Last year, I was a lecturer (full time, non t-t position) at Private University and a graduate teaching fellow at Public University. I was pretty scheduled and as a result made very little progress on my oral exam lists (step leading to proposal).
My committee was very understanding and they believed that the job was important for me professionally, that I should take it and do what I could. “If you have to slow down, ” they said, “this job is a good reason to.” And it is; I am asked to participate more fully in an academic department, advise student groups, weigh in on decisions and attend faculty meetings. It is a learning experience adding professional polish to my skill set.
This year, I am no longer a teaching fellow and am instead to work with writing across the curriculum initiatives — which I surmise is not a bad skill to possess. I will, however, remain as a lecturer at Private University. At the start of the summer, after coming off a year where my load was 6/5, I was gleeful about the time to research. Here’s what that turned into: I was so exhausted by June that I took the whole month as a vacation. During July, I taught two courses. But! I also did a lot of research during July and August, having rested so fully in June. Thankfully, I can say that I accomplished goals.
I kept hoping that this semester would feel ‘light’ to me. Teaching 3 courses instead of 5 and having some phone-in work on another campus as a writing initiative fellow. Wrong. Having written out my schedule (I usually make a table in word each semester so I can see my availability and commitments), I realize that I’m pretty well scheduled. Suddenly, I felt my daydreams of long, uninterrupted periods of research and writing time evaporate. That’s what they were, daydreams. In Large, Overbearing City, campus-hopping means public transit. Public transit = the death of time.
From this, I am determined to learn the following: short of some future sabbatical during my career, I will not find such ‘uninterrupted’ time in my academic schedule. So, I have realized the need to follow all of the self-help academic advice that is wonderfully prolific these days.
1) Overburdened by a full schedule? Then redraw the line. Paul Silvia says schedule the time you need to do your work and guard it fiercely.
2) Keep the log book. How many pages/chapters read? How many pages written? I have to turn this into something with Swiss-watch precision and hopefully, a competition with myself.
3) When in doubt, write about it. As Joan Bolker explains to us, process everything through writing. Be stuck while writing. Be confused while writing. Think while writing. Reflect while writing. And the list goes on. More writing, whether hugely academic or not, is better than no writing.
4) Broadcast goals so that if I fail to meet them, many people are aware. To Do: Dissertation recommends writing regular reports for friends who are willing to play along as well as for your advisor/director. Detail for them goals, progress, hurdles, failures. Do this each month.
5) Learn to say ‘no,’ and mean it. Faye Hicks tells a story about the importance of turning down requests that are not hugely important to your career.
At the end of the day, I can bemoan my commitments to everyone who will listen, or, I can recognize that this is very likely the way the rest of my career will look and that a good dissertation is a finished dissertation.