My name is Doug Wykstra, and this is some of the stuff I've read and watched.
A brief reprieve from the conference grind (only 3 meetings today!) left me with what should have been some spare time in which to get some reading done. And I desperately need to get some reading done- it’s an unofficial goal of mine to get Middlemarch read by 6:30 next Wednesday, which seems difficult but is probably mathematically doable. Or it was on Wednesday, when I made the resolution. Since then, I haven’t started reading it.
These are the worst days, the days of reading nothing, the days of a thousand minor inconveniences that all rise up at once and prevent the hours of reading that you are expected to accomplish every day as an English graduate student. More often than not, your own bad habits eat up the rest. If I were on a normal schedule I would give myself a break because this is a Friday, but Fridays are basically my Tuesdays- it’s the second day of the week I can get something substantial accomplished. I could explain that today was an unusual day, because it was, but looking back at my Fridays, nearly every one has had some “unexpected” event that I failed to account for and which robbed me of a few precious hours. I’ll go through the events of today to figure out what my major problems are.
So I started out the day behind schedule- I was determined to get 8 hours of sleep, so I woke up at 8:30. My friend Matt was having me substitute-teach his class because his wife was having her baby (the unusual circumstances of this week, admittedly more unusual than usual), and I had 1.5 hours to get there, so I took my time getting ready for the day. I always have to be careful around the beginning of the day- it’s way too easy to get stuck on the internet- and I ended up burning about an hour before I stepped out the door, and promptly realized that I had walked home the night before, so my car was still in the parking garage on campus. I now had 25 minutes to run from my house to campus (I had no money for a bus, and anyway one wasn’t going to show up), and I barely made it. Then, two hours of class I had to supervise, and 30 minutes to write feedback to students who couldn’t make it into conferences. Four hours into the day, no reading.
I was going to read during lunch, but on my way to the Student Union, I got a text message from a friend I hadn’t heard from in a long time: TURN AROUND. Turns out she was in town for the day to take her Master’s Exam, which was in about an hour. We decided to eat lunch, and ran into some other friends on the way. We all ate lunch and caught up with each other, and by the time I got back to my office another hour had passed, which meant it was time to begin conferences. Here’s where the time-wasting began in earnest: in between my three conferences, I was editing other rough drafts. But I was so slow, and tended to drift off, or pull out my laptop, or do anything but the grading I told myself I was going to do. By the time it was 3:30 and my last conference had ended, I had only marked up two additional papers. Seven hours in, no reading.
I was going to a dissertation workshop at 4:00, so I spent 15 minutes trying to mark up more papers. Didn’t work. Went to the workshop, which lasted an hour fifteen. I declined the invitation to go drinking afterwards, because if I’d accepted then my day would already have been over. So I went to the library, where I had about 1.5 hours to get some work done. I did not get that much work done. Of the work I did get done, the only thing I read was rough drafts. At 6:45, I headed to the Rec Center, where I had a swing dance class. The class lasted an hour. Nearly twelve hours, no reading done.
All of this seemed very necessary and urgent at the time- the dance class is for my mental health, to get away from stress, the dissertation workshop is a good opportunity to build contacts within the department and get a good sense of what a research paper should look like, the substitute teaching was an easy obligation I was happy to do for a friend, and the lunch was an unexpected surprise. The conferences are always a huge time-sink, so I had to expect that. It’s just that on their own, each of these seemed like a small obligation, and yet I’ve let them build up until they completely took over my day.
Of course, I haven’t even discussed the biggest time-sink, which happened after dance class, when I went out to dinner with a friend from the class. I really should have made myself leave early, or better yet, never gone, but I went. Afterwards, I came to the Student Union, where I proceeded to read twelve pages in thirty minutes, and then realized that I needed to start writing if I wanted to keep up my one-post -a-day obligation. Despite my schedule, I really do. So I started writing this, and I had to decide on a subject fairly hastily in order to get anywhere near my unofficial goal of 1000 words a day. I’m going to come up short, but I’m happy I managed to get this close.
So if anyone was wondering, that’s how you read 12 pages in 16 hours. I should get going- it’s close to midnight, so I can get my car out of the garage without having to pay two days’ worth of parking.