So I’m sitting here this morning, trying to organize my to-do list, and in the next couple of weeks I have three applications for funding to complete (and by “complete” I mean “compose from scratch”, though it is true that once I do one then the others will be modifications of that “master” application) and one conference abstract to submit (which is connected to the funding applications). On the one hand, this is energizing work. On the other hand, it is also the case that this week GRADING begins in earnest in my courses, plus I have regular course prep to do, plus I have Major Department Committee Activities that I need to switch into high gear.
And none of this connects to finishing my book manuscript, which has been stalled at the 65%-75% “done” place for about 4 months (and which, annoyingly, people keep asking me about my progress toward finishing).
I suppose all of this is to say that I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed, and I’m feeling a lot like I need to set some priorities. The thing that I’m thinking about, though, is the way that external deadlines both help and hinder that priority-setting.
On the one hand, external deadlines are really necessary to my productivity. I’m a very deadline-oriented person, and I find that the pressure of external deadlines is (mostly) a positive influence on me getting stuff done. On the other, external deadlines also interfere with my ability to prioritize what is really most important to me, work-wise, and it stresses me out when external stuff takes precedence over my own idea of what is most important.
Now, you might ask, do you really “have” to do all of these applications? A Potential Beau asked me a version of that question Friday, in the way that non-academics ask such questions, which usually translates into “Do you get paid for all of this stuff you’re doing? Is it part of your job, or is it just you pursuing what you’re interested in?” I always find myself at somewhat of a loss when people ask that sort of question, because the answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, I could choose not to do any of this stuff, and if I made that choice, I would still have a job. On the other, if I did that I would not really be “doing” my profession completely (at least as I conceive of what that “doing” means.)
So I guess the answer simply is that I’m doing this to myself – I’ve got all of these projects that are in various states of Not Being Finished, and what I really need to do is to proceed step by step and to finish each one methodically before I take on anything else new. Kind of like how every now and then you need to refuse to go to the grocery store and force yourself to eat what is already in the house to empty out the cabinets and fridge. Or kind of like how you have to forbid yourself from buying new yarn until you’ve exhausted (or at least made a dent in) the yarn you already have in your stash.
And I know from experience that I have the power deliberately to move through my list of projects and deadlines and to cross them off the list. Indeed, just because of the external deadlines, 4 of these things will be done by Oct. 7. So I just need to stop feeling overwhelmed and push myself to do each of the things in order.
I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….