deadlines · enter the confessional · grading · research · writing

The road to hell is paved with deadlines

Margrit has perspective! Serenity! A new resolve! Go read her post: I tried to breathe it right off the screen and into my soul. Tonight, Tuesday, five days after she published it because that’s how long it took me to get around to reading it.

I am burning in the fires of hell. Because I am late with everything.

Late: getting SSHRC Insight Development Grant application assessments to Program Chair. Late: getting my DHSI coursepack done. Late: getting my graduate class grades finalized. Late: making Congress travel and hotel arrangements. Late: answering probably 20 urgent and important emails. Late: one supervisee’s latest writing languishing unread in my inbox. Late: dealing with some design milestone on some pilot materials for my online course. Late: RSVP’ing to some committee meetings with dodgy schedules. Late: getting PhD area exam masters to the graduate committee for their approval. Late: making my conference paper slides on the airplane, printing my paper at the hotel.

It might look like I’m running downhill–wind at my back, hair flying, arms outstretched in full embrace of the momentum of life! Actually, I’m falling, but with my legs moving–trying to dig my heels into something solid, looking for a safe place to just fall over, or something to grab to arrest my pitching headlong forward. It’s all moving too fast; it’s out of control.

Extra miserable? The terrible hypocrisy! I preach the gospel of peer review just doesn’t take that long. Of making the most of every 30 minute chunk of time. Of the importance of an active, high-contact relationship with graduate students. Of how I want to get my email under control. Of how conference papers need to be done so much earlier so that they can be practiced and perfected.

So what happened? How did I get into this state?

1. I say yes to too many things. I shouldn’t have gone to that conference in mid-April, which coincided with SSHRC assessment season, and grading time, and my DHSI deadline. I had to prepare new work for it, and it took a long time. Or maybe I should’ve said no to doing the SSHRC assessments. That was easily 40 or 50 hours of work at the worst possible time of year.

2. I’m scared. My grad class this year was awesome, but I did some wild and crazy things with the participation component, and I’m scared to find out if it all worked or not. (It worked. Procrastination on dealing with it, though, didn’t help.) I’m scared of my brand new DHSI course: I’ve never taught this topic before, and putting together the coursepack might expose me for a fool. (So far, no. Should’ve not put off starting that either.) I’m scared to write my book proposal. Scared means don’t start. Don’t start + deadline = no sleeping.

3. Life. You know how they say when you do a big renovation, of your kitchen, say, and you want to spend $30,000 on it–we’re imagining, so let’s pretend we live on HGTV, okay?–you should have a 10-15% contingency fund? Because of the inevitable Dodgy Plumbing Behind the Walls, or Sudden Need to Upgrade to Viking Range? I think the academic life is like that. Perhaps if everything ran absolutely perfectly, I might’ve managed it. But we had two snow days in April, then I got stuck in the FAA sequester nonsense, and then my daughter got a stomach bug and missed two more days of school, then the furnace conked out, and then the car had to go in for emergency detailing owing to the gastro bug and projectile car vomiting. I don’t think anyone in my house has put in a five day week at the office in the last six weeks.

Ugh. The self-loathing is strong in me this week. I did this to myself by overcommitting! Then I did it to myself again by under performing! Then I made everything worse by having a terribly messy personal life! And compounded the problem further by hiding in a hole and not letting anyone know what a crunch I’m in.

So, internet, let me confess. I’ll need another week to dig myself out of this mess. Forgiving myself will take longer. And finding some balance in what I say yes to–challenging and scary enough to help me create new ideas and connections, but not so much or so hard that I make it nearly impossible for myself to succeed–is going to take longer still, I imagine.

Do any of you suffer similar problems? Or am I terrible, terrible outlier? If the latter, can you tell me how you do it? Because I obviously need the help.

At least I got my blog post done on time.

5 thoughts on “The road to hell is paved with deadlines

  1. I can definitely relate, on a much smaller scale. I still have two final assignments to hand in, and I'm behind on them as it is because of recurrent health problems. I just got the proofs for another article to edit, which I managed to finish. Once my courses are completed I have to move, I have meetings with so many people, I have an article to revise for another journal, an article to submit, a few to write, a few to revise to submit, my SSHRC and OGS applications to work on, and I just agreed to do focus groups and interviews for another project (I need the data for articles I'm collaboratively writing with someone else). I also have a few conferences to attend. . . I would love to take a vacation, but I cannot because I keep agreeing to do more work and I need my summer to catch up on all the things I said I'd do during the school year that actually didn't get started/finished.

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  2. As a longer-term sufferer with the same disorder, I can say that I find that the saying no doesn't actually get any easier. It's probably something that does get better with practice, but never actually practicing it stalls that journey before step 1.

    However, I find my self-loathing is now much more efficient, so I can try to cram in another obligation or two. And I find that it helps to find fellow sufferers so we can tell one another “you should just learn to say 'no'.” So, Aimee, you just have to learn to say 'no'.

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  3. Just an update, FYI. My daughter's school called just after lunch, when I was three minutes away from a by-phone radio interview, to say she was sick. Since car was getting de-barfed, and I had a media appearance booked, her dad left work in a taxi to go get her. Then we were both effectively done work for the day, were out $30, and DD was like, “let's go to the park!”

    Have explained what “malingering” means, and now yet further behind …

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