Last week I ended my long-standing graduate school relationship. This transition has been both easy and challenging for me. I have always known that I am a workaholic but I never realized the extent of the addiction. It feels awkward to be away from a computer (this is sad) and without a to do list (even more pathetic). As I cleaned out boxes from my office and consolidated books, notes and documents, I could not help myself, making a list of items to tackle.
So many things have changed in my work life since I started graduate school seven years ago. I have so many physical papers and documents to handle, far more than I accumulate now. Now I scan as many things as I can and I keep a very organized filing system of my documents. I cannot believe I have every letter ever sent to me from my department saved in a file folder. But I do.
I have so many books that I have not opened in years. Even though I tried to tailor my coursework to relate to my research specialty, many seemingly tangential texts have come live at my house. I feel compelled to make space on the bookshelf for them, but I also feel compelled to cut bait them. A stack two feet tall stands sentinel over my desk now. I have traded a few in with Amazon and I am still trying to figure out what to do with the rest.
More than the physical clean up after filing my paperwork, I am trying to disconnect my brain from the last few months of myopic focus on my dissertation work. I have been so one-dimensional, I am finding it tough to plug into something new. All of the editing and “writing” (which was really rewriting) has led to a few terrible habits. I am not writing every day and daily writing leads to better writing. I am also not reading as much as I should and daily reading also leads to stronger writing. So as I clean up the office, I need to institute some new work policies and go back to the basics.
In the last week, I have been reading with a goal to be both reading and writing. I finally tackled an article in The New Yorker on MOOCs. I actually read one section of the Sunday New York Times. I’ve started an anthology of stories on motherhood and the academy called Mama, Ph.D. And I’m trying out an e-book about the first female ocean rower, Roz Savage. Different genres, varied media.
The reading is teaching me how to refine my sociological storytelling. The reading is forcing me to unplug. More importantly, though, the reading makes me want to do more writing. In graduate school, I always thought writing came when you were ready to write, after the research was done, the analysis complete. But a good writer needs to practice constantly, never waiting for the “right” time.
Back to basics and time to build some new good habits.
[Tell me about your good work habits or how you handle work transitions–I’m clearly trying to figure out this next phase of work life and can use all of the help I can get.]