Thursday, December 22, 2016

And a partridge in a pear tree: summing up a sabbatical semester

In the comments on the last post, Gwinne had asked about what I'd done with my time on sabbatical.

Reading all the Facebook, blog, and Twitter posts about people grading sent me into a little tailspin last week, to wit: "What have I done? My sabbatical is half over! I haven't worked on my main sabbatical project! I have failed!" 

This had two results: 

1. Another Facebook break. See you later, Facebookers!

2. Grumpiness and chocolate for a day.

Then I decided to look at the data.

In short: 3 articles submitted, 3 conferences, 1 invited presentation this fall. Since the beginning of 2016, although I wasn't on sabbatical last spring: 7 conferences, 3 grant proposals, and assorted conference proposals. According to the Excel sheet, 73,000 words this year, give or take a few, although some of those are repetitive because they count proposals, though not article or manuscript reviews, letters of recommendation, or tenure reviews.

And a partridge in a pear tree.

How has sabbatical affected this whole process?

1. I wanted to work on those articles and felt desperate to work on them and to get them out, although I'm behind on some promised work. I prioritized the articles, because during my last sabbatical, I concentrated on the promised work and got absolutely nothing else done.

2. Those articles made me feel as though my brain were alive again, and working on them felt fairly transgressive. For one of them, I've already received a rejection, but it was so lovely and encouraging ("excellent but not a good fit for us") that I immediately sent the piece to the journal suggested by the reviewer.

3. In life changes: because of being home, I've gained some weight, yes, and certainly didn't need to. It's my own fault, though, for stress eating when bored or frustrated with writing.

Since the weather now and for the foreseeable future is best described as "ice everywhere," it's tough to get out to do the kind of roaming around on foot that I do during better weather. I'm trying to make more of a commitment to get to the gym and to be mindful about what I do eat.  Also, since I have to cook for the family every night, I can get more of what they like to eat that I'm indifferent to eating (like rice), which will help.

The priority now has to be the promised work, the sabbatical project(s) and associated travel, and getting some motivation back.


gwinne said...

Thanks for this! I appreciate it. I'd be curious about your time use approach, how much structure you built in, how much time for exploration/relaxation/whatever.

I'm on a grant leave next semester (no teaching, but service) and trying to figure out how to make the most of it. My plans are ambitious and perhaps not practical...

Happy holidays!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

It's probably not very practical for you, Gwinne, but when I was on sabbatical I got a huge boost from going away for ten days or so, during which I was always able to Write First and then have a pleasant time for the rest of the day, doing a little mild sight-seeing with a friend and reading. Then at home I was able to draw on that experience for motivation and momentum, even though I had all the usual household distractions distracting me. The key was going somewhere I wasn't in love with---after the really wonderful trip I sulked and didn't get much done for a couple of weeks! But somewhere that's a break yet not a place you'd want to live, that worked well. Is there anything you could do in your life as it's presently organized to provide a similar sort of support for work? I do think it's important to have hours for work and time set aside for play. I definitely managed more reading and fun things while I was on leave, the sort of stuff that gets pushed aside when there's grading to do.

Undine Spragg said...

Gwinne--I love Dame Eleanor's approach, but I wasn't able to travel for that period of time (because conferences). I'm going to try that this spring, though.

Because of the conferences, things structured themselves, a bit: I had to write those papers, each about a month apart. The best part was digging out some conference papers I had done and discovering that they were ready to be expanded & sent out, thanks to a whole lot of research notes that I didn't remember having. Having the time to actually LOOK at the work made all the difference.

Except for the end-of-semester self-set deadline (goal: to get all 3 articles out), I didn't set intermediate ones because they make me procrastinate worse than if I don't have them. Most days, I'd get up, go for a walk/run, and come back and get to work. I am too antsy early in the morning to sit and write, and I could work in the later mornings and afternoons. I went to the library (branch campus library) a lot, and the change of scene really helped me to focus, because sometimes you just need to get out of the house.

Although I love to work at night and have done so sometimes this semester, I have more family living with me now and have a lot more housework to do, including cooking dinner every night. The extra work has taken up a lot of the physical energy I would normally expend in teaching, but my mind is still free to think about the research. I was thinking of this with your situation, where you'd have days free but still have LG & Tiny Boy in the evenings, so those might not be as productive.