Whether it’s the lazy, hazy days of summer that have hit us here in Boston, a general sense of overall fatigue from the semester that I haven’t given myself a chance to recover from, or the moon being in the seventh house and Jupiter aligning with Mars, I’ve found myself deep within a case of the “blahs”.
You know the blahs. That thing that happens that makes you want to do nothing more than sit on the couch and be a lump. That thing that whispers lazily in your ear telling you “just one more episode, you didn’t actually want to go to the gym today”. That thing that puts a fire-blanket over productivity and makes it nearly impossible to keep up with your “gotta do it now!”s (forget your “should do it soon”s).
For people with conventional jobs, while annoying, the blahs aren’t exactly life threatening. You’ve still gotta get up, go into the office, do your basic functions, and come home. You’re still accountable for your responsibilities to a boss, supervisor, team, company. There’s going to be someone asking questions if your productivity takes a nose-dive for the bottom of the bar graph.
Unfortunately for me, summertime in academia is a very very difficult time during which to get the blahs.
Not only is there no one besides myself to whom I’m accountable, but I don’t even have any hard deadlines to work towards. I’m awash in a sea of amorphous, ambiguous, and very large tasks which all require attention and diligence, but also provide the illusion that succumbing to the blahs could be alright.
My to-do list is no shorter than it has ever been, I’m just working on things that are long-term goals. I’m trying to maintain better gym habits. I’m putting a lot of effort into personal projects that fell by the wayside during crunch-time. I’m trying not to give myself heart attacks while accomplishing my summer tasks, and I’m also trying to get in some of that rest that’s so crucial to being prepared for the fall.
But the blahs are not sated by ambiguous improvement, nor can they be fought with small accomplishment.
To help myself beat back the blahs, I’ve tried to create visual guides and land-marks for the things I’m doing. I’ve created physical flash cards for my German vocabulary so that I can actually see how many words I know now that I didn’t know yesterday, a week, a month ago. I’ve started stacking my used-draft-papers again to (hopefully) find some convenient fire in which to burn them when I’ve submitted the paper I’m polishing. I’ve created a cheat-book of song chords for my ukulele so I can A) localize the songs I know and B) see how much I’ve learned since I took it into my head that I should learn to play a ukulele at a friend’s wedding a month ago. There’s not much I can do about the gym other than pat myself on the back and have a nice shower when I return home, but endorphins and a few hours of temperature control (my place has many virtues, central AC isn’t one of them) are reward enough, no?
In my experience, productivity expands and contracts in direct correlation to the amount of time at one’s disposal. Have A MILLION BILLION THINGS TO DO RIGHT NOW!? No problem, you will get them ALL done. Have a lot of time on your hands and just a few projects with a bunch of space in which to accomplish assorted random other tasks? Meh. You’ll get done what you need to get done, but no more.
So as I struggle through my case of the blahs, I have every expectation that I will accomplish what I absolutely need to accomplish… but likely not so much as I had wished to accomplish. With any luck I’ll be seeing some sunshine at the end of this gloomy tunnel and be able to kick my summer into overdrive as soon as I find some inspiration to do so.