the grid

the grid

Sunday 10 November 2019

Northern Autumn/Southern Spring week 9 (I think)

Hi all,

We are definitely in the season of overwhelm, or what my mother calls the Season Of The Great Too Much (she's usually referring to Christmas shopping and over-consumption in general, but as an academic that also describes my work life at the moment).  Last week Susan asked about handling overwhelm, and I'd like to keep the topic going this week - my question is how do you decide what NOT to do?

I find it very difficult when I'm feeling overwhelmed to decide what is good enough, what can wait until next week, and what I should pick as my top three things for a given day - it's as if all the little voices of the to do list items get so loud I can't think properly or focus on my priorities.  Anyone got any tips or Do Nots?  I know what DOESN'T work is paying attention to the person who is being most demanding that I do THEIR thing, because that trains them that being demanding works (bad move!), because their priorities are very rarely mine, and because being reactive all the time makes me feel more overwhelmed.... 

Dame Eleanor Hull
*daily reading/writing (x5), OR a weekly total of 50 pages read, 1250 words written;
*grade 1500-word essays; check two in-class writing assignments; plan when to give two quizzes;
*daily exercise and stretching (x6);
*keep up with dead languages;
*deal with paperwork.

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
Continue editing 30 minutes a day.
Write a little fiction every day.
Weigh suggestions for special issue.
Do not overwork.
Continue knitting the tree skirt.

1. Finish conference paper and print it out; prepare intros/read abstracts for panel I'm chairing
2. Language x 2
3. Clear out email and niggling service-y tasks
4. Find a book or article that I want to read and that's related to my next project

1 Finish and submit DQ
2 Prepare online conference presentation for next week
3 Read next review book

1) maintain habits (8 items)
2) research - flat project, do SOMETHING. MAYBE
3a) External examining - read a large, large pile of final projects and prepare for a trip to Crowded Capital on the 20th... this has to all be done by the 15th because of family stuff...
3b) prep everything for next week.
3c) Sit down and look seriously at what is to come, and possibly throw self on the mercy of timetabling to ask for a change of some sort, or the mercy of my colleagues, or just... I dunno, cut something. I just. Can't.
4) NaNo. Discuss family stuff with sister, try to finalise the plan for parents wedding anniversary weekend.

OceanGirl101 (carried over from last week)
1. Finish ed vol chapter, all text, ref and figures
2. Emails for summer fieldwork
3. Midterm- construct new one, grade etc.
4. Bills and laundry and the such
5. Meet with xarpenter for new bookshelves in office
6. Exercise x 2

1. Make committees
2. Admin stuff: expense reports, letter, report etc. Maybe clear out email?
3. Re-read Race, think about how to revise
4. Clear desk, which has become a disaster area
5. Keep walking
6. Sleep


  1. Hi All,

    Definitely in the season of too many things. For this week I am jettisoning any thoughts of writing and just focusing on grading, class prep, and getting by. Last weekend was the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. I traveled to AZ to dedicate a bench in her honor at the Botanical Society with her Garden club. Then my nephews and I scattered Mom's, Dad's, and my brother's ashes on a rock peak overlooking the old neighborhood. It was good but hard and will take time to process.

    This week I have painters and carpenters in the house which is sort of the last thing I need. Looking forward to the end of the semester.

    1. Finish ed vol chapter, all text, ref and figures- No, still working on the last figure but text is done!~
    2. Emails for summer fieldwork Yes
    3. Midterm- construct new one, grade etc. Half done
    4. Bills and laundry and the such Yes
    5. Meet with xarpenter for new bookshelves in office Yes
    6. Exercise x 2 Yes
    This week
    1. grade midterm, input all grades etc.
    2. prep classes
    3. two article reviews
    4. read student diss chapter
    5. bills
    6. exercise x 2

    1. Hard to believe it's been a year already. Both of your markers of the occasion sound appropriate and satisfying. As to the carpenters and painters, I also hate having people in the house, but I hope the space will be much nicer when they're done!

  2. What not to do . . . what a good question. I know I'm doing more of some things that I used not to do at all, like having student conferences. When my classes were larger, good practices could be overwhelming and I just didn't have conferences, took longer getting papers back, etc., and now I feel like I'd rather do these things than not do them. But of course they take time. Before there was the Internet to waste time on, I used to binge-read mystery series, so although I could say that I could get some time back by not-reading All The Blogs, it's quite possible that I'd just spend the same time reading something else Not Productive. For almost two months now, I've put off finishing the sort/file/toss project currently occupying most of the guest bed, so I guess you could say I chose not to do that. My house/life energy has gone to other things, like cooking. My study is now messy enough that I'm getting urges to tidy it up, partly so there will be room to set up my light box. But I fear the task ballooning into something much bigger than just clearing one area, so I don't start. Sigh.

    How I did:
    *daily reading/writing (x5), OR a weekly total of 50 pages read, 1250 words written: YES, close enough: notes on reading, and some tinkering with the Latin translation that's working toward a conference abstract.
    *grade 1500-word essays; check two in-class writing assignments; plan when to give two quizzes: YES, YES, ONE, and will discuss with the other class when to have #2.
    *daily exercise and stretching (x6): x4 cardio, x7 stretching. GOOD ENOUGH.
    *keep up with dead languages: YES.
    *deal with paperwork: NO.

    I'm in a grading lull this week, so it would be a good time to make headway on either research or tidying/hunkering down for the winter. But I can't quite believe it's safe to start; I feel like some forgotten Urgent Task is going to attack me if I allow myself to get into a Space of Thought.

    1. New goals:
      *finish long overdue R&R; progress on abstract;
      *write two quizzes;
      *daily exercise and stretching (x6);
      *keep up with dead languages;
      *deal with paperwork.

    2. Another thing I did last week was take two required "training" courses at work, about an hour each. Stupid wastes of time, but it's good to have them over with.

  3. Topic: I agree with JaneB that letting the squeaky wheel set one's priorities is a bad idea on all the levels she mentions. How do I deal with overwhelm? While it doesn't solve all of it, I try very hard to set my top three priorities every day, and start with those first thing. Then I will take the time to address the needs of those squeaky wheels.

    It is really difficult when the powers that be have goals that contravene one's personal goals or interests. For example, I was required to do some mandatory training that was frankly a ludicrous waste of time. One was how to read hazardous waste placards displayed on trucks. Hmm, I'm an academic librarian - - I don't even have ballpoint pens on my desk, a holdover from having been a rare books librarian. Then there was how to keep children safe in a lab setting. Again, I have no lab, and no one under 18 comes within yards of my cubicle. Go figure.

    Last week’s goals:
    Continue editing 30 minutes a day. Yes, x7.
    Write a little fiction every day. Yes.
    Weigh suggestions for special issue. Yes.
    Do not overwork. Yes.
    Start knitting the tree skirt. Yes.

    Analysis: To be honest, this past week, I have happily slowed to a crawl on tasks that don't meet any of my goals, but that is only because I am in this strange limbo, since my meeting with the Dean is Thursday. I will ask about whether I will be allowed to take classes, and will try to be obsequious enough to be allowed. I hope it will have a good outcome. I finished the academic writing boot camp, and have kept up the practice, and hope to keep it up.

    Next week’s goals:
    Finish packing my cubicle.
    Continue editing Prudence 30 minutes a day.
    Write a little fiction every day.
    Contact my co-editor about next steps.
    Contact my advisor.
    Go through Interlibrary Loan books.
    Knit the tree skirt every day.
    Knit socks every day.

    We have snow in upstate New York. Thank goodness for fireplaces. Float like mist, everyone.