January 22, 2005

Get Back to Work

Posted by Michael Arnzen at 11:43 in Praxis.

Winter classes begin on Monday at SHU.

I love beginnings. But like most teachers, I'm feeling a little sluggish about returning, because I've hardly had what would qualify as a "break." Some of the work-related activities I've been doing during the month we get off for Winter Break include: teaching a weeklong writer's residency, prepping two courses, serving on a hiring committee, advising incoming new students, meeting with new adjuncts and tutors, prepping for the upcoming term's duties as interim division chair... and fitting in my own creative writing in-between it all, playing "catch-up" with a number of writing committments. Anyone who thinks teachers live the life of luxury because they seem to get so much time off are fooling themselves. The gaps in the school calendar always fill, and many of us are like work-at-home freelancers: we do just as much work as everyone else, if not more sometimes, but when we're not in the classroom, we're managing the workload on our own.

Still, it's time to get back to Work -- work with a capital double-yuh -- or, in other words, back on the institutional calendar, hosting office hours and stepping into the classroom on a scheduled basis.

I just read one of the best online articles I've seen on this issue, "Getting Back to Work: A Personal Productivity Toolkit" by Mark T.A.W.. Not only does it offer some fantastic pointers to getting "back in the groove" after a prolonged absence from work, but it also includes some great links to time management and motivational work sites online.

At the top of his article, Mark talks about Pavlov's dogs and how when the routine of the bell-rings-now-you-must-drool experiment was interrupted, some of the dogs had a hard time getting back into the routine. Although I hate to think of work as some sort of Pavlovian conditioning, I can empathize with those out-of-sync dogs, sometimes, when I return from a vacation and have a hard time readjusting. Or worse: if I stop writing for any extended period, it's more difficult to pick up the pen and getting the ink to flow. (Blogging helps in this regard!).

Although breaks are healthy and completely warranted given the stress of our teaching lives, sometimes we need to ring our own bells to keep the workflow going. Mark T.A.W. designed a really neat tool: the Get Back To Work website, that you can set as your home page in a web browser if you're the sort who uses the internet to procrastinate.

I think time management books and personal productivity websites are often thick-headed and needlessly dogmatic, but because a great deal of teaching is organizing ideas and managing others, it's useful to look into this genre for strategies for the surviving the teacher's life. I do try to adopt David Allen's Getting Things Done approach and there are a number of blogs about this that are worth tapping into if you'd like to come to grips with your own workload. I like the blog collective at the Getting Things Done Zone, for example. The Innovation Weblog is another one I've been browsing pretty regularly, which combines productivity with creativity advice. I not only find good tools and techniques for managing my work as a teacher and a freelance writer at such places, but also pick up ideas that I can pass along to my students on studying and writing.

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Following up the links in this article helped me procratinate some.

Posted by Farah Mendlesohn at 11:15 on January 26, 2005. #

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