De la vitesse

Here is further academic counteradvice: the reason I dislike academic advice is that it is about speed, about how to wring more out of the day and out of yourself.

I just spent about three hours revising someone’s M.A. reading list, formatting it, sending it off, finding their question (I had written it, but could not find it), revising it, formatting it, and sending it off. I wasn’t being slow or over-careful, it is just that this is really how long it took.

Before I started, I spent almost two hours avoiding starting. I did not want to start because I knew it should take under an hour, or under half an hour. I would have to rush to make it in that time and it would be most unpleasant. So I would not start.

I was only able to start by deciding I would allow the task to take the time it would. Then it was not difficult at all to begin, since I was not about to have to undergo the extremely unpleasant stress of rushing.

Because of the exhortations about doing things in half a hour or less, it took me five hours to do what could have been done in three.



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Filed under What Is A Scholar?

4 responses to “De la vitesse

  1. Oh boy, this really resonates with me. It’s also why I stopped reading Profhacker–too much “do everything efficiently in a half hour!” advice. I’m trying to recognize and work with the grain of my own rhythms. Some tasks take the time they take–might as well plunge in and take pleasure in the doing of them. Other things will expand to fill as much time as I give them, even though the amount of time I spend will bear no relation to the finished product–might as well wait until the last minute and let time pressure compress it. The trick is learning to recognize the difference in advance.

    • Z

      One thing I always think I should spend more time on is syllabus calendars and class plans. But the fact is that class activities always work much better if I come up with them almost on the fly. Not the preparation of material, of what I am bringing to class in terms of knowledge, or of essay questions, but preparation of “lectures” and activities.

      • That’s something I’ve been thinking about for a blog post..the way that “on the fly” assignments generally work better for me than the ones planned in advance. Often the in-class exercises I repeat–because they worked really well in a previous semester–completely bomb. I forget that the energy that the students bring to a particular exercise is a product of *them* and *that moment*–not my ability to come up with a clever activity.

  2. Z

    Yes. I had this student aide last semester who was in awe of how fast I would come up with the right thing to do, often deciding right in the middle of class how the next segment-activity was going to be. I always thought that was out of experience but really it has a lot to do with knowing how to gauge energy and mood.

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