Summer is winding down. It is hard to miss the feeling of back to school even if you are, like me, no longer actually impacted by the start of a new semester. I won’t be attending or teaching courses this semester but old habits die hard. So, as a new school year starts I mentally prepare myself for evaluation.
Have I accomplished all that I set out to accomplish during the summer “break”? Well, no. Part of the problem is that I always over-ambition and under-achieve. My plan to write two chapters of my dissertation and send something out for publication failed. It was definitely over-ambitious considering I also moved across the country and went on a two week vacation this summer. I also got a part time job to give purpose to my life besides research and housework.
It seems that I spent my summer neither taking a break nor catching up. I spent it productively avoiding writing. I read a lot, a favorite trick of scholars everywhere. I took on side projects that were tangentially, but not really, related to my dissertation research. I looked for networking opportunities. When all this became too much I took a vacation.
As I attempt to convert my guilt into motivation, I wonder if I need to re-imagine productivity. I spend a lot of time worrying that I am not being productive enough fast enough. I dread the question, “how much longer ’til you finish?”. My parents never fail to ask if I am done with my “paper” (dissertation) yet. I am so afraid that I will accidentally end up spending decades on my PhD that I forget that it isn’t a race.
This may just be a justification for my inevitable procrastination but my new academic year’s resolution is to take it slow. Rather than emphasize deliverables, I am going to focus on learning. This means learning about my given topic (statelessness), even if I start to veer from the core of the issue. It also means learning what my peers and colleagues are working on, even if it is beyond my field. I will no longer feel guilty for “wasting” time learning about current events or reading for fun.
Of course, I still need to be productive in the traditional sense. But, I hope, that by slowing down and focusing on the process and not the product I will actually find writing less stressful. Hopefully, by the end of the next academic season (December) I will have more motivation than guilt.
What are your new academic year’s resolutions?