The winter quarter is only two weeks old, and I’m already exhausted. It doesn’t help that I had a conference deadline early in January and developed a backlog of other obligations as a result. But it has me realizing that I haven’t quite found the sustainable pace I thought I had finally achieved.
After my daughter was born I spent every minute I wasn’t with her during the academic year constantly working. I would then spend the winter and summer breaks trying to recover from the exhaustion and burnout. Things improved a bit when I resigned as director of iTec, mostly because I started to be as good at saying no to research projects as I had become at saying no to service obligations. It also lifted a psychological weight: if a paper didn’t get written or I didn’t make progress on a project, I just let go and didn’t agonize over it. I no longer spent the entire spring quarter tired and burned out, which improved my productivity.
I particularly hit my stride this academic year. The fall quarter wasn’t overwhelming, and December was productive, fun, and relaxing. I was convinced I had finally nailed the right work pace, but this quarter has knocked me back again. It doesn’t help that I have a completely new class to teach, but it seems to be the many service obligations that are eating up my time. I’m going to have to see whether I need to say no more often, whether it’s the insomnia I’m still fighting, or whether it’s a mental adjustment that I need. Finding the right pace seems to be a work in progress for me.