It seems like everyone I read online is stepping back to focus on enjoying life and working less.
I’m not thrilled with my work right now and I’m not that interested in the projects I’m currently doing. But I’m resisting this notion of purposefully cutting back.
The truth is, I like being busy. I like accomplishing things. I like *having accomplished* things. I also like reading books and watching youtube videos and eating yummy food. I like reading cookbooks, and if I don’t have much to do, cooking ranks as a hobby. I think I enjoy the quiet life that I fit in around the edges of my job. I love my little family to pieces– DH is my world, my kids are amazing, our cat is sweet and adorable. Maybe not healthy, but they do bring me joy and make it extremely easy to practice daily mindfulness. #blessed
The things I’m not currently delighted with (and could, indeed, be the subject of New Years resolutions or February challenges or just life goals in general) are 1. persistent work worries, 2. a feeling of fractured attention (ever since I got a cell phone 6 years ago… was it Trump or Twitter or both?), 3. a concern that I’m not doing enough activism, and 4. a general underlying feeling that I’m not particularly physically fit these days. This last one seems both the easiest to address in terms of obvious actionable items but is also the one I care about the least. Though having problems with plantar fasciitis and injuring myself doing online yoga videos or calisthenics and so on have really shaken my underlying belief that I can, someday when I get around to it, just get back into shape.
The work worries are the biggest thing bothering me right now (besides things I can’t do as much about, *gestures at incipient fascism*). Their two main things are 1. I’m great at planning but am currently having difficulties with motivation which is kind of weird for me– in the past even if I’m not motivated to do one thing, I can productively procrastinate with how motivated that makes me to do other work. #CatholicGuilt and 2. Although I currently have two solid projects that are almost done (both literally need a week of work from a coauthor and a little pushing from me before getting sent out), I don’t have any big projects set up after that. I have lots of little projects that me 6 years ago would never have even started because they’re so little, but they have student coauthors and grant funders and so on who deserve these smaller publications to be published. Two of them are even currently R&R and just need to get DONE (the second R&R the student is working on, the first R&R the student has graduated, gotten a full time job, and had a baby so it’s all me.). I know the path forward for these smaller projects and just need to get them out so I can start thinking big thoughts again and try to get back into the mindset of solid field journal paper in economics. But I need space and time for that, and I think part of me is afraid of having that space and time in case I end up with nothing. Which may be why I’m procrastinating on the smaller papers that need to get done.
And sometimes I wonder… I mean, I could just give it all up. Give up my association memberships (including the new unexpected one), give up my identity as an economist, and I dunno, organize my house or something. I find sorting things calming, so long as there’s a purpose to it and nobody unsorts it right away. Then I could focus on stepping back and working less or something. I mean, I really have nothing to step closer to.
I was brought up to believe that I should be productive, that I have gifts and I should be using those gifts to make the world a better place for other people. I can do a LOT of that in my job– researching important topics with policy implications, mentoring students, mentoring junior faculty, teaching really well, removing students’ undeserved math phobia and building their (deserved) confidence, making sure that meetings are efficient and we actually move things forward based on best evidence (people who don’t remember meetings where this doesn’t happen don’t appreciate this last thing). What if I were more selfish and just I dunno, spend the days cooking and reading novels? (No gardening since I’m allergic to so many plants.) Would I feel guilty? Would I be unable to do it and end up throwing myself into volunteering and be miserable so doing?
Fractured attention– doomscrolling twitter is problematic. I definitely feel more focused when I don’t start the day reading twitter. But I can’t block it on my phone because of my stupid dual factor authentication software that I need for work. Likewise I can’t just leave my phone elsewhere because of said software. So although this seems like a simple thing to fix, it actually requires willpower. I’m trying to think of if there is any device I could use for duo that doesn’t also have twitter… and … maybe my university has a usb fob that you can stick into some computers? I don’t know if that works for the web-based things I need or just for logging into university computers, but I suppose I could try. Looked it up– NOPE. So, still need my phone.
Not doing enough activism. Right now I’m not sure what I should be doing. It was easier when other people were also doing activism. It sounds like people are starting to get over being burned out, so this may be a place I can focus again. I should make it clear– I do not enjoy doing activism. This is something I hate doing. It does not bring me joy. But it is really important. How best to do it right now, I don’t know. But I do know it is really important and we are at a potential inflection point in the US and we cannot keep quiet or we may lose all the gains we’ve been fighting for for the past 50-100 years or more. We need to protect our democracy and we need to protect vulnerable people. The promise of the American Dream is in our hands.
And yeah, physical fitness. Just needs time and probably money. I should probably join co-Pilot like DH has and just do what the trainer says to do. But I don’t wanna. I do not want to. So I will keep up with my desultory walking around and occasionally trying things until I hurt myself and give up. I am being honest that this is not a priority. And I’m sure there will be comments from people trying to talk me out of it (oh, but you will feel so much better in every other aspect of your life, oh all you need to do is X etc.), but all those will serve to do is vaguely irritate me. I’m not a total lump. My bloodwork numbers are fine. I get my 10,000 steps in or whatever (though now while wearing slippers with arches instead of barefoot). I will do whatever I do on physical fitness on my own timeframe.
So where does that leave me? Still waiting for space, I think. Still trying to find the perfect organizational system when really I know it’s not the organizing that’s the problem, it’s the willpower. But I’ll get these papers in and coauthors will finish things, eventually. And time will move forward. And I’ve got some space this semester and even more next year. I’ll be fine.
Here’s what Scalzi says about his New Years Planning:
2020 was the year a lot of things fell apart for me (and for everyone else, to be fair); 2021 was in many ways a year for me to rest and regroup; 2022 is hopefully the year I’ll start building some of the structures and practices that could carry on for me for the next several years.
Maybe that will be for me too… I just have to get some of these small projects out the door first.
Are you thinking of ramping up, cutting back, or reorganizing this year?