Those big blocks of time

I think the reason women say they need big blocks of time to get work done in is not that they do not know how to work efficiently. As I keep saying, anyone who got a PhD and a job does know how to work efficiently.

Where the front time goes, the first half of the four hour block of which only the last two will really be used for work, is to thinking oneself back into the identity of the person that does that work.

Because if in the rest of life, including professional life, that identity is being attacked, undermined and eroded, the first thing one must do to get work done is to put oneself back together, remember who one is or was.

That is why it is important to remain in that identity at all times, not become the one that is being projected into you, even if survival, in the moment, seems to depend upon not resisting the projection.




Filed under Banes, Da Whiteman, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

19 responses to “Those big blocks of time

  1. Z: This is exactly correct.

    When I was in grad school I would announce to my family, whenever I had studying and writing deadlines, that I was “off duty” for the weekend. Somehow they managed to feed and clothe and clean up after themselves, and these skills are ones that are still very useful to them!

    It impressed them, too, that I had a life of my own, and they still find me interesting to be around.

  2. Z

    I am glad you think this is astute! 🙂

    Yes, around family one can do this quite well, although you still sometimes need that “front time” … time in which you futz around and think yourself into the work identity.

    I have always found it more difficult at work, since it is *so* offensive to so many when you do not put women’s duties first. We just had someone pushed out for that reason and the thing is, she did in fact use womanly skills *well.* Still, she put research first (the way one is supposed to do … and the activity for which one will ultimately be rewarded) and was not liked.

    Watching this happen and having had it happen to me is what really throws me off balance.

    The antidote, though, is to STAY in the research identity, never come out, stay in the protective bubble all the time. That is why I like being abroad, I stay in it all the time … I want to do it here.

  3. This is so insightful that it scares me.

    Last Tuesday, my mother calls me and I tell her that I’m writing my conference talk.

    “Another talk!” she says. “Enough already with these useless conferences and stupid articles. You should be working on getting pregnant instead. You are wasting your life on this useless stuff and I can’t see you being so self-destructive.”

    After that, I spend the rest of the week unable to add a single word to my conference talk.

    I will now try to use your method and wear the research identity permanently. I’m very curious how it will work.

    You keep writing these brilliant posts that are helping me in my career more than I can begin to tell you. Thank you for that.

  4. Z

    I have been stymied by this kind of thing too, so I can really relate.

    I am glad you think these posts are useful, because they go so much against the grain of so much advice (advice which, of course, I think misses the point, but that still affects me because in a neutral world, or the world your standard man, for instance, really does inhabit, would be right).

    What I need to do is to figure out how to protect that research identity from getting eroded by contact with the ways of the general academic world. I think the thing to do is constantly visualize its expansion, as opposed to imagine it as a vulnerable thing that must be protected.

  5. Your posts go much deeper than many standard suggestions on the matter. I can either keep freeing up these large chunks of time or I can try to convince myself that my need for them is an illusion. Yet neither approach even begins to address the underlying cause of the problem.

    I don’t think that cosmetic changes will do it for me. I want to understand why things work the way they do.

    Have you thought about writing a book with your own academic advice? You have so many really refreshing things to say here.

    • Z

      Yes, that is the problem — one can bounce around in cosmetic changes, thus consuming more and more advice, but never getting to the bottom of it. In everything, I have always found that getting to the bottom of things is what does the trick.

      Book, yes, one of the ideas of the blog is to be making notes toward such a book. People have always said this to me … before there were all these academic coaches around, people told me I should be one. However the ground I could have covered back in the day, has been covered and it was in any case information already known to many. I think the information I have now is known to fewer.

      All the super successful types, in work and in life, have this way of not being moved from their purpose, even though they may be involved in all sorts of other things. This is what I think women get blocked off from by the patriarchal systems in place, and that many really original people generally get blocked off from because they are considered scary or something.

      The book would not be a how-to method for getting things done, but a set of observations on ways of standing in your projects and not getting pulled down. Or something like this, I do not have it entirely figured out.

  6. Christine

    Looking forward to your making available such an interesting piece of experience.

  7. “The book would not be a how-to method for getting things done, but a set of observations on ways of standing in your projects and not getting pulled down.”

    – There are SO many how-to books already, and they all say the same. I don’t like either the kind of advice they offer or the annoyingly preachy and condescending tone.

    But I routinely print out your posts and hang them on my wall to keep myself from being distracted from my purpose by all the noise, and I can say that they really work.

  8. Z

    What compliments, y’all! 🙂
    Christine — then I guess I really have to write it, this and other things!
    Clarissa — then perhaps the book is more written than I think. I should print the posts and see how they group.

  9. Pingback: Why We Need Big Blocks of Time to Work « Clarissa's Blog

  10. Very interesting. This makes me think.
    I have a strange thing: Whenever I leave my research, I get totally furious. I get furious having to leave, having to go to the toilet. Every day I go home totally angry.
    It is painful every time to come back from the abstract world into the real world…. especially if the stupid program does not do yet what I want it to do! I wonder if that has also to do with the fact that my research identity feels fragile to me…. why can I not just accept that not every problem can be solved in one work day? It is as if I feel every day of working on the problem might be the last that is granted to me and that I have to prove NOW that I deserve my job.
    Probably accepting being a researcher as permanent part of my identity would indeed help. But I really don’t know how to do that. I always feel like it is a role that might be taken from me anytime. How can I change this? Have you found a way?

    • Z

      Also Zinemin, perhaps consider a related comment, re spiritual battle to shift you out of your identity, in this thread:

      *My* research problems involve having been “raised,” so to speak, to believe the most I could achieve was acceptable manuscripts, not actually original work. This, I realized much later, was not objective information; it came from competitors I did not know were that. But, the idea that what I do will not be of real interest makes me easily distracted.

      • You know, this is extremely interesting for me. I think I have recently had this realization about this ongoing battle on a totally unconscious level. After many years of disappointments in dealing with them, I suddenly got really tired with most male colleagues in my field, even with my PhD advisor, that I used to admire. I have totally withdrawn from them, both internally and externally. And it has a surprisingly positive effect on me, that I never expected. Probably it is because they are indeed undermining my identity. I feel more like myself now that I try to avoid them.

        I know exactly what you mean with acceptable work vs. original work. People seem to accept that women can work hard and do good work, but they find it much harder to accept if we are creative and do something new. For me the only fun in research is in doing new things. And I notice this irritates people tremendously. It is like they cannot place me. I don’t fit into the ‘hard working woman’ stereotype, since I actually work less than most of my colleagues, but I happen to have some original ideas from time to time.

  11. Z

    Maybe, remember that it is an identity, not just a role? A professional identity that will be yours whether or not you stay in this particular job? As in, you’re what the degree says you are even if you are driving a cab?

  12. Thing is, the more your identity departs from the norm, the hegemony, the more you can be seduced into seeing your project from a perspective that would make nonsense of it. If your identity corresponds with the norm, that is it accords with a stereotype, you don’t need to waste any energy regrouping.

  13. Z

    “For me the only fun in research is in doing new things. And I notice this irritates people tremendously. It is like they cannot place me.”


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