Sunday, April 24, 2016

Weekly Check In: Grumpy Spring Edition

With Top Left Quadrant on hiatus (only for another week or two, though), it's time for check-in.

Last Week's Goals

1.  Research:  3x on Secondary Field Project.  1 task other research.

I did not manage 3x.  I think it was more like 1x.  Not good.  Didn't do other task either.  Hard week.

2. Health:  Eating well, taking my supplements, and moderating emotions.

I did eat well mostly, though I also had a donut when they were there.  Mostly great about taking my supplements.  I've managed to get back into a nightly Ben and Jerry's habit that is less than ideal.  I was pretty grumpy this week as well.  Considering how grumpy I was, I did pretty well moderating emotions.

3. Family:  Therapy, family time, and Passover.

I mostly kept up with pushing Spirited's therapy exercises, though last week was cancelled and the therapist didn't tell us, so since we were doing a second week of the same exercises, I wasn't as on top of it.  Since our last appointment, we haven't done the exercises but that's because of Passover, which I think is completely reasonable.  (People around here are very Christian and lack knowledge about Passover, so I feel like any time I educate people on Passover, I'm doing a good thing.  Explaining that Passover is so important that we didn't do the exercises comes under that heading to me.  This is a place where you go to workers in national grocery chains and they've never heard of matzah.  Really.)  I have to get back on top of it today because we have more exercises than we've had in the past.  Oy.  We had a lovely Passover, and Spirited tried nibbles of most of the traditional foods.  We also watched The Peanuts Movie for a family movie night, so I'm feeling pretty good about family time, which is good because I need to start grading today, which usually means disengaging from the family, closing the door, and working instead of hanging out.  So I'm glad we had some special moments.  If I'm organized and not stupid today, I may be able to make matzah brei.  I also managed to get something wonderful and ongoing organized for Spirited, which we're both enjoying a lot.
4. Gardening:  Water the outside plants.  I hope to start some tomato seeds indoors as well.  I really just need to get out there every day because it's so calming.  And we're finally having some decent weather!

Errgh.  Mostly I'm asking Husband to water.  I remember now how hard it is to get that done when I'm trying to leave for work.  I did not get the tomato seeds started, but I realized that it was a multi-stage job (because I had to clean the flats first because, yes, I am the most unclean person in the universe and did not clean them last year).  So I cleaned the flats and now it's just a matter of actually planting the seeds downstairs, which doesn't take long but can be hard to get to.

5. Work: get ahead in my reading, catch up on some email and spreadsheet work, and revise a big report before the onslaught of grading comes in on Friday.

I did get ahead in my reading, though that is an ongoing challenge.  I did catch up on the email and spreadsheet work.  I did NOT revise the big report.  In fact, I've made little progress on it because I was so busy and grumpy.  Now I've got to face the grading as well as the other stuff I have to do AND the report.  Why don't I learn from these situations?

So overall it was a hard week in that I had student conferences filling up every spare on-campus moment.  In addition to that, there was lots of student email conversation, which is normal for the seminars I'm teaching, but was more intense than usual.  And I was pretty grumpy.  I also found out that one thing I worked on a lot last term is now pretty much falling apart (not my fault at all, but disappointing nonetheless) and then I heard about a possible retirement that makes me want to run screaming for the hills.  A group I'm leading is currently entertaining options for our task that make no sense to me, and a non-member of the group is constantly asking me about it and giving me things to read.  A piece of service I used to really value with other leadership is now, under questionable leadership, the most annoying part of my week, and I'm sure I'm looking daggers at everyone because I'm so annoyed at the spectacularly bad leadership.

This upcoming week should be better because the student conferences are over and so I'm not so overscheduled.  I do have some annoying challenging (trying to moderate emotions here) meetings coming up but they should be okay.   Breathe deeply.  Move like water.  I swear that place should buy me weekly massages because the stress of not choking the living shit out of some asshole who desperately needs it is sometimes very acute, leaving my body, especially my shoulders, so tense it's ridiculous. 

Upcoming Week's Goals

1.  Research:  Try to get back to 3x.  Try to engage with or address one big source I've ILLd that must be returned very soon.  Touch Sabbatical application at least once?

2. Health:  Supplements, good food, be kind to self.  Sleep is good, and so is morale.

3. Family:  Therapy exercises!  Keep evenings for family time.

4. Gardening:  Try to get the tomato seeds planted.  Water.

5.  Work:  So I need to commit to a good grading clip, keep up with seminar students, post something on our LMS, get that report revised and send it out for comments, and generally work with a good clip and commitment.  I think I have to allow myself extra coffee as a reward/enticement.

About my attitude:  I've been pretty grumpy.  Why?  Part of it is just the time of year.  I see all my academic friends talking about sprinting to the finish line of their semesters with the imminent reward of summer spread out before them, but my quarter is really just beginning.  It's spring finally, and I want to be outside.  I think I always get grumpy at this point in the year actually.  Then there are things going on on campus that are grumpy-making:  that task I worked on last term falling apart and, though it's not ended yet, it seems all the possible endings are bad; a colleague I like is leaving; possible retirement = GAH and perversely makes me want to work on my sabbatical application; a project I'm leading is not going well and people are bugging me about it while part of me just wants to exit; I still haven't finished that damn report.  And then there's the fact that I really want to be working on my research, specifically Secondary Field Project.  While I recognize that I just have a busy teaching schedule and a lot of service, I am irked by the fact that I can't get any work done.  My overall morale is low because I feel like I can't get to work on this project that feels very urgent and important to me.  What's more, I feel called on to work on this project, like that's what I should be doing with my life right now.  I work at a place that systematically devalues what I do and what I think is important so that feeling of being out of place increases my sense of being angry at the institution.  (Though I know it sounds ridiculous to be mad at an institution for the way I allocate my time, there is a known problem at my place with high workload.  It's one of those thorny issues where everyone knows we need to reduce our workload, but we don't have the money to address it properly.  At the same time, we're now adding a whole new layer of administration, so there'll be less money to address the problem with!  So we just stay overworked on a teaching basis, so people want to do less with service, which is understandable, but in many ways totally irresponsible.  So some of us do a lot of service too.  It's not a surprise to be in this situation.)  What really surprises me out of the whole thing is actually how much I want to work on this project, not the high teaching or service load.   But I want desperately to work on this project.  I can't wait until summer, which is a very bad thing to think when you're not even at midterm yet.

So everyone, move like water, float like mist, and grade like tortoise!  Have a great week!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

TLQ-Style Goals for the Upcoming Week

So Top Left Quadrant is at the end of a session.  Many academics are in their last month or even weeks of the semester.  They can see the finish line and are sprinting toward it.  I envy all of you.  I hate being on the quarter system.  I have a couple more months to go.  MONTHS, I tell you.  (And miles to go before I sleep.)

Top Left Quadrant, for those of you not familiar, is a weekly accountability check-in for session and weekly goals.  I love it.  I look forward to checking in on the weekends.  It really helps keep me focused on MY goals (for research, health, all those things that are so easy to forget about in the heat of teaching).  So, with my apologies to readers who find this deadly dull, I'm going to be TLQing here on my blog until I can convince other TLQers to start up a new session!

Last week was just terrible terrible because almost every moment of each day was scheduled with a meeting, either with students or colleagues.  (The meetings with colleagues are definitely more challenging than the meetings with students, but for me being so overscheduled is very stressful.  Some days, I had to be "on" for 7 hours straight.  It's a wonder I didn't run screaming for the hills.  Scratch that -- I still might.)  Most days this week should be better because I have fewer meetings with colleagues, though a still crazy number of meetings with students.  Cross your fingers.  And toes.  And eyes.

Research has been going okay.  I manage to do 3x a week on my Secondary Field Project, though it's less clear that it leads to the monthly goal of 2y because I don't have any time to look through the 3x work to make sure it's leading to 2y.  Addressing that means making the time for that, but I'm not sure that's a good idea because I'm not sure I really have any more extra time that I can use without stressing myself out from lack of "me" time.  (I love my project, but it actually is challenging at an emotional level, so I don't think of it as "me" time.  "Me" time is watching Poirot or movies I've seen a million times or reading fun books.  I need that time too.)  Perhaps it's better to just wait for the summer and then go back.  (My big lesson from the last TLQ session was that I need to have goals that are reasonable during teaching time.  For example, I've bought several books on managing stress and anxiety, but I do need to commit to engaging in those exercises just like I'd commit to an exercise plan.  Those kinds of commitments to create new habits take a ton of my energy; I've noticed in the past that when I commit to working out, it takes a lot of my daily energy to make sure that I get that done.  I can't just slip it into my regular schedule.  Those big changes are best worked on during non-teaching time.  Perhaps getting the 3x in each week for my Secondary Field Project is just as much as I can do.  And that's okay.  My hope is that setting more reasonable goals for change will reduce my stress as well.)

This Week's Goals

1.  Research:  3x on Secondary Field Project.  There are a bunch of other research things I want to do (scary stuff associated with Forsythia, a little project; sabbatical application; other supportive activities on Secondary Field Project), but this week is likely to be difficult so how about just one task associated with any of the other research-related areas?

2. Health:  Eating well (which means remembering to eat in the face of all those damn appointments and making sure I consume healthy fare instead of lattes and donuts), taking my supplements, and moderating emotions are ever my goals.  I also need to take care of an injury I'm trying to recover from.  If I don't make some considerable effort here, I'm bitchy to all.  Moderating emotions and moving like water are very important here to keeping some lines between work and family as well.

3. Family:  I've learned to really focus here.  While there are tons of things I'd like to do on the family front, I can't.  It's SO hard on me to have to come home and drive some home project forward immediately.  I know because I do it everyday.  My big goal here is to keep on top of Spirited's therapy exercises.  It used to not be my responsibility to keep on top of this, but family morale on this got very low and so I took over.  It's a giant pain in the ass, honestly.  Part of me resents this a bit but I have to admit that for a long time, I mostly checked out of the therapy stuff because I wasn't the one taking Spirited to his regular appointment.  Now, for the good of all (i.e., so Absurdist Husband gets some time off from Spirited and I get some focused time with Spirited), I take Spirited to his regular appointment.  It does make sense for the person who knows most about them to lead the exercises.  Absurdist Husband does a lot, so I can't fault him.  It's just a bad situation.  I've pretty much held off on adding anything else to our family plate (like continuing music lessons or swimming or Cub Scouts for Spirited) until this therapy is done.  So keep on top of therapy is the main goal here.  Making sure to have some nice family time is another goal.  Passover's coming, so that's another big thing that will be happening later in the week.

4. Gardening:  Water the outside plants.  I hope to start some tomato seeds indoors as well.  I really just need to get out there every day because it's so calming.  And we're finally having some decent weather!

5. Work:  Now TLQ is not really for work but supposed to be about all those other things we lose track of because of work.  But I include work because projecting the week's work and dealing with it well is fundamental to my other goals, including health and family.  There are many ways to get work done.  I can be grumpy about it, wait to the last minute, and then torture my family with my need to get it all done right this very second.  Or I can think about it ahead of time, figure out what I'm going to need to do, and schedule and do it with the least amount of stress possible to myself and the family.  In short, I'm a reforming procrastinator who used to use stress to get stuff done.  This approach works a lot better for people with lots more energy than I have or fewer responsibilities overall.  I have been so much better about planning out reasonable amounts and approaches but it takes constant vigilance.  On Friday, I'll be collecting grading from all classes.  I'll need to turn around the smaller, but more intense, stack by the following Wednesday, which means working on that next Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday.  The other two stacks would be great to turn around by the following Friday, though I don't know if that's realistic.  But none of that is this week.  This week, I need to get ahead in my reading, catch up on some email and spreadsheet work, and revise a big report before the onslaught of grading comes in on Friday.

So I hope everyone has a lovely week.  I may blog the insanity throughout the week since I'm trying not to torture Absurdist Husband with tales of work woe and stupidity.  And there's always plenty of that around.  Complaining about it is necessary as we all know.

Move like water, all!