Okay, I stole this from Stephen Colbert but it’s clever and like every academic would tell you, borrow and repurpose. Consider it flattery, Stephen.
Anyhoo, as every person in the free world has said at some point, “this is a weird time.” I’ve had more meetings that have started with the general question: “so how ARE you in these times?” I get it. People are struggling. Personally, I’ve been nothing but reveling in this time: I can work without boundaries, I am the owner of my time perhaps for the first time ever. I’m an introvert so the stress of having to be near people, many of whom make me utterly nuts, has all but dissipated. Time is on my side. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what’s killing me right now. It’s literally the only complaint I have: I can’t get my schedule together.
Having written a dissertation—the world’s worst time period of any life ever—I know what a lack of structure can do to sanity. It can get very heavy in that every moment feels like it’s judging you if you’re not doing something and, paradoxically, most moments you choose to do nothing…if you’re me. So it becomes a cycle of guilt and actions brought on by guilt. I will live the rest of my days trying to avoid that kind of non-structure…except that quarantine has thrown this resolve in the toilet…because it has removed any sense that I should be getting something done.
In actuality, this could be a very freeing deal. In fact, the first 4 weeks of this shelter-at-home were pure bliss (aside from the stress of reality). It’s everything I’d asked the universe for in life delivered right to my front door. That said, I can’t seem to get up before 9:30am, even when I have meetings that start at 10am or 9:45am or 9:29am. I can get work done but in 5 minute increments. I find that my multitasking game has upped substantially in that during Zoom meetings I’ll get all of my work done for the day as well. It’s not a perfect system though it sounds good: I’m just not really putting in enough effort right now…and I don’t care that much.
Maybe the bigger issue underlying everything is that I’m working through the idea that productivity is going to have a different scale going forward. I’m so used to trying to fill 8 hours everyday with “things” that when my structure doesn’t force me to do that, the value of work takes on a different pallor. And I’m just not that used to it. And it makes me feel very guilty…that’s probably exactly what needs to be brought back in balance.
I’m not stressing over that but what I’m realizing is that, without any structure, things become meaningless. There’s nothing to look forward to if you don’t place value on certain things over others and sacrifice a little to get there. Hard work makes the end feel so much more satisfying. So this week, I’m going to try to keep this schedule which really starts by going to bed at an appropriate time. I write it here only as a way to hold myself somewhat accountable:
- 12am: Bedtime
- 8:30am: Wake Up, Get the Coffee and spend the next hour readying myself for the day. This includes getting dressed even if it’s in the yoga pants of the day. This makes a huge difference.
- 9:30-12:30: Do work for job and/or be productive on some of my “projects.” Key goal here: no tv. There’s only garbage on anyway.
- 12:30-2: Workout! Not the whole time but somewhere in there. You thought I was going to say lunch but no. I’ve been eating this whole time anyway. Let’s get the workout in earlier than 10pm.
- 2pm-5pm: Focus on getting done what needs to be done by tomorrow—don’t leave any work due tomorrow for any later. All work for the day should be done by 5pm
- 5pm-7pm Eat dinner and chill
- 7pm-12pm: Discretionary but make sure physical activity time has been achieved fully. So this could mean a walk, some yoga, or another short workout (by 9pm). And now watch tv and things.
This is the goal. Let’s see how I do.