the grid

the grid

Sunday, 1 August 2021

Summer Session, Week 11: Salves for burnout and reentry

These two things--burnout and reentry--stood out for me from last week’s discussions. The common denominator between them might be something like the “can’t open a document” syndrome. I’ve always been a person who tries to keep fewer than five or six tabs open at once--and I would guess there are some people who would find that excessive. Lately I’m close to 20 tabs open on the notebook because I can’t seem to actually work on anything. So I click from one tab to another, look at them, then click on the next. 

JaneB inspired me moons ago with the idea of sneaking up on your project--don’t plan, don’t decide what to do, just open the document and start working. That works sometimes, but if it worked all the time, I’d only have five tabs open. This week’s prompt asks you for wisdom on any ways to navigate the distance that’s part of both burnout and reentry. What do you do when you can’t get out of your own way? How do you get from here to there?

Consideration of the prompt is, of course, optional. Last week’s goals are posted below so let us know how you did, how you’re doing, where you’re headed.


1) Get vacation organized

2) URGENT Finish last bits of photography, now possible thanks to tech fix

3) Keep reading about new area

4) Add content to paper section outlines

5) Fun lunch with friend

Dame Eleanor Hull

Latin, Greek, Domestic/write, T-reading, Other Reading, class planning, all x4.

File papers, tidy study.

Exercise early, eat carefully, go to bed by 11.

Do two things that will Stay Done, not including Campus Trip Things.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Start converting photocopies of articles to digital copies. 1 hour x 4.

Look for 3 new articles, then trace back through the footnotes for relevant articles.

Check citation indices--not as impressive as in the STEM fields, but often revelatory.

heu mihi

1. Re-enter research and find something to write 2-3 paragraphs about.

2. Catch up on journal work (as always)

3. One run of more than 3 miles

4. Exercise 5 days--this doesn't have to involve running

5. Start reading another academic book


1 overdue academic book review

2 overdue article review

3 creative journal submission

4 page proofs for academic book review

5 submit conference abstract

6 draft two modules for collectively authored online course


- get seeds for chillis, capsicum and eggplant planted

- go to/stream 2 yoga classes

- finish feedback on both pieces of postgrad writing

- one pager on SOTL research and start a reading list

Susan (if returned from vacation)

1. Get to at least 2500 words on this chapter (which is no longer chapter 3 but I don't know what it is)

2. Outline next two sections of self-study, and figure out what we need, maybe talk to colleague to figure out focus

3. Watch training session to prepare for grievance hearing when I get home. (It started at 11 PM my time, so I didn't go in person)

3. Go on vacation!!!


  1. I don;t think my solution to burnout - jettison all leadership responsibilities, go on extended leave in places without reception - is widely applicable! But thinking about the practices that I'm trying carry with me back into the work world after that time, I'm thinking that reducing media inputs, sleeping at a reasonable hours, and trying to stay in the present/leave designated times for planning might help to stop the slip back into burnout mode. We'll see.

    Last week:
    - get seeds for chillis, capsicum and eggplant planted
    Yes, but now I need another heat mat to cater for my optimistic overpurchsing of varieties (but who can resist a chilli called Thunder Mountain and a tomato called Pink Ping Pong Ball?)

    - go to/stream 2 yoga classes
    One yoga class, and one extended family bike ride on a bright clear day.

    - finish feedback on both pieces of postgrad writing
    No, but started. on one, and talked with other postgrad.

    - one pager on SOTL research and start a reading list
    Started, and had a good chat with colleagues that gave me some unexpected but potentially useful lines of lit review research.

    This week:
    -build one week buffer of online content for new class
    -finish postgrad feedback
    -finish one pager, and take notes on two articles
    -hit at least one day of 10 000 steps for team walking challenge, 2 x live or streamed yoga class
    -force child to sit still enough to check sleeve length for knitting, and finish one sleeve

    1. Sleep. Sleep makes everything so much better. And reducing media time is also good.

    2. Onward forward progress! My husband started a garden in late spring and I am enamored with the names of seeds. Especially the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds videos on YouTube--so well written and filmed.

      I like the idea of trying to stay in the present. Something I've tried to be mindful of as I see myself getting distracted.

  2. This topic is unbelievably timely! I've spent the last week (at least) getting in my own way, torn between “summer is ending, get stuff done!” and “summer is ending, enjoy it now!” and really not managing to do either. ☹ It's now much worse b/c I'm leaving Wednesday for a week in FamilyLand, and my usual pre-trip anxiety is ramped up to 11 and if it’s possible to be both paralyzed and thrashing, that’s where I am. I've broken out the Xanax I usually take only for the flight itself, and hope that will allow me to focus on the things I really must do before I leave. I hope others are able to get out of your own way without medication!
    I think this is more “re-entry” than “burnout.” Last week I met with two grad students, live and in-person, and it was lovely. Even I, the introvert’s introvert, am starting to feel like I need more contact with people. But when I got it, it also jazzed me up and discombobulated me. I’m sure I’ll get used to more peopling, but the shift back to it may be a struggle.
    How I Did (this is going to be embarrassing):
    Latin, Greek, Domestic/write, T-reading, Other Reading, class planning, all x4. 1, 1, 4x non-threatening writing-adjacent activity, 0, 2, 1.
    File papers, tidy study. NO.
    Exercise early, eat carefully, go to bed by 11. Yes, yes, x4.
    Do two things that will Stay Done, not including Campus Trip Things. ONE.

    I’m not going to set goals for the coming week. The vague plan is to take care of some Life Stuff before I go, do some work on travel days, and see what happens while I’m actually Elsewhere. There may or may not be time and head space for work. Next week I’ll check in and tell you what I’ve done. I guess you could say my goal is “Roll with the punches.”

    1. It is indeed a stressful time to be traveling! I hope that you have a nice, uneventful time.

    2. Roll with the punches is an excellent strategy for uncertainty situations.

      I am so with you on the introvert-returns-to-peopling issues. I too need contact with people but when I think about how exhausting the first week of classes *normally* is, I can't fathom what return to campus is going to be like.

      Safe and easygoing travels.

  3. Very timely indeed! If we're looking for strategies, I find that listing all the little micro-tasks really helps...but that doesn't help with the existential crisis of WHY am I doing all of this. Well, sometimes it does--if I just get started, I get back into it. But not always.

    I've been experiencing some restlessness surrounding exercise, which I realized happens most summers: I get kind of tired of my running routine, getting up early, etc. So last week I started mixing up my running with some lap swimming, which was GLORIOUS. I don't think I've ever enjoyed lap swimming so much! I hadn't done it in ten years, so it's not like I was in such great swimming shape--but evidently the cardiovascular help that running has given me made a huge difference. So I'm going to keep up that mix for a while--at least until the pool closes in three weeks--and see how I feel this fall.

    Maybe there are equivalent mix-ups that can happen with research, writing, etc.?

    Last week:
    1. Re-enter research and find something to write 2-3 paragraphs about. - DONE; I came up with an abstract for an invited essay (I'm waiting to hear whether they like it) and am planning a conference abstract that would allow me to write a micro section of a possible chapter for my next project. Have done nothing with either of these ideas since.
    2. Catch up on journal work (as always) - Caught up for a little while; now I'm not!
    3. One run of more than 3 miles - Yes
    4. Exercise 5 days--this doesn't have to involve running - Yes: swam twice, ran thrice, went on a hike with my kid
    5. Start reading another academic book - NO

    This week:
    1. Work through draft intro to edited collection; maybe check in with co-author
    2. Read graduate student's chapter
    3. Draft one lecture for fall course
    4. Re-review an article
    5. Exercise as possible and appropriate*; attend a gentle yoga class (virtually)
    6. Do some other research/writing-related activity; perhaps try to get organized about what research/writing-related activities I ought to be doing???

    *I'm getting Round 3 of periodontal surgery tomorrow, so I won't be able to do much for a few days while the stitches heal.

    1. May your pain be as minimal as possible. Surgery involving one's mouth has consequences for eating, talking, and facial expressions.

      Happy to know that small reentry was not traumatizing, and that you're creating a possibility for writing that can serve more than one purpose.

  4. I’ve learned that I don’t have the same sense of organization with Google Docs and I did with MS Word documents--I do everything on a Chromebook now so this has become a real problem. I had an online meeting with an acquisition editor who asked me to draft a proposal for a book idea we discussed, and I decided that I would use a beloved notebook to handwrite notes and lists for that. Then I ended up buying another notebook on a whim because I was easily swayed, it has a cat theme, and I would have ended up buying a Lucky Cat figure one of these days but now don’t need to. So I will use that notebook to try to organize all of the creative stuff: I have done a poor job of keeping track of the drafts I’ve written and left hanging while I moved on to the next thing. These are ways that I hope I can be better organized and clear my head a bit.

    You already know I have too many tabs open. I’m working on that too.

    Last week:
    1 overdue academic book review: nope
    2 overdue article review: yes
    3 creative journal submission: yes
    4 page proofs for academic book review: yes
    5 submit conference abstract: yes
    6 draft two modules for collectively authored online course: not yet

    This week:
    1 overdue academic book review
    2 other (now) overdue academic book review
    3 draft two modules for collectively authored online course
    4 two creative submissions

  5. Hi everyone! Long time no visit... Using a work laptop continually at home plus It Is All Too Much syndrome has delayed my return to the group. I am so burnt out, stressed, facing re-entry issues. I'm struggling to do much of anything - the poor cat is not having his litter tray cleaned often enough, I've had no clean knives for days and was only motivated to load the dishwasher when I realised that it was a bit weird to be spreading nut butter with a fork handle and using a box lid as a plate... and when I opened it now discovered I didn't add any knives to the load, managed to completely fill the cutlery tray with other implements. Maybe there is a knife thief around? If I look at things like the state of the house and the amount of (lack of) movement I've managed this week, I'd think I was really depressed, but I don't feel depressed... just very, very tired!

    On the topic - nice pens, notebooks, anything that slows you down and takes you back to earlier research modes helps me.
    I also discovered that setting your mobile phone or whatever into greyscale mode is FANTASTIC for minimising the addictive lure of the thing - the games don't work as well, and I'm actually able to check twitter or whatever for a few minutes then put it down even when I'm extremely zombified.

    And accepting that we're still in the middle of a crisis (I teach in a climate change related STEM discipline - the last couple of years have been terrifying even without a pandemic, and I can't really turn off the news and actually do my job), being kind to ourselves, and working in small pieces with rests in between (whatever that looks like - between April and June I was doing pretty well at a routine of either doing one song's worth of an exercise routine for Uncoordinated People or dancing/doing a chore for the length of one song every 45-60 minutes, but after my second vaccine I wasn't 100%, then had an aggressive bout of PMS, then dental surgery, and some work issues at the same time, and not surprisingly I did not feel like dancing. At least the tooth issue (and subsequent requirement to wear a denture) has helped cut the worst of the emotional-eating!

    Last week I sneezed unexpectedly (it's a bad allergy year here) and my denture flew out and hit the cat! Which was hilarious, but not ideal. SO looking forward to that happening in class...

    1. JaneB! It's so lovely to see you. I hope your knives are washed, your denture is secure, and your mind is humming (one of the reasons I chose that as a pseudonym). Your stories are delightful. I have had a yearning for new pens and notebooks and will indulge myself on the basis of tools for reentry--thank you for spelling that out for me!

    2. I now have clean knives, which is a start on a return to some kind of domestic order. And a new notebook!

      Love the idea of the brain humming - nice analogy. Mine tends to rocket from flight of the bumblebee to ride of the valkerie via loud earworms with the occasional delightful sojourn on the Kunst Der Fuge or a nice bit of Byrd, which is what it feels like when it actually gets into the grove....