My So-Called Academic Life

How You Doin’?

As you can imagine, January was a crazy, exciting, frustrating, and challenging month for me. Not only have I been getting used to living in a new state that is politically and culturally different than New York, but I’ve also been getting used to being a full-time faculty member. Sure, I was an adjunct for the past twelve years — sometimes teaching four classes at three different schools — but the workload and expectations of being full-time (and not tenured) are completely different. I’m still creating and organizing lectures, teaching, mentoring, and grading; however, I’m also required to work in the Live Lab as an Art History consultant, get involved on campus, find ways to make my department “better,” and pursue my own research … yes, and that means publish. I’ve already had trouble juggling everything that I was doing. Now, I’m finding it nearly impossible to keep working the way I always have: at the last minute and into the wee hours of the morning. There are too many moving parts and too many looming deadlines to work like a grad student.

And this is my current dilemma. I still have trouble getting up in the morning and I find it impossible to go to sleep before 11:00. The mornings are my busiest times and quite frankly, they are also the times that I get a lot done. I tend to work well from 9:00 am until 1:00 pm, and then again from 4:00 until 8:00 pm or later. It’s a good thing that I’m teaching from 1:50-2:40 because it really rejuvenates and inspires me … plus it’s during my least productive time. My teaching certainly doesn’t suffer because of this, rather it allows me to do what I adore: be in the classroom teaching what love to students who are hell bent on asking difficult questions and having a discussion. Instead of falling asleep at my desk, teaching during this time recharges my batteries.

However, the hours I just stated aren’t enough for me to get everything done. Live Lab eats up a good portion of my time on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and my afternoons have been spent on departmental work or getting lectures together. I have a pile of grading to get done and I still need to tackle the two essays that need to be edited — or rewritten — and sent out for peer review and possible publication. And as co-editor of an academic journal, I’ve been working with my fellow editor to build our next issue. I’ve been working on Sundays and late into the evenings just to keep my head above water. Forget working out!

Ideally, I would love to be one of those people who goes to bed at 10:00 and wakes up at 6:00, refreshed and ready to go. I want to be the type of person who reads first thing in the morning and then works out before heading to school. I want to be able to work on my research and writing on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and grade in the afternoons. Most importantly, I don’t want to keep working on Sundays, unless it’s crunch time or I want to write some more.

I know many of you reading this are saying to yourself, “I have to wake up at 5:00 am or earlier! I do it. Suck it up. You’re privilege is showing.” Well, put it into perspective: on any given day I start working around 9:00 and will go without a lunch break until dinner, which is always around 8:00 pm. Then I’ll get in another few hours. I can easily do 10-15 hour work days without thinking about it. This is what needs to stop. I’d like time to work out and be social for a change. As it stands now, I only have one full day off — Saturday — and I’ve been using it to do chores and unpack. Something needs to give.

I’ve been reading articles about “training yourself” to wake up early and be a morning person. I wonder if it’s possible to train my body and mind to really enjoy mornings. I wonder if I can get to bed by 10:00 so that I can accomplish all of my goals. I wonder …

13 thoughts on “How You Doin’?”

  1. Oh goodness. Anyone who tells you to suck it up….tell them to suck off. Seriously. I get wanting to get on a different “better” schedule for what you need to get done, but everyone works differently. I will say that I would recommend taking baby steps to adjust your wake/sleep schedule, which I’m sure you’ve already considered. I will simply say, as a person that has HAD to adjust from being a night owl to a sort-of morning person (I’m not cheery or even fully functional exactly, but I’m awake and doing the stuff – it counts), trying to change too much too fast results in nasty days for everyone involved.
    Your days sound busy and productive. I hope that whatever you decide to do, it works for you and you don’t suffer too much during the transition.
    Good luck!

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    1. The earliest I’ve been able to manage is 6:30, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. I’ve been getting to the office around 8:00 and working around 8:30-9:00. Some days I just can’t do it. Other days I’m at school from 8:00 am until 9:00 pm getting stuff done. It’s been working. 🙂

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  2. I would never advise any one to suck it up. Everything sounds gruelling, but amazing what we can do when need to. Believe I’ve done it I failed badly. I’m sure everything will come together in time. I’ll say as I always do your energy and drive are phenomenal. I hope you find the balance. Sending you my love

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  3. Oh Holy Bat Poo! When I started as a professor, I had this dream of Dead Poets Society and Mr. Keating (even though that was a prep school but whatever)… he had that little office and a little tea kettle that was so quaint and adorable. So I bought myself a tea kettle for my office because I’m dorky like that. Now TEN YEARS later, I’ve used it maybe a half dozen times because there are no bathroom breaks or lunch breaks or cute tea kettle breaks in academia. No one ever tells you that in orientation. We have a culture on campus that when a student sees you in the hall or entering the bathroom, they suddenly call a meeting in a “Perfect! I was just thinking about emailing you for an appointment but now you’re going to take the first bathroom break you’ve had in six hours so I’m going to ask about this essay idea” Sigh.

    I get up at 4:30 and it’s bullshit. I don’t talk about it being bullshit because I don’t want to internalize my crazy 6 hour commute! You remember that… jumping place to place. I go to one place and one way it takes 3 hours. That isn’t a badge of honor; that means there is something wrong with me. As I write this, it’s after my bedtime. My own parents have a later bedtime! Be the best YOU! Go by YOUR own rules. You know your body best. Geez, I’m starting to sound like I’ve been drinking the advice of the Curious Professor Z ;D

    You’re doing great! (now go say that in the mirror five times!)

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    1. Oh god, that’s the one thing I really, truly don’t miss: my crazy commute(s). I can completely sympathize with that! Hey, I have a tea kettle in my office … but that’s because I think it’s ridiculous to pay for hot water for my tea and instant soup. HA!

      Drinking the advice of the Curious Prof Z … hehehe. And thank you.

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  4. Oh boy, being a professor sounds even worse in the US than in Germany! I’m glad that I’m not driven enough to become one! I work 8.30 to 5 or 6 and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I was working overtime every day in my old job. Which lead to a breakdown. I’m not made for that much pressure. And when I quit my job (or rather, my timed contract ran out and I had another job in line) my former boss had the balls not to thank me but to demand that I finish some stuff for her. No one thanks you for your effort. Everyone is annoyed if you don’t suck it up and do stuff all the time but please:

    You are more than that. You are more than your scientific c.v.. You are a kind and great person, even if you are not always up to date in every part of your lectures. You are loved. And everyone else struggles just as much as you… *hugs*

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  5. I just realized I hadn’t seen you on Twitter in a while since your move. Now I understand why! Wishing strength and stamina for you, and a path to better balance.

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    1. Yeah, I also got off Twitter because the constant political outrage was really eating away at me. I’m informed. I’m active. But I also need to turn it off and look at funny videos or do something else in order to keep my sanity. Twitter was too constant.

      Thank you!

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      1. Oops guess I can’t use a WordPress log-in because it will connect weirdly. isudigihist doesn’t even exist any more! Anyway, I understand about negativity and politics on Twitter. Facebook has been that way recently also. Luckily there I have positive friends and groups, and lots of cute cat videos 🙂

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