Two weeks ago, I started this post on due dates and deadlines, and had finally settled on “Hurry up and wait” for the title because it captured the pacing of academic work. Until this past week, my academic work followed this predictable pattern. With unstructured work days, in academia it can be challenging to establish deadlines. It is even tougher to stick to those deadlines whether they are concrete or self-imposed. It seems that no matter how much you plan, mull, struggle, and get down to brass tacks, looming deadlines hit like a ton of bricks. Once you meet those deadlines, there is no fanfare, no round of applause. It’s simply on to the next. The dust clears, and we wait. The waiting can be full of self-doubt, confusion, frustration, or even relief that the project, paper, proposal is temporarily “finished.” Having an autonomous work life means you have to be self-directed. People outside of academia often confuse autonomy with free time.
Twice over winter break, I experienced this “hurry up and wait” phenomenon. First, I met a conference submission deadline with 15 minutes to spare and now I will wait several weeks for the decision. And a second time, I submitted my full dissertation draft to my advisor. In both cases, I intended to have a small breather while I prepped for the spring semester.
Except that this past week, in a surprise turn of events, I found myself hurrying up and hurrying up further.
My advisor turned around comments on my FULL draft in ONE WEEK. [Sidenote: She is amazing.] I had hurried up, thinking I’d have to wait. And just as I submitted that conference paper, I got word that two other papers had been taken up for another conference in several weeks. All that hurrying up, I thought I’d have at least two weeks to wait.
This good news came one day into spring semester. Professionally, things could not be crazier.
Usually, I hurry up and wait. How should I handle hurrying up followed by further hurrying? The waiting allows for a mental breather, freeing up head space and physical time to do other things (even if only temporarily). What do I do now?
First thing’s first. Stop. Breathe.
Next step: make a plan. Stick to the things I’ve learned about working. Try to keep the dissertating research/writing as separate as possible from prepping. Also, trust that my students and my course will proceed without over-prepping (this is the hardest to do).
The winter break was seriously productive for me. Since my last post over two weeks ago, things have been heating up. I submitted a paper to a national conference for review. I found out two other conference submissions have been accepted. I gave a presentation on teaching undergraduate research and writing strategies to faculty at my institution (video to follow). I submitted a full draft of my dissertation to my advisor (and apparently already have feedback). And I have an essay with an online publication green-lighted.
I am hurrying to keep up with myself.