I have not stopped to breathe since starting graduate school in the Fall of 2007. Productivity has been my name, with each year more productive than the one before.
This year I've taught two new preps, I've prepared an edited volume for publication, worked to pull another edited volume together, and begun building the scaffolding of a solo authored book. I've written and revised journal articles and reviewed others for publication and conference presentation. The syllabi for the classes I teach have been finished long before they need to be and I've wrapped up grading before some of my friends and colleagues have final projects in.
I have been busy. I have been productive. And while I am starting to feel the edges of burn out creeping in, I still wonder if I am being productive enough.
Graduate school trains you to always be working. In class you are working to make sure your professor knows who you are and that you have mastered the material. You work at home pulling together research papers. You also work on collaborative projects or, if you are a TA, on grading. Graduate school trains you to feel like you are always behind. You are the cyclist in the Tour de France who can see the peloton, but who is not part of it.
You are productive and sweaty from the stress of it.
The hoped for result of all this sweat and stress, of course, is gainful, fulltime tenure track employment at an institution of higher education.
A result I realized beginning Fall of 2015.
My first year and a half has flown by as I worked to find my place at the university -- both physical and otherwise. I've taken on service commitments that are deeply meaningful, taught classes which stretched my students and myself, and worked on research that is important to me.
Although I have plants growing in my office (I hope they are still growing; I haven't checked on them in a week), I haven't taken the time to stop and smell them. I barely remember to water them sometimes.
I like feeling productive but, at the same time, I think I need to slow down some. I need to be unafraid of letting the peloton get a bit farther ahead of me so I can catch my breathe.
My dear friend, and sometime research collaborator, Jessica Birthisel (who is on the tenure track at Bridgewater State University) published this blog post about her resolve moving into 2017. As always with her writing, it is thoughtful and thought provoking.
It provoked in me a consideration of how I want to approach 2017 as an academic. Which brought me back to my own blog and this post which I started writing in August but abandoned because I got too busy. While I certainly have a host of things I plan on working on in my personal life in the coming year, here is my plan for reconsidering productivity in 2017.
1. Be more mindful about what I say "Yes" to.
I don't think anything I'm suggesting for the new year is groundbreaking, but for me it's all going to take such a conscious effort. I don't stop. Really ever. I like the buzz I get when I am busy, when I'm being productive.
I really enjoy working.
But I like living as well.
I don't imagine my level of productivity will be all that different if I can do at least some of these things, but I do hope that fear I have of never catching up, of falling forever behind, will ease up a bit.
Now if you'll excuse me, it's still 2016, and I have several things to check off my to-do list before the new year rolls around and I actually have to try to embrace this.