New Semester’s Resolutions

For most academics the new year starts in late August, if you’re lucky maybe early September. That’s the time when you have new hopes for your classes, and your students, and maybe even some projects you hope to accomplish.

But like most academics, I think, I also get to start afresh in January before the spring semester, and in May before the summer “semester mostly without students.” I start each of these semesters with new goals, but my goals around now, when other people are putting together resolutions about weight loss and saving money, are a little different. Okay, okay, lots of people resolve to be happier, let go, accept themselves, live in the moment, etc…. Those are all perfectly worthy and even inspiring resolutions. But, this blog is about academic work and motherhood, and in my case it’s the work that suffers. So my resolution is going to be about work.

I write a list. I love lists. What academic and/or mother doesn’t love lists? How could you possibly keep all that information in your head without lists?

Every day I have a to do list of things I want to accomplish that day. Not surprising I don’t get through all of them. Then the things I don’t accomplish get shifted to the next day. This leaves me with a very long list by the end of the week and me a little frazzled. Some of them are domestic- vet appointment for the dog, fix broken toys, balance checkbook, send belated Christmas cards. Others are school related- revise syllabi, contact students about their internships, revise program handbooks, and send a long list of committee related emails (yuck). Then of course there’s my research- I have some revisions on one article, and two conference papers coming up.

If I don’t get all that done today, it gets shifted to tomorrow, where there’s an equally long list. Over and over again my research, my book, my writing, gets shifted to the next day, and the next, and the next. I do my research work in small bursts on those days when I get through my list and I’m still seeing straight.

When I was in graduate school I got through my lists. Partly because I didn’t have the same level of committee, advising and teaching commitments, but mostly because I didn’t have kids. If I needed to work until 2 or 3am finishing a chapter- fine. I don’t think I can last much past 10pm anymore (voluntarily at least). I wouldn’t go back to those days for anything, BUT I need to figure out a way to get all my work done (more than I had in graduate school) in no more than 8 hours a day.

So, my New Year (New Semester) Resolution is to prioritize the long term projects. Easier said than done.

I’ve tried making short term (ie daily writing goals) but that didn’t work for long. I’ve tried putting aside a day to do research (it got taken up by other more pressing things). I’ve tried using the late night (after kid’s asleep) to do an hour or work before bed (the work is then terrible). The only thing that has worked has been to actually NOT do other things on my list.

So my method of attaining my resolution is to NOT DO THINGS. Will my students survive? Absolutely! Will the committee survive? Of course (no one likes getting the emails anyway). Will my family survive? Who am I kidding? I’ll keep doing things with and for my family 🙂 But maybe if I prioritize an hour of research at the beginning of the day, I’ll start to feel good rather than guilty about that list with the ever-hanging-on-research-to-dos. So, cheers to a new year and a new semester! And wish me luck!


About msmcdphd

I started this blog because I don't know what I'm doing! I'm a professor at a state school and a mother of one wonderful toddler. There are others out there like me. Maybe together we can come up with something that will be helpful to other women like us just as clueless about how to do this professor mommy thing with dignity.
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