Thursday, January 02, 2020

Happy New Year!

Every year, like everybody else in the world (pretty much), I make resolutions. Every year (ditto), I fail to live up to them.

Why make them, then?

Because not to even try is to give up, and all of life is about not giving up. Mary Pickford decided at some point that she had done enough hard work in her life, which lord knows she had, and retreated to her bed and to alcohol after a certain point. Jack Warner's second wife barely came downstairs for the last few decades of her life because she said she was done with entertaining. I understand feeling as though you deserve a rest, and certainly they had enough money to do whatever they wanted, but this kind isn't good for anyone.

I also don't mean beating your head against a brick wall if you have clear evidence that something's unrealistic or not working. As Megan's mother Marie cruelly but correctly said on Mad Men, the world could not support that many ballerinas.

I mean trying to the best of your ability to do things that you can do, and maybe a few things that you think you can't do, to the best of your ability.

So here are a few resolutions for the new year, some of which--ahem!--you may have seen before.

File under "everything old is new again":

1. Lowering FB use. About three weeks ago, I went on Facebook, experienced an immediate stress reaction (think twitching eyes and breaking out in a cold sweat), posted a "bye for now!" message, and stayed away until yesterday. Discovery: checking in every couple of months is plenty. I'd quit it entirely except that it's the only way of finding out about (and disseminating information about) family events. 

2. My creativity and writing energy is still best at night, but it's unsustainable to write until 11 if you wake up without prompting between 4:30 and 5 a.m. Spouse says I am sleep-deprived when I do this, and the fact that I fall asleep instantly if I sit down for more than a few minutes suggests that he's right. I'm going to try again to show up for writing in the mornings.

3. Recognizing again that any kind of writing takes what it takes in terms of time and mental energy. It might take others only a few hours to put together a conference paper, or so they tell me when they tease me about spending 30 hours on it (I logged them). If it takes me 30 hours--and they're not wasted, because the time is spent in really thinking about the material--I have to accept that that's what it takes and not beat myself up for not being able to dash it off.

File under "let's try some new things":

1.  Now that I have actual research assistants and projects to manage, I've been exploring Trello, Asana, Excel spreadsheets, etc. as a means of tracking tasks. Is it worth putting together a "scrum board" like this one on Silicon Valley for my own projects as well?

2. Recognize that the feeling of relief after finishing something is far more fleeting than the months of dread that went into writing it and stop doing some kinds of tasks (book reviews, which are not worth the dread).

3. Keep track of the books I read for pleasure, and, since most of them are biographies or histories related to work anyway, make notes about them.


gwinne said...

Well happy new year!

I also believe in the power of the resolution (or new years plans, at least). Having a new year coincide with a new semester is pretty helpful in that regard, at least for me.

Wondering about your thoughts on the differences between tracking methods. I've never liked excel for anything. Have toyed a bit with asana, and haven't tried trello. I'd like to try something that both keeps me on track and potentially lets my thesis advisees (undergrads) see what I'm up to and track their own progress.

undine said...

gwinne--that's a great idea about letting your advisees see what you're up to. I think it's valuable for them to see what kind of work we do. I tried explaining this to my classes last fall, just so they'd know that teaching isn't all we do. About tracking: the only thing that's reliably worked so far is the notebook + Excel + 750 words method, but that's only for an individual. I've only looked at asana & haven't tried it.

gwinne said...

Thanks! If you like moving tasks around, Asana might be easier for you to navigate than excel. I haven't used 750 words in a long time.... hmmm....

Also the Rod Serling Reader post: the best thing to come out of a childhood with a step parent who watched the Twilight Zone was that I could conjure up the voice in my head :)