List! List! O, List!

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.

Travel beer is fundamental; this was mine during my layover in DC last week

Travel beer is fundamental; this was mine during my layover in DC last week

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

moody shot of my desk last night; complete with tea!

moody shot of my desk last night; complete with tea!

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.

Mid Semester Slump: Fall Edition

Even though it’s well past midterms, I’m definitely feeling the effects of mid-semester crunch.

This is partly due to how my semester is scheduled (two conferences in three weeks will make a girl extremely tired; especially when she’s still dealing with orals, work for various professional committees she’s on, teaching her class, and still trying near-futilely to catch up on sleep/sanity from the summer).  But I think there’s also a certain degree of universality to it: suddenly, those piles of grading on your desk have a new urgency.  The star-struck wonder and optimistic first few weeks of any fresh start (a semester included) has faded; this is where the real work begins.

With fatigue setting in, I’m having to return to my old “find the energy” axioms.  Here are a few that are keeping me going right now; hopefully some of them can also add some inspiration to your day.

1)   It’s fall in New England and everything is beautiful.  I can barely move without

Captured on a walk yesterday!

Captured on a walk yesterday!

having to pause for a foliage picture (thanks to a new-found interest in photography apps for my pocket-robot, I have some great tools with which to capture these).

2)   Fall also means pumpkin flavored everything.  Though by virtue of having discovered a wonderful pumpkin spice flavor syrup recipe I am no longer limited by the calendar as to when I consume my pumpkin coffee, it’s still comforting to know that on days when I just don’t have time to make myself a latte I can rely on good ol’ dunks to provide.

3)   Soon it will be winter.  Winter is when a break happens.  Winter is also when my favorite holiday happens.  This also means that, very soon, I will have full social license to blast my Christmas Music for at least a few months before it becomes taboo again to do so until next year.  Believe you me, nothing brings a smile to a poor downtrodden graduate student like pop culture icons belting Christmas tunes.

 4)   While conference season is stressful, it also gives me an excuse to wear my favorite tweed jacket.  Though I haven’t had a moment to install the requisite leather elbow patches, that particular upgrade is definitely in the works and I hope to have it in place by the next wave of professional gigs which require professorly clothing.

The blue mountains as seen from my plane during the fly-over last week

The blue mountains as seen from my plane during the fly-over last week

5)   Despite all efforts by nature to kill it, my herb garden is still going strong.  As is my aloe plant.  For those not in the know, I (until very recently) was self-titled DANIOR MURDERER OF VEGETATION (caps required for proper voice intonation).  When my trusty bamboo plant was killed by a tragic fungal infection last year, I thought my days of caring for flora were over.  However, convinced by my own tenacity, I managed to overcome my grief and acquire several new plant-friends.  I don’t want to say this too loudly for fear that they might overhear and decide that it’s a great time to kick the proverbial bucket, but they may just be long-lasting installments in my life/office.

6)   Even though I’m really tired, I know that I’m just one workout away from an endorphin high and a quick battery recharge.  It’s not a permanent solution, but it definitely helps me plug along and plow through the multitudes of material on my desk (today’s challenge: several period fencing manuals, most unavailable in modern typesetting… the joys of archival/textual scholarship).

And on that note, perhaps hitting the gym will give me a little pick-me-up and help me through the rest of this afternoon.

I hope you’re having a productive day, and that the mid-semester slump isn’t hitting you too hard!