So you know that burn-out that everyone told me would happen right after my written exams but never really happened so I just kept steam-rolling ahead to clear the projects off my desk which had back-piled while I was too busy worrying about comps?
Yea… it’s finally hit me.
After I got home from Blackfriar’s I had an initial rush and wave of inspiration, but that quickly faded with the realization of how very much work I have to do in the next few weeks and how very little time I have to do it in.
It got to the point where, when I received some updated information on my flight for this weekend (two conferences in three weeks, I realize every time, is never a good idea), I actually began to dread leaving my lair. This is particularly odd for me since I love to travel, I’ve never been to Texas (this weekend’s conference is ASTR in Dallas), and I have always wanted to ride a mechanical bull.
“Plugging away” has become an artform in my life since I started the PhD. “Making something out of nothing” (generally work out of less than zero energy) should really be listed as a special skill on my resume.
When I start to feel this way, one of the few things that I can depend on to keep me going is a copious number of lists. Whenever I feel overwhelmed about the amount of work on my desk, I make a list: here’s what I have to do today. Whenever I feel like I might not get to sleep because I’m worried about how much I have to do the next day, I make a list: here’s what I have to do tomorrow. Recently, a new kind of list has entered my life: here’s what I have to do before I get on an airplane to go to the next conference (in the case of that list, I was even able to schedule when these tasks would get done and sketch out my week that way so that whenever I had that creeping “I’m forgetting something” feeling, I could just re-check my work schedule and make sure I had everything under control which, generally, I did).
Lists help me to prioritize my work. Sometimes, I include “optional” tasks at the bottom of
my lists (“in case you finish all of this, also do this!”). This keeps me from being overwhelmed, but also allows me to stretch to finish all of my tasks. I am the kind of person who really can’t relax unless I am absolutely certain that everything which can be taken care of has been (even niggling e-mails will bother me unless they are sent). My lists help assure me that yes, I can take a break right now without worrying that something is left undone.
I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I am definitely not there yet. One way or another, as George R.R. Martin would remind us, winter is coming. And in this case that isn’t so horribly bad because winter means break time. I just need to make sure all of my work gets done first.