frankly, after we’ve been around awhile, I bet some of us will be revisiting some of our earlier posts and revising them in ways that take into account new events, ideas, and situations.
It’s good now and then to stop and ask yourself if there are things you could do that would make your life more productive, but it’s also good to remember that you’ve probably been getting a lot of things right already. If you find yourself reading a post on Prof. Hacker and staring to worry about how you could fit that perspective, pedagogical technique, or technology tool into you life, it might be best to move to another post. If you find an idea that really appeals to you but that you can’t see implementing at this point in your career, bookmark that entry and come back to it later. We hope you’ll subscribe to our RSS feed and come back to our site regularly, and we really hope you’ll let us know what you think, too. We have a lot we can learn from each other.
My partner subscribed to Men’s Health soon after my subscription lapsed, and I pick it up now and then. Sometimes there’s a workout routine or recipe that catches my eye. But if I start obsessing too much about what I should be doing or eating or drinking or whatever, I remind myself to slow down. Maybe I don’t eat the right amount of protein within the right time frame after a workout, but at least I worked out. And maybe last night’s dinner didn’t have the perfect balance of carbs, fats, and proteins, but it was sure better than what I could have picked up in a drive-thru on the way home.
Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses and seize the day and just relax now and then. That’s something that will just about always help you live a better life.
(The photo for this entry is from Flickr user timsamoff and is licensed through Creative Commons.)