Summer Guilt and Resolutions

back to school 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.

slow downAs 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?

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2 thoughts on “Summer Guilt and Resolutions

  1. Anne— thanks for the post. I’ve recently had several conversations with people about slowing down. Whether you are a grad student or lawyer or whatever, we all seem to be concerned about getting enough done and about doing it as quickly as possible. Culturally, we are oriented both toward goals and toward proving our productivity to ourselves and others (perhaps leftover bits of the protestant ethic?). I’m not sure if this orientation is particularly American, something to attribute to social and economic status, or something particular to our generation. Either way, thanks for the reminder to slow down and enjoy the ride.

  2. I think for me, the pressure to hurry and write and finish comes from the feeling that I should be a “productive” member of society. I should be making money and starting a career but instead I am in this middle place that is not quite school and not quite work. But I have this feeling that my social and economic status means that I will work well past 65 and so have many decades of productivity ahead of me and can afford to slow down a bit in the present.

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