El sur

I keep seeing professors advise each other on the wise use of time. One must not spend too much time on anything, because one must progress, I know. But I protest. I am not recommending that people assign too much time to anything in particular. I have just always found that realistic estimates, for time as for everything, are the most useful.

Where I went to college and graduate school, I couldn’t have passed freshman year without using time wisely — let alone finish a doctoral program. Of course one has to plan one’s use of time. One element in this is planning a good pace.  Insisting on speed at all times, or insisting upon filling reflective time with busy work like “prewriting,” is not sustainable.

You have to give yourself enough time, especially to whatever sustains you the most or makes you the happiest. It is allowing myself to relax into a project, not regiment myself into it, which enables me to find pieces of time for it throughout the day. This is not to say that I am opposed to scheduling, you realize — I favor it. My point is that you should schedule so as to liberate yourself, not as though you were in a penal colony. Your schedule is for you.

I have still not put my finger on it but my hunch is that all the discussion about time management is there as a distraction from deeper issues like budgets and working conditions. If individuals’ time management skills were the actual problem, then we would not have to think about the system. All problems do not stem from deficient time management skills. I am more concerned about insufficient authority or means to do what one knows is best.

En el hall de la estación advirtió que faltaban treinta minutos. Recordó bruscamente que en un café de la calle Brasil (a pocos metros de la casa de Yrigoyen) había un enorme gato que se dejaba acariciar por la gente, como una divinidad desdeñosa. Entró. Ahí estaba el gato, dormido. Pidió una taza de café, la endulzó lentamente, la probó (ese placer le había sido vedado en la clínica) y pensó, mientras alisaba el negro pelaje, que aquel contacto era ilusorio y que estaban como separados por un cristal, porque el hombre vive en el tiempo, en la sucesión, y el mágico animal, en la actualidad, en la eternidad del instante.




Filed under Da Whiteman, Questions, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

5 responses to “El sur

  1. Z

    I changed this post because it was too morose. I miss my cat and I have other problems, but I do not want to look too long into darkness. What I cut out, though, does involve another important point. I harp on time management because people have always assumed ahead of time that I wouldn’t be good at it, when I am. So I kept getting all these lectures and warnings which were off point. So my other topic, which I have touched on before as well, is “advice” and “help” that is actually diminishing because it is condescending and underestimates the listener … it may not be intended as sabotage but I think it has that effect sometimes, and I notice that the recipients are often women.

  2. It’s really great that you don’t have a time management problem. I do, and it stems mostly from emotional issues like fear of rejection and the feeling that things in academia have become so corrupt that nothing matters. I tend to fret about this for hours instead of doing anything useful.

  3. Z

    Ah, but I do have *that* time management problem! What I mean is, I don’t think it is actually a time management problem, to be cured with better time management strategies. I think the cure is to go directly to those emotional issues. I have tended to make them worse by trying to cure them with time management … all this seems to do is add to the burden, because then I am telling myself I *also* don’t know how to manage time.

    The thing is that I do, and I did it very well before I got all those emotional problems. And now I mismanage time almost on purpose, because I let myself spend too much time on upper division teaching tasks just because I enjoy them and I currently favor not cutting off anything academic that I’m enjoying.


    The other night I stayed up far too late looking up articles on Unamuno that I didn’t really need to read to give a decent class, just because discussion in class had gotten me curious. Now I’ve spent a long time reading and commenting on just one paper. Next I’m going to make a 100 mile round trip to get a book from a library, because my intention was to teach it and the translation (it’s a course on Latin American literature in English translation) didn’t come back into print the way it was supposed to have by now. All of this isn’t strictly necessary — I could cut corners — but I am into these classes and I am trying to get the feeling of integrity and power and pleasure back. I lost these when I started trying to work in a much more mechanical way.


    I think you must also have good time management. Undergrad, you did an honors degree while working. Then you did a PhD in a hard program in a normal amount of time, while being a TA. Now you aren’t teaching a light load, and you’re active in research and go to all those meetings, and you have some sort of life — a relationship, cooking, blogging, and maybe more. This all takes time management.


    It’s a question of figuring out how to suffer less. Before I had the degree of self doubt I later acquired, I had a friend call me “pleasantly decadent.” This was because the time she was using to feel insecure in, I was using to enjoy.

    A story about this friend and how I used to be. She was at a different UC than I and was slightly less advanced in school. So, when I got my first job, sort of near her UC which was in my home town, she was just starting her dissertation. She was struggling with framing it so we decided I’d come up on a Saturday and spend the night, so I could visit my home town and we could talk about her project. We did this on my activities plan, since although she was living there, I knew the town better.

    So, in the middle of the day I arrive and we go to the beach for the afternoon. She was writing on books I hadn’t read so at the beach she filled me in about them, so I could get up to speed. Then we went to dinner at this Thai place there was, and then to an interesting film at this art theatre that is very beautiful and has a lovely view. On the terrace there, waiting for the movie, we talked a little about some ways to frame the project. After the movie we talked about it some more, and figured it out.

    She said I was “pleasantly decadent” because we had done not one but three fun things in one day: the beach, dinner out, and the film. I pointed out that these activities had hardly been extreme and that we had gotten some serious work done, too.

    My point: living well creates confidence, and not suffering creates time to live well. I used to know this instinctively and I want that back.

  4. Selu

    My problem with time management is that managing my OCD and panic disorder frequently take a LOT of time, and almost always when I don’t have buckets of time lying around to spend on them. So I end up “wasting” time trying to avoid having a panic attack at work, which would be really embarrassing, and end up losing a couple hours when I was supposed to be working on that research article. Even if I do manage to avoid actually having a panic attack, by that point I’m so emotionally drained and disgusted with myself for being this way that the chance of getting any actual work done after that is about nil. At this point, I become very jealous of the other grad students, whose lives seem perfect and ideal and who always seem on top of their research. Now, no one would call time spend taking care of one’s physical health “wasted”. But time spend in such a manner taking care of my mental? health always feels wasted.

    • Z

      This is more or less *exactly* the situation I have — not OCD, but a disabling panic disorder. I didn’t have it in graduate school or early professordom, so I know what it is like not to. I’ve found it very destructive to try to call this a time management problem.

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