Thursday, October 16, 2008

Making the most of it, part II

(see the original post, here)

A couple of commenters on my most recent post posed an interesting question: What if your fellowship year is at your home institution? If you have to avoid your office in order to really be "on leave," how do you work?

Since I didn't have this experience, I turned to friend and colleague C., who had a non-residential fellowship the same year I did, so stayed close to home. She agreed that staying out of the fray was important, and offered a couple of common-sense tips.

In general, this kind of fellowship requires a lot more self-discipline. You've got to work in your usual environs (home office if you have one, coffee shops if that's your thing, whatever), but you have to break out of any normal rut you may be in. She told me that she did a few things. First, she set a schedule: a certain block of time in the morning was "work time" for her, and nothing interfered with that. Second, and most interesting to me, is that she set up little rituals to mark the transition into work time. For her, it was a morning cup of tea. For you, it may be a few physical stretches, turning on certain music, putting on a specific article of clothing. The important thing seems to be to make it something that you didn't do as a normal part of the work routine when you weren't on leave. This is not the rut; this is something new and different, a way of signaling to yourself that you will be productive for the next three hours, or whatever your schedule dictates.

As long as we're talking about simple tricks, I'd like to share one more that a colleague at Fellowship Institute shared with me: earplugs. She swore by these, even when she was working in her office with her door closed. She said that shutting out even small aural distractions somehow tricked her into shutting out other distractions, and turned her mind inward towards her work. I tried it, and let me tell you, she's right. Best four bucks I ever spent.


AliceAcademic said...

Funny, the ritual you mention works in the opposite direction for me -- mine signals winding down, rather than gearing up for work. I have to put on either sweatpants or pajamas right away when I get home to remind myself that the work day is over and I can (and should) relax.

I'm enjoying these posts, thanks!

Up To No Good said...

I'll take your earplugs and raise you an iPod: if you get the headphones that seal into your ear, they act like earplugs. Bonus: people think you're busy listening to something and are incredibly more likely to leave you alone. You don't have to even have the iPod playing anything; it is a prop!

Dr. S said...

I have to say: I have sworn by earplugs for more than a decade, and being the daughter of an automotive engineer, I've got the hook-up:

Go to McMaster-Carr's online catalog (at McMaster-Carr) and go to p. 1781 of the catalog, where you'll see earplugs of every sort for sale. I love the green taper end ones; I got a box of 200 pairs several years ago and am nowhere near having used them all up. $31.32 for a box. Of 200!

Dr. S said...

But Bose noise-canceling headphones are also excellent, particularly if you happen to have an office next door to a construction site.