Saturday, January 12, 2013

And the Word of the Year Is...Discipline!

The other day (in church, if you want to know) I was given a slip of paper with a keyword on it meant to guide my year. I laughed when I saw the word "discipline." I laughed because I wrote a catapult magazine article about the concept this fall, and have been working in that direction anyway.

And yet there was also a hollow spot in the pit of my stomach when I saw it. I almost wanted to give it back.

But I knew it was the right thing. I needed this. This semester I'm not just juggling two roles--teaching and life--like I did last semester. No, this semester, I'm juggling teaching and writing a novel and life. And while the teaching part is a bit less intense than it was last semester, sometimes it's as much about the number of roles that you're juggling as it is the individual--or even combined--intensity of those roles.

And in this case, I'm not just dealing with that classic work-life balance thing where the "life" part can be easily shoved to the side as needed, but the work/work/life balance thing where both works will be important, and very different. It's not remotely the same as when one is trying to balance teaching 4 classes with life like one did last year, because there it's still one large chunk called "teaching" that's involved primarily. It's teaching and writing a novel, which is something one is used to pushing aside because one's internalized work ethic from one's heritage classifies that as much too fun to devote time to, even when one knows it's worthwhile and has specifically signed up for a class so that argument wouldn't be allowed to hold water.

Granted, the novel might still be pushed occasionally to the side, as teaching will ALWAYS come first for me. The students are the most important, and I am so glad to devote time to their growth. And it is and will be my primary job. But still. The novel, because I'm taking a class that keeps me accountable for writing it, won't be able to be pushed entirely to the side. And that means I'll need to do my teaching-related activities with more--well, discipline--to leave it room. 

It's funny--I know I can do this. I've done it before, many times, the juggling act, in many different types of configurations. I worked more than full time and at the same time did volunteer work editing a couple of online magazines. I wrote a novel manuscript while working more than full time and, incidentally, applying for grad school. And I wrote a dissertation while teaching and being on the job market. Etc. Etc. It just feels new, every time one adjusts one's life and mindset and habits to a new configuration. One has to learn (and re-learn) specific disciplines to create new habits.

And it never, for some reason, feels like riding a bike. But it's always achievable. One remembers eventually what has worked in the past for similar configurations and that one gets the hang of it. For now, here are some largely recycled disciplines I'm working to (re)integrate into my life since I'm now entering into this new juggling act:
  • Removing a couple apps from my phone and giving myself stricter time limits when tempted by online and smartphone distractions
  • Breaking large tasks into smaller bits and starting with the easiest/least seemingly onerous part when there's not a time pressure indicating otherwise
  • "Procrastinating" using other things I need to do anyway (especially teaching stuff and life stuff like exercising, showering, cooking, and cleaning, since the novel will usually be the thing that tries to take over, I'm sensing)
  • "Procrastinating" using things that will help me deal with my issues (especially journaling)
  • Giving myself manageable self-deadlines that are believable, but sooner than ones others would give me, and will allow me to keep progressing on all tracks without ever (hopefully) having to go into panic mode
  • Sometimes making myself simply start that task I don't like because it has to be done soon
This list actually gets me excited about my year of (re)discipline. New challenges really can be fun! (Remind me of that in coming months, eh?)

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