Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Post 5: Love/Hate Relationship with Time (Management)

So there are days, and then there are days.

In the last post that I wrote I mentioned being strict with my time, and setting boundaries around how I use and conceive of the time I have, as a means of getting me to a productive work space. Well, sometimes that works, but sometimes that doesn't.

Disconnecting myself from the internet is a great way to set up myself up against distraction. Can't click if it's not there, kind of thing. It's incredibly easy to self-distract when you're your main boss. A number of colleagues have talked about thinking of their graduate work like this (usually very fun, stimulating, exciting, liberating, luxurious) time is your day-job, albeit minus the structure, and treating it as a 9-5 is one of the best ways to make sure that you continue to get work done.

Sometimes I find it difficult to prioritize my thesis work, when I feel like there are any number of experience-building and enriching activities at my fingertips -- and it feels strange to see those things as separate from my work as a whole, which includes shaping the person I am. Part of this includes TA-ing, and learning how to teach students, which, as I've gained skills to help manage my nerves and panic around public speaking, I've found to be very rewarding. Some of this might also include extracurriculars like sitting on committees, as I did in the fall, where I helped select recipients of the university-wide faculty and sessional teaching awards (a task that took many more hours and was way more fun than I could have imagined). My department hosts bi-weekly seminars, and making the time for those can be very fun and engaging—a great time to see briefly the people and colleagues that help make this process less isolating. This afternoon we also have visits beginning with candidates being considered for the Dean of Social Sciences.

                           Super cool -- a kind of moss, I think? (I'm not that familiar with a lot of
                           ground growing things, but can certainly appreciate their beauty! :)

As an undergraduate student, you can get involved in clubs, have a lively, thriving social scene on and strongly linked to campus, and you can by and large focus solely on your school work. My impression of graduate school, however, has shifted to include all sorts of aspects of the administration and functioning of the university that you just don't get to see (or at least I did not) as an undergrad. What's the difference between a tenured faculty, an assistant professor, an associated or adjunct professor, and a sessional instructor? None of these things mattered to me in undergrad; they are certainly beginning to matter to me as a graduate student. What's a TA for? What are their roles and how are their responsibilities negotiated? What are their working conditions and how are they valued? How much do they get paid, and what goes into union negotiating?

As an undergrad, I went to class, I went to the library, I wrote my papers and short stories and that was it. Now, there is a whole world of academic politics, policies, and functioning that opens up, and it's hard to keep my fingers out of these activities when I care about the people I work with and the conditions under which we work, and being a contributing, meaningful member of this community...

...and then balancing that out with the rest of my work week.

So. Choosing one or two or three things per semester to put some energy into is a good idea. There's also a big difference between one-off events (like meeting candidates for the Dean of Social Sciences), and ongoing events, so make sure to prioritize!

As for me, I'll be attending a number of the bi-weekly seminars, selectively choosing the one-off events, TA-ing, and aside from the significant commitment of conference organizing for CONFORWest 2014, I will leave my plate open for prioritizing my work, and focusing on structuring those times where I can just burn through an hour of one of my audio files. I AM ALMOST DONE TRANSCRIBING!! (And keep setting small goals like this to keep going.)

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