This week a colleague directed me to Philip Nel’s series of blog posts from 2011 in which he tracked what he did for both work and play for a week. I was a little nervous to read the posts because I feared that his example would overwhelm me, that I would realize that I don’t have the work ethic I’ll need to complete my doctorate and become a professor. However, reading about his week and then—in a parallel series—Maria Nikolajeva’s week inspired me to start tracking my own time more carefully than I normally do. I’m sharing this because I wish to join in their consciousness-raising mission but also because I think that time so often gets away from me and I’d like to see where it’s going.
I’m in a curious position this academic year because I’m not filling the traditional roles of either teacher or student. Having completed my comprehensive exams this August, I’m now writing my dissertation; meanwhile, rather than acting as the instructor for a specific course, I’m the Coordinator for Graduate Writing Support at our Writing Center. Undertaking independent research and having an administrative position are new challenges for me, but also expose parts of working in academia with which fewer of us are familiar. Let’s see what this week reveals! I feel somewhat vulnerable making this information public but it may be a useful blow against pluralistic ignorance (i.e. “everyone else seems to be doing so much better than me!”). I’m also planning to use my example to inspire others who could share this information from their unique positions in the academy, especially those who have family commitments too.
(N.B. Maria recorded her day in the present tense while Phil’s notes are in the past tense. I found myself opting for the former and am happy to opine on this decision at length, if anyone is interested.)
Morning and early afternoon: Enjoy sleeping in and being lazy after a very late night at a Halloween party. Catch up with Facebook and texts. Make brunch. Relax with my partner.
2.35 Begin reading a student draft in preparation for an individual consultation as part of the Graduate Seminar in Academic Writing I’m currently leading.
2.50 Pause to drive my partner to his car.
3.20 Resume reading. Working with students from all disciplines means I am learning a lot about topics that are far flung from my own research: in this case, genome sequencing and computer software that processes this information.
3.40 Help unpack groceries after my partner returns. Turn to another draft (this time on human rights) before preparing a lesson plan and slides for the next session of the seminar. Read and comment on an abstract for a previous seminar participant. Send emails regarding an upcoming writing retreat.
4.50 Turn to my own research, specifically preparing for the colloquium on my dissertation prospectus, which is scheduled for Tuesday. I carefully re-read the prospectus and type up responses to the questions my advisor suggested via email. The colloquium is a chance for my committee and other department representatives to weigh in on my proposed topic before I submit the proposal to the Graduate School for approval. (This means I can then apply for an extra fellowship…!)
5.30 Respond, rather belatedly, to emails from a colleague I met at a conference last weekend and from a poet whose papers I’ve been working on. (Yes, faithful readers, this is John Temple, who kindly sent me some books that just arrived in the mail.)
5.40 Draft a proposal for a conference. I also produce a one-page version of my CV to accompany this. Email draft to a colleague: I need to revise and submit it by Tuesday so this was all a bit last minute.
6.20 Back to Writing Center work. Read a blog post that the director suggested and send him a quick email with my thoughts. Make notes for an upcoming staff meeting; check emails; add reminders to my online calendar.
6.35 Help my partner finish making dinner; eat delicious Indian food and home-made naan bread; tidy up kitchen and wash dishes.
7.40 Back to my own research. Skim and make notes on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s letters: this is part of my preparation for a dissertation chapter. I’m writing about The Prelude, a long autobiographical poem that William Wordsworth addressed to Coleridge.
8.20 More tidying up before settling in to watch the World Series. I’m rooting for the underdog Cubs, who also happen to be the team without an offensive caricature of a Native American on their uniforms. Write this blog post.
9.30 Squeeze in a few more minutes of work, almost accidentally, by reading a blog post on teaching the dramatic monologue.
Work for Writing Center: 2 hours
Research time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Total: 4 hours 15 minutes
I’ll be back tomorrow, which will be much busier, of course.