Friday, June 17, 2011

Unstructured Time

You would think that I'd return to my regular writing schedule now that the semester is done (and has been done for a full month).  You would think that, wouldn't you?  Well, you'd be wrong.

I have a secret: I'm no good with unstructured time.  I thrive on deadlines and regular meetings to keep me going.  I would never do an online class because I wouldn't be able to work on it methodically and systematically--I'd either do it in big bursts or wait until the last minute.

This is a problem, however, for an aspiring academic.  See, now (and in the future), I need to be able to work on my own projects/research/writing without someone setting deadlines for me.  I need to be able to sit down and focus everyday on a given task and get it done.  I think it's key to being successful in academia--and key to finishing my degree (and staying in my adviser's good graces).

With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to structure my own time and force myself to stick to some sort of schedule.  The past couple of days I've been working on reading some scholarship and thinking about my Fall course, and tinkering with other tasks, but not in a structured, concentrated way.  I hate feeling unproductive, but I'm having a hard time actually getting much done during my summer days.

Fellow academics, how did you train yourselves to be more disciplined and focus on tasks to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish?


ArkieYogini said...

If I don't have a schedule, it's so hard to get things done. It's important to set your own deadlines, and set a specific period of time each day you're going to work. Once "work" time is over, put your books away and don't think about work until the next day (otherwise, there might be a tendency to work on and off all day long...and you won't get to enjoy your summer). You might do well to work at a coffee shop, in the library, or at the park -- some place that doesn't have your typical home distractions. Sometimes it helps to get dressed up to do work...even if working from home. When I'm having a hard time concentrating on my work-from-home days, I ususally put on some work clothes -- that helps.

Oh...and create some deadlines for yourself...and some rewards each time you meet the deadlines. :)

Donna B. said...

I've written about this summer conundrum frequently ... Every summer, I think. I haven't metered it, but deadlines (by the end of June I'll have my syllabus done, by the end of July I'll have a presentation written) are essential,. I schedule regular half-days away from the office where I just work on that month's project. That way I make progress every week and don't see the project time disappear with administrative matters and general laziness. Having a "work day" was what got me through my dissertation; I started and stopped working on it at a set time each day, and had a pages-per-day goal (I got to stop early if I met it before quitting time). No working in evenings or weekends. My topic was approved in October and I turned in my dissertation the following April. And I didn't feel like I slaved over it.

John Q. Doe said...

I'm not an academic, but I think PeaceCorps volunteers face a similar problem. We're left to fix our own schedule in many of our jobs. So, I have days where I end up doing nothing and regretting it. Other days are filled to the brim with hurry-hurry. For me, I simply make a list of activities I have to complete the next day and then work longer if I feel like it. I find that I structure my day now in the morning based on my to-dos and include a little time to get my life in order before making the next days list.

PS) Jealous of your blueberries.