I have exactly eight more classes to teach, a pile of essays to grade, and thirteen final exams to grade before the spring semester — and my first year as a full-time professor — ends. I’ve learned a lot about myself and my working methods this year. I learned that I have a really hard time balancing teaching and my Live Lab duties with my research and personal interests. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve neither read one book this entire school year, nor have I done any papers or editing. I barely stayed afloat as I navigated on-line teaching for the first time, packed for my big move to Texas, unpacked, and bought a house in a state that I barely know. Sure, I had teaching assistants … but I still don’t know how to manage them yet or what jobs they can do to make my life easier. I’ve been an adjunct professor for eleven years and I’m used to doing a huge amount of teaching work by myself. However, as an adjunct I didn’t have service work and I wasn’t required by contract to produce writing and research in my field. This has been the biggest struggle this year: managing my time to do everything I need and want to do … and honestly, I’ve failed miserably.
I’ve had really great weeks when I was able to plow through my “to do” list and get things done for teaching, Live Lab, and other service initiatives, usually at the expense of my own work and personal time. And then I’ve had weeks like this week where everything went wrong and everyone drove me to utter frustration and tears.
When I do have some downtime, I’m so exhausted from the day that I end up sitting in front of the television watching political commentary, which makes me even more anxious and upset. I often spend time in the mornings procrastinating on-line because I don’t want to grade another 70 essays or write another batch of Student Learning Objectives. Sure, we’ve taken Saturdays to unpack or go antique shopping … but I always feel guilty afterwards and it always sets me behind in my work. As I write this I’m torn between working out, dying my hair, and reading for fun, and editing my paper, grading some essays, and working on the SLOs. I know that I’m going to work this weekend, it’s inevitable. But what should I do today? Should I — could I — allow myself a minute to rest and take care of myself? Logically, I know the answer is yes. But …
And there’s the crux of the issue: how to allow myself downtime that’s fun and restful, while accomplishing my goals and getting necessary work done. How do I juggle teaching duties, service duties, AND my own research and writing while having time to do pursue my personal interests. Heck, I’ve been waking up at 5:00 am just to see what I can accomplish! I end up using that time to grade or organize my lectures for the week. This is a topic that has been written about time and again by more seasoned scholars. I know the suggestions, I know the mantras. Why do I resist implementing them into my life? Why do I find all of this so difficult to manage? These are the questions that I need to think about going forward. I need some space and quiet time to come up with a working solution, or I’ll be in the same predicament next semester.