Not Dead Yet

Just utterly tyrannized by the to do list. Once the grading and the thesis drafts are out of the way, there are classes to prepare for, a grant proposal to be written, and a 15-minute presentation to be carved out of a 40-page chapter. Plus a journal peer review, a dissertation report, and a tenure review. And then there’s that little book project of mine with the looming deadline.

All of which is to say that once some of the small urgent stuff gets out of my way, and I can pay attention to the bigger important stuff, I’ll hope to have thoughts worth writing about, not to mention a moment in which to write them.

Deadlines

Here’s where I’ve been, and where I’ll continue to be for a bit yet:

  • Due early last week: invites to speakers for spring symposium; completed.
  • Due late last week: a chunk of grading for both of my classes; completed. (At least until the next chunk of grading, which is coming due soon.)
  • Due last Friday: a response to a set of reviews of my book (coming soon to a blog post near you); completed.
  • Due Monday: my assigned chunks of a big grant narrative being jointly written with some colleagues; completed (but the entire thing will need some putting together and polish yet).
  • Due Monday: a big, high-stakes internal proposal on behalf of my program; completed (though may need revision).
  • Due Monday: student letter of recommendation number 1; completed.
  • Due Monday: book review for new online publication (about which more later); still reading the book.
  • Due next week: student letters of recommendation numbers 2 and 3; not yet begun.
  • Due by the end of next week: a very significant review letter for a colleague at another institution; reading in progress but writing not yet begun.
  • Due week after next: a letter of recommendation for a former student applying for a grant; not even on the radar screen yet.
  • Due sometime very shortly after that: a peer review for a journal; barely even on the list of priorites at the moment.

And this of course does not even begin to account for little things like, say, preparing to teach my classes tomorrow, or doing the reading I need to get done for a small research colloquium I’m participating in.

I’m going back under. See you when I next get to breathe.

It’s a Draft!

A bouncing baby draft, and not a moment too soon.

I’ve got a long list of other tasks that need doing, a list that has had me feeling increasingly anxious over the last couple of weeks. Perhaps I’m a little slow on the uptake, but it took the launch of Merlin Mann’s Back to GTD series to make me realize that some degree of that anxiety was being produced by the incompleteness of the list itself, by the fact that I’d remember in the middle of the night that I still need to buy a new filter for my air conditioner, and that the deadline for having my car smogged is creeping up without my having done anything about it. So I’ve spent part of the last couple of days attempting to do something like a mind-sweep, getting everything that needs to be done down on my list.

And something about having that list in full, and consulting the list frequently at moments when I’m between tasks, has calmed me down and helped me figure out how I can accomplish something, even though I’ve only got twenty minutes to do so. And somehow clearing all that stuff out of my head made space for me to finish a draft of that article, which was the most pressing, most looming task on the list.

Now revision. And a long list of other stuff.

Managed and Unmanaged

Managed this week:

— Have made significant headway on article, via intensive half-hour morning sessions, and whatever little bits of time I want to add to those. Now have twelve pages worth of text, of which the first five are pretty well fleshed-out and not totally sucky, and the next five are fairly sketched-in, if riddled with bracketed notes to self.
— Reviewed two manuscripts for journals, wrote reports, and got them back in well ahead of schedule.
— Wrote proposal for essay solicited for on-line collection.
— Laid out somewhat reasonable outline for one of two courses for fall.

Yet unmanaged:

— Must finish the article I’m working on, PDQ.
— Must quickly write essay solicited for on-line collection, due in about a month.
— Must obtain permissions for material to be quoted in essay solicited for online collection.
— Must draft article, due in late August, that will provide the substance of a talk to be given twice in October.
— Must write brief position paper for conference in late October.
— Must finish laying out syllabus for partially-designed class for fall.
— Must design second fall class, and lay out syllabus.
— Must order books for both classes, before August 1, to avoid finger-wag from bookstore.
— Must come up with non-tedious things to write about here, so as not to completely alienate readers of blog.

Things I Really Ought to Get Done Today

— Finish the index, already, which is already four days overdue and still 80 pages from complete.
— Call the cable company to make sure we’ve got HBO in time for Sunday’s big events.
— Find a suitable business establishment through which I can have a few grooming services taken care of, and make an appointment therefor.
— Go to the post office to re-mail the box that was sent to my tenant, care of me, that the post office at home decided must really actually be for me, and so forwarded.
— Go to the grocery store, such that there are ingredients in the house with which to prepare some reasonable meals.
— Finish unpacking my suitcase, and put it away, luxuriating in the fact that I have no traveling to do for at least five weeks.
— Go exercise, so as to feel like less of a slug.

What am I actually likely to accomplish from this list today?

I might call the cable company. And I’ll make it some pages down the road on the index. But I’ll be surprised if anything actually gets crossed off today.

Sigh.

Almost

Not too much left:

One job talk.
One committee meeting.
One literary interpretation final paper.
Eight new media final projects.
Two senior theses.
One revised curricular document.
Two letters of recommendation.

And, last but not least:

Pack and ship a semester’s worth of belongings.

In 48 hours. Here we go.

[UPDATED, 12.15.05, 12.46 pm. Forgot to include the conference paper proposal that was due today. Which is now done as well.]

Counting Down

Before my sabbatical can begin, I must:

— Attend three committee meetings.
— Have one meeting with a program administrator.
— Eat lunch with the dean.
— Go to two job talks.
— Grade sixteen literary interpretation final papers.
— Grade twenty new media final projects.
— Grade sixteen graduate term papers.
— Grade two senior theses.
— Revise a curricular document.
— Write two letters of recommendation.
— Pack and ship a semester’s worth of belongings.

I’ve got six days. Any bets on whether it all gets done?

T Minus Fourteen Days

  • Three teaching days.
  • Five class sessions.
  • One session of office hours.
  • Two committee meetings.
  • One meeting with a program administrator.
  • Two lunches with deans.
  • One department meeting.
  • One program meeting.
  • Four job candidate campus visits.
  • Thirteen rough drafts of graduate term papers.
  • Sixteen final literary interpretation papers.
  • Twenty-five final new media projects.
  • Sixteen final graduate term papers.
  • One senior thesis draft.
  • Two final senior theses.

Oh, yes — and:

  • Clean the house.
  • Pack a semester’s worth of belongings.
  • Ship a semester’s worth of belongings.

Other than that, just cooling my heels.

Ticker, Still Ticking

Remaining:

  • Four teaching days.
  • Seven class sessions.
  • One session of office hours.
  • Three committee meetings.
  • Two meetings with a program administrator.
  • One department dinner.
  • One faculty meeting (which may be extended to two, but who’s counting).
  • One graduate student conference.
  • One curriculum revision meeting.
  • Four job candidate campus visits.
  • Sixteen rough drafts of graduate term papers.
  • Sixteen final literary interpretation papers.
  • Twenty-five final new media projects.
  • Sixteen final graduate term papers.
  • One senior thesis draft.
  • Two final senior theses.

This list is not getting shorter at quite the rate I’d like. Certainly not as quickly as the number of days to get it done is declining…

The Ticker

Certainly this is more for my benefit than for yours, but here’s what now remains before the sabbatical begins:

  • Seven teaching days.
  • Twelve class sessions.
  • Three sessions of office hours.
  • Four committee meetings.
  • Four meetings with a program administrator.
  • Two department dinners.
  • One set of Ph.D. orals.
  • One faculty forum.
  • One faculty meeting.
  • One graduate student conference.
  • One curriculum revision meetings.
  • Nine job candidate campus visits.
  • Twenty-five rough drafts of final new media projects.
  • Sixteen rough drafts of graduate term papers.
  • Sixteen final literary interpretation papers.
  • Twenty-five final new media projects.
  • Sixteen final graduate term papers.
  • One senior thesis draft.
  • Two final senior theses.

That, and a bunch of packing, in the next month. That is what stands between me and freedom. Looking at it like that makes it seem a miniscule barrier, one easily gotten over. But ask me again in a couple of weeks how I’m feeling about it…