It is not that I must protect my time and project, with management and discipline — it is that I must allow my time and project to protect me.
My mother has been saying I was an organized person since before I started school. I never knew how she had seen this so soon, how she had made this finding with so little evidence, but it is true that I have an innate sense of order. At the same time I am a spontaneous type and I find that, except for certain kinds of projects, a general plan works better for me than micro-planning, which tends, paradoxically, to throw me off my general purpose and themes.
Still it is the beginning of the academic year and you can tell because I am reading blogs about getting organized. Do you write down a road map of how and when you will complete each task you have? Not as completely as some, I would say, and I find this post a better argument for why you should write up your research results (get them out of your head and onto paper, so you can make room for the next set of ideas that will build on those) than why you should make a specific road map for when.
My road maps, unless they are for a very specific project, not for a whole month or semester, are typically too disciplined and too ambitious, too detailed. One may say I simply do not know how to make these well enough, but a general schedule and calendar serve me well if, within their lines, I allow myself to take the path I wake up with in the morning (or that I decided upon only the night before).
My theme for this year is to expand work time. How to do it: reduce “service,” reduce time spent on second guessing and doubt, stand in my own authority, reduce time spent negotiating unnecessary compromises and deferring my own projects to those of others. What to do with research time will take care of itself — I know what the projects are and when the deadlines are, and the work will divide itself into parts as I go. That kind of organization is not the issue for me. The issue is, I question of being immersed in research mode primarily, even as I tend other gardens. This, in turn, causes the rest of life to take care of itself.
A difference I have with much standard advice on how to “do” academics is on the recommendations for time-budgeting: plan your time, set an alarm clock and force out 250 words in 25 minutes, and so on. I have always done some of that, albeit without the alarm clock, and I do like to keep some regular, if slightly flexible work hours. But it is not a greater hurry or an increased sense of discipline I need — I am fast and organized by nature, as my mother pointed out. People also tell me I have a much more energy than the average person, and very great power of will. So it is not these things I need to increase. What I need is time to relax into, to sink down in without transition, to come home to, as the air of my book project thickens around me and protects me wherever I go.
Do you see? It is not that I must protect my time and project, with management and discipline — it is that I must allow my time and project to protect me.