Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pencil Me In

I've mentioned before, I think, that my day job is as an adjunct instructor for some local colleges/universities. This past week was the beginning of the new semester, so I've been having to make a lot of adjustments.

First, let me dispel a myth here: though until last Monday, I hadn't taught a class since the beginning of December, I did not have a month off. Between end-of-semester meetings, grades being due, having to prep a course that I've never taught before, and beginning-of-semester meetings--not to mention myriad family obligations--there really wasn't a whole lot in the way of downtime. 

But I did have a much more flexible schedule. When classes are in session, the hours that I have to spend focused on my day job are longer and more rigid. During the semester breaks, as long as I get done what I need to get done, I can arrange and rearrange my schedule however I like. If working in the morning makes more sense on a Monday, but the afternoon works better on Tuesday, I can make those shifts.

This freedom has been great--and has allowed me to continue in my goal of finding time to write just about every day. And it's allowed me to be pretty productive. 

But now that freedom is gone.

I've taken on a heavier teaching load this semester. Adjuncts are paid a flat fee for ever course they teach, so, since my writing, while it's bringing in some money, can't pay my bills, it makes financial sense for me to pick up some extra courses. The catch to this (aside from teaching frequently being exhausting, even when it's going well) is that the flexibility I had with my time is gone. The hours that I'm required to physically be at one or another of the schools where I work have gone up, and the off-hours work--the grading, responding to student emails, bridging between students and the administration--has increased.

It's a difficult shift under the best of circumstances, and this time it's frankly a little overwhelming.

I didn't manage to get a blog post written last week. There was too much else to do: on-boarding paperwork at my newest place of employment, finalizing syllabi, mapping the best routes from one campus to the next, meetings upon meetings upon meetings, last-minute course prep. My work for this blog, even my work on revisions fell by the wayside.

The desire to beat myself up for letting things get away from me is a strong one. I pride myself on being self-motivated and self-disciplined. When I fail to meet a goal that I've set for myself, however realistic or unrealistic that goal is, shame swallows me up. How could I do this? Don't I realize that I'll never make it if I don't keep doing the work? Do I just not care? It can lead to a spiral that, once I'm at the bottom of it, leaves me feeling at best unmotivated and at worst incapable.

I'm trying to take a step back. To remind myself that it's okay to feel overwhelmed now and then. That it's okay to give myself a break--it might even be beneficial in the long run.

What it really boils down to is balance--something that I've never been good at.

A visual representation of my two extremes, courtesy of Hyperbole and a Half
It's doable, I know. I'm starting with trying to set more reasonable goals. I'm in a spot where I have several projects going at once. I can't reasonably work on everything every day. So I'll take it in smaller bites. I can fit in a little time to work on one thing--maybe on small aspect of one thing--every day.
Today, it's the blog.
And if I can keep doing a one-small-thing for a while, maybe I'll start working out a way to do all the big things.
Just not all at once. 

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