It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.
- Lena Horne
I’ve always been quite good at time management, but this semester has been a struggle for me. The problem isn’t really how much I have on my plate but how strange my schedule is. I teach an evening class Tuesdays and Thursdays and then get up super early for 7 a.m. classes on Wednesdays and Fridays. I have the same class Monday, but at least I get to bed early on Sunday night. It’s not the worst schedule in the whole world, but it is the most challenging teaching schedule I’ve ever had. And because each day is so drastically different and some days don’t allow for quite enough sleep, I haven’t been able to settle into a good daily routine. I would prefer morning classes every day or evening classes every day. Just some kind of consistency. Oh, and the day with the evening class is also a split day, as I am on campus earlier for an early afternoon class. I really don’t have much right to complain. In this economic climate, I’m super lucky to be teaching at all. Nonetheless, the day to day wackiness is getting to me. I’ve been making the mistake the last few weeks of trying to “catch up” on my grading. But this is the same as collecting all the sand at the beach. It never ends. As soon as I finish one stack, another roles right in. Teachers (especially in English) are therefore never caught up until the semester is over and they turn in grades. And even then, you’re prepping for the next semester. This is definitely not meant as a complaint. I love my job. But this job does present an interesting way of looking at your workload because you’re never done. So, while I’ve been trying to “catch up” at work, I haven’t got as much done for my schooling as I should have. And when I focus on grading papers and wait to do my readings, this tends to result in 8-10 hour reading binges, which always wears down my brain.
So, here’s my three-step solution. It will be most effective for this crazy semester, and will continue to be effective until I complete my PhD program and my book.
Step 1: Though every day for this semester will continue to present a different schedule, I’m going to dedicate at least one hour to my studies every day. It doesn’t matter when, but at some point before, after, or between teaching classes, I will let my grading and prepping sit, and I will read for 60 minutes. This will prevent the crazy reading binges. And I’ll probably enjoy my reading more and retain more of it.
Step 2: I’m going to dedicate one day a week to my book. Maybe not even the whole day, but at least half a day. I’ve got two years to complete my manuscript, but I really need to be using that time, not waiting until the deadline gets closer. Having all this time is a blessing, and I need to take advantage of it. I’ve been working on ideas in my mind and taking notes from reading material, but I haven’t written a single word in months. My husband has started working on a podcast, which means he’s gone for at least half a day each weekend. That’s the time I’ll dedicate to some book-work, whether it means research or writing.
Step 3: The absolute key to surviving this teacher/student schedule: meditation. I was doing good for a little while with daily meditations, but now I’m failing to keep it in my routine. It just so happen that today is Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh‘s birthday. On Facebook, the Plum Village Monastery posted that the best gift we can give him is the gift of our own practice. They asked us to post our “gifts.” I vowed to make meditation a part of my daily schedule. No matter what, I can always stop for at least a five minute meditation. And it is amazing how just five minutes can really help bring relaxation and a fresh perspective.
So that’s how I’ll be getting it all done. Things have been extra crazy the last couple weeks because I am looking for a teaching position to replace one of the positions I have right now. Also, my husband and I have been house hunting. He’s been a gem though doing all the footwork. All I’ve had to do is show up and look at houses and give my yay or nay. He’s been wonderful! Really, right now, I’m living the dream. Or, really, multiple dreams! I am greatly blessed, and as soon as I get back to meditation habit, I’ll enjoy everything even more! Working on staying mindful and being in the present moment is what has got me this far. No one said it was an easy practice, but it is certainly a necessary one!