Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Studiously avoiding any real thoughts

There’s a matrix of urgency and importance that S showed me a few weeks ago, and it neatly describes my current situation.

Urgent and important | Urgent but unimportant


Non-urgent but important | Non-urgent and unimportant

Urgent and Important & Urgent and unimportant: Today was another productive day, in some senses at least. I’ve been focusing lately on doing the things on which I can make the most, relatively easy, progress. Today that meant some number crunching and reading a couple of journal articles related to stuff I want to present during my job talk.

Non-urgent but important: I’m not really thinking about the upcoming interview, I’m not thinking about how rapidly my proposed July defense date seems to be approaching, I’m not thinking about my utter lack of post-doc plans, I’m not thinking about how disgusting our house is despite the imminent arrival of the inlaws…In fact, I’m just not thinking about anything of import. I get up, eat some breakfast, go to school, do stuff for 10 hours+, come home, eat dinner, watch some TV or read some journal articles, and go to bed. Wash, rinse, repeat. I’m happy, I suppose, because it’s nice to be making progress, checking things off the list. But, periodically, something will trip me up and I momentarily let myself remember how unfulfilled I am by this routine.

I feel pulled by contradictory impulses. The first impulse, which is obviously winning, is to be as productive as possible before my interview so I can knock their socks off and land the job. Life imbalance be damned! The second choice is to stop and deal with those pent up issues, some of which have real deadlines associated with them (the house won’t clean itself on its own). In the process, I would get my life rebalanced for a while at least and re-introduce myself to my husband and dog. But then I won’t feel as ready to take on that Assistant Professorship at Big School and that may show through in the interview. (And this is important because getting that job totally obliviates the worry about no post-doc plans.) And, I can't enjoy any other aspects of my life when I feel this nagging sense of impending doom that can only be vanquished by doing science.

Right now, my plan is to keep up the plugging until the 3rd, navigating the in-laws, job talk prep, research advances, etc. as they arrive in my lap. Then my goal is to have the weekend before the interview to recharge my batteries – sleep, eat well, exercise, play with the dog, sleep.

But I am deathly afraid that there will be some new urgent deadline when I return from that interview that will force/allow me to keep avoiding those non-urgent but important issues underlying my unhappiness. And that’s a cycle I can see myself repeating ad infinitum (to graduation, to tenure, and beyond).

So that’s my neat way of blogging about what’s bugging me without blogging about what’s bugging me. See, once again, I’ve avoided the real issues.


phd me said...

You've got a good plan, though, with taking the weekend before your interview OFF. You need that time to focus on non-academic you because that's going to come through in the interview, too. If you're stressed out or distracted or fraught with nervous energy, you won't make the fantabulous impression that you naturally would. So, good planning!

Can you plan - and then force yourself to stick to it no matter what - to take a few days "off" when you get back from your interview to tackle those non-urgent but important issues? Turn off the phone or leave town or hide in the closet - anything that would let you deal with them?

Writer Chica said...

I've been thinking about this post for awhile and trying to figure out how to respond. As difficult as it is to maintain a balance in my life now, it is much easier than it was during grad school. I remember how easy it was to do the short, quick, deadline items on my to-do list and avoid longer but important items. I always figured I would save them for later, when I had more time, of course. It's amazing I ever finished.

It's good that you are aware of your life. That means it won't get away from you and that you will find the way to your happiness.

Take care, have fun with the in-laws and talk to you again soon!