Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Tackling the To-Do List

Whew! I'm sitting down to write my first blog, taking part in the Connect@SWC blog challenge, and honestly, I really should have put fingers to keys prior to today to respond to the prompt. This debut is being prompted by this week's question: "What are your strategies for maintaining focus and motivation at the end of the semester?"

I am a fairly new instructor, so I only have the experience from the summer and this fall semester to glean from, so I can't profess that I am a fount of knowledge about this topic. Like my colleague, Henry, at Bayan Professor points out, the Thanksgiving break didn't do much to  re-energize my battery. Prior to the break, I was looking forward to it being some kind of respite and an invigorating renewal of my commitment to guide and shape the young minds in my classes. 

Instead, I spent my time organizing, grading, eating, rushing around, cleaning my house, and worrying.

Being so busy flying around to different campuses and teaching a few different classes leaves my life a little crazy. My personal life and responsibilities don't pause while I'm taking care of my class' responsibilities. Rude. 

So what do I do? I have always been someone who makes to-do lists. I like the feeling of accomplishment as I cross completed tasks off. Lately, because there has been so much to do, I have also started ranking those tasks on the to-do list. I rank them according to urgency, which can sometimes cause a little bit of stress. Who am I kidding? It can cause a lot of stress. 

I don't find enough time in my life right now to take care of myself. Last year, I lost a considerable amount of weight and I was very proud of myself. I ran every day and I felt strong and healthy. In the last eight months, I have gained almost all of the weight back, I haven't been able to run, and I just feel awful all the time. I have developed some kind of pain in my right knee (I call it freeway flyer knee), and my right wrist gets sore often. I take a little too much ibuprofen. I'm tired. Always. (This is one of many reasons why I am blessed to be married to my coffee supplier.) 

All of that being said, I love my job. I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I love being in the classroom and working with my students. So at this point, I know we are looking at the end of the semester and I get a little emotional because I have spent so much time with a great group of students for months, and I will genuinely miss them. At this point in the semester, it's my job to help them finish strong. They are feeling the same kind of energy slack that I'm feeling, so I have to "bring it" when I am communicating with them. 

In the last week, I have cleaned my desk, reorganized, and I've managed to get everything lined up to help them through the end of the course. I went out with my sons and bought our Christmas tree last night (in the pouring rain), and we moved our living room around, so it felt good getting organized. We only have a few days of classes left, and we should be proud of the work we've done. It has been a great semester, and we have accomplished great things! YAY!

So now, I'm going to mark another strike through on my to-do list and publish this post.

*Feeling accomplished*


  1. Thanks for the shout out, Laura. The self-care thing is so, so important. It seems every mid-semester, I fall into old habits. Two steps forward, one step back - often more than one step. The to-do list works for me, too. I think it offers me some feeling of control, illusory as that is. The trick for me is to, as you suggest, prioritize. To keep the list short and manageable. Sending you positive end-of-semester vibes.

  2. Thanks for sharing the physical aspect of this as well. I'm always seeking solutions to balance out the sedentary nature of our jobs, particularly when it comes to grading. How do we get the work done and stay healthy, too?

  3. I saw one of our colleagues standing up in his office at his computer and I joked with him about putting a treadmill at his desk... and really, it would be a great idea. (If I had an office). But really, so much of my time is spent on my couch leaning over a pile of papers or typing away on a computer. I need to get up and get moving!!! We should think about a fitness pact among the teachers. :)