How To Be Less Busy
This semester has been extraordinarily busy. Or at least that is how it seems. I am teaching two overloads (extra courses); I have had one conference presentation and a second coming up; I am organizing the assessment of two general education objectives and coordinating the revision of a third; and I have written ~20,000 words of my novel about higher education plus a handful of shorter articles. I have had to schedule extra office hours just to make sure I finish all of my responsibilities.
It's no coincidence that I haven’t posted anything here for awhile. Blog posts don’t seem as important if I’m not following through on my professional responsibilities.
For around 8 weeks I have wanted to write something about what it’s like to be swamped with responsibilities. But, well, … perhaps you can understand why I haven’t.
Another factor that has been holding me back is that I want to make sure what I write is good or inspiring. This means that my impulse is to write for the benefit of others—that is, to reject my own thoughts and ideas as a writer, and instead try to imagine what the readers want to read. The volume of blog posts this year already (1 or 2 spaced out over three months) is testament to the power of writing for the perceived benefit of others.
Back to my busy schedule. I have fallen out of Covey’s Successful Habit of organizing my weekly schedule around my values. I have instead organized my days around all the stuff I need to do. I get to work and pull out a piece of scratch paper and clench closed my eyes and then write out all the little tasks I need to accomplish. Always, “respond to email,” “check online classes,” “make hotel reservations,” etc. Then I race through it all like I’m a cross-fitter. When I’m done, and only if there’s time, I stare blankly at my computer monitor.
I say that I’ve written a few articles already this year, but I hardly remember what I said or what they were about. I have to check my email to see which journals have thanked me for submissions.
Now that I have a week to hit the pause button and, minus the dead Dogwood tree that needs cutting down, skip the things-to-do-list, I can reflect on the values around which I would build a more gratifying schedule.
Those values, off the top of my head, are…
- · Support and love Erica: I spend impressive little time doing or even thinking about this. Zero text messages to her during the day. Seldom am I excited to see her in the evening or at lunch. I’m always too stressed out by my list. It is extremely important and generally not urgent. But it always makes us both very happy. PUT IT ON THE LIST!
- · Be congruent: This means to be myself, including all of those crappy feelings and emotions and arrogant ideas of self-importance. When I bring congruence with me into my writing, well, I actually write. When I bring it with me into the classroom, I reduce or eliminate the power imbalance, because I reveal myself as a flawed and imperfect person. My students don’t have to impress me or put up their own facades.
- · Dedication to my running goals: I haven’t included running in my schedule for about 9 years. I’m just gonna slide it back in there to see what happens.
That’s it. They’ll all require discipline. The middle one will integrate into everything else, and I suspect that it will lead to abundance in my teaching, writing, administering, etc.
Absent from this list are “empathy” and “prizing.” These for me always feel forced. I struggle to do them and at the same time be congruent. I often play the role of empath rather than be myself. So I’m going to cut it out, and see what (if any) empathy emerges. If I can be congruent—genuine with my feelings and thoughts—then empathy should come naturally, as I will be transparent about my own beliefs and biases and so on. We’ll see.