being happily busy

Are you terribly surprised that I've taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging?  No, you are not. Three of my meager ten posts for this year have been about work.  This makes four.

In early April, I read this post about not being that busy, and it made me angry.  I did the mental tally at the time of what I was supposed to be doing: 20 hrs/week teaching, 20 hrs/week research, 20 hrs/week coursework, 10 hrs/week study for generals, 8 hrs a week for various Church commitments, let alone commuting, managing the community garden, taking care of domestic stuff, and doing things like sleeping and eating.  If you give yourself a frugal 9 hours a day for sleeping, eating, and getting ready, then you have all of 105 hours a week to do everything else.  There just wasn't enough time in the day.

Something had to give, and unfortunately the thing that took the brunt of it was my research and prepping for generals, which was arguably the most important stuff of all.  (That said, I've been pretty terrible at all of my obligations.)  But how did it happen that the my highest priority got left behind?  Because there was just too much stuff, the urgent but less important stuff got the air time.  Students need answers now and homework needs to get handed in today.  Generals, which was way off in May, had plenty of potential time.  Well, happy May everyone!

It came to a head relatively recently, and after several discussions with my advisor and other faculty, as well as some soul searching (Do I even want a PhD?), I decided to postpone my generals until October.  My advisor was incredibly supportive, and I'm really happy with the decision.

Since that turning point, I've been kicking up the research and studying back to the level they should have been at, and so I'm even busier now.  But I'm less stressed; how does that work? I think that it has to do with several things.

Before postponing generals was even on the table, while I was sorting through what bothered me about the I'm not actually that busy article, I realized that there was a difference between busy and stressed.  I like to be busy and I hate to be stressed.  I don't think it's bad to glorify productivity, but I do think it's detrimental to glorify being stressed out all the time.  I think it's also not good to glorify busyness for the sake of being busy; streamlining and efficiency are important.  It's also important to slow down for the right moments.

Another facet to this is in how we convey our lives to others.  If you do it poorly, talking about all your obligations can be very selfish.  (I know I did exactly that above, but this is my soapbox; get over it.)  On the other hand, people that care about you actually do want to know what is going on in your life.  So we're left with a tactful balance of revealing the right amount of information: not so much as to pass on the stress or bore the audience, but enough to engage friends and colleagues in your life and give them a springboard into talking about their lives.  We should never be so busy as to forget to care about others, even (or especially) in casual conversations.

(As a side note, I'm not angry at that not-busy post any more; I just think they had the wrong angle on the problem.)

I'm going to be busy for the foreseeable future.  But that doesn't mean I won't have time to talk with friends, play in the garden, or make a nice dinner.  I does mean that I need to manage my time well and be productive when it's time to work.

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