Saturday, September 08, 2007

Fall Clean-Up

Here in the Northeast, I see a number of print ads for yard services that offer "fall clean-up specials." Since our yard is the bane of the neighborhood, I have only the vaguest idea of what that might mean (trimming? mulching? burning and salting the earth like Napoleon's army?). But I wish to God that these people would offer the same services for office work.

When I started the semester, I had this bizarre goal of trying to keep my emails to 3 pages. That seems like the outside limit on the number of projects I can visually keep in line at any one time. If an email falls onto page 4 or 5, that's it---it's over. Out of sight, out of mind. At the same time, in keeping with The Year of No {tm}, I've been consciously trying to avoid being bullied by my email. There's just no need to answer anything immediately, I kept thinking, and sometimes, if you're lucky, they solve themselves. As a result of this latter practice, I've been more prepared for my classes this semester than at any time in the last two years. Not only have I read the material, I've thought about it, specified passages that I want the students to look at, read their preliminary writing on the readings, and looked at some secondary criticism on it. I've planned at least 4 different activities per class to keep my little chickens (my internal name for my first year students) occupied during their 100 minute class period. All of which is making me more relaxed and able to enjoy the classes more. In addition, I'm getting on top of an article that is just shy of being finished and a conference presentation in October.

You've probably anticipated the problem here: all of the work and joy of focusing on teaching and research and not on incoming tasks has let my wretched inbox swell to gigantic proportions. When it hit 6 pages yesterday, I knew I was in trouble. And indeed, I received a voicemail and email from a panicky intern who needs to meet with me immediately and why didn't I respond to her earlier email?! I've missed the deadline for participating in the curriculum extravaganza; I've not told the members of my ACUN when we're meeting this semester, and so they're scheduling other meetings in our usual time block, blah, blah, blah.

Obviously, what I need is a clean-up, or perhaps several clean-ups during the week. If for no other reason that to quell the panic of those who are used to me responding immediately. But now I begin to see how the teaching and research suffer at the hands of all of the other CRAP that has to be done, and demands done immediately if not sooner. And I have to wonder: have I unwittingly sunk myself over the last three years? Is it the case that in my fervor to try to clear the plate, I answered everyone as fast as I could, like a little hamster on a wheel, and they got used to it? If I had been slower with responses from the beginning, would the bar be a little less high right now? Would I get three days to answer an email from my intern rather than one?

This morning was my first allotted clean-up: I've spent two hours on email, and I haven't even begun the real tasks that need to be finished. That will be, perhaps, the next 4 hours of my Saturday. And it occurs to me that I'm going to need to continue to schedule at least one of these a week for the rest of the semester. So if you see Ted's Lawn Guys offering a fall clean up special for $39.95, call them up and ask them if they do email and admin services.


Blogger Beth said...

Wouldn't you love to hire an e-mail service? Even my personal inbox has 100+ unanswered e-mails.

Monday, September 10, 2007 7:06:00 PM  
Blogger kfluff said...

I would indeed! I'd pay by the hour! I'd offer benefits!!

Monday, September 10, 2007 9:56:00 PM  

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