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“I’m busy” is a euphemism July 22, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, family, grad school, personal, work.
Tags: , , , part-time, , , work-life balance
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I’ve read a couple articles about how we all get caught up in being so busy.  A lot of them talk about how we need to escape the busyness spiral.  Xykademiqz expressed frustration with people who are always busy.

I guess I’m coming at it from a different angle.

I’ve come to realize that the phrase “I’m busy” is just a polite way of saying, “My priorities are different from yours.”  That is, the requested action is more important to the person asking than the person who is supposed to perform the action.  Particularly relevant to my personal situation, it’s also a way to avoid saying, “I need time to work on my thesis.”

Because I’m starting to find that pretty much nobody cares if you need time to work on that.

“Aren’t you done with that yet?”

“You sure have a lot of time off.”

“I’m sure you can do that some other time.”

“Can’t you put it off for just one day?”

Except I’ve been asked to put it off more days than I even have available to push it off from.  As much as I hate telling people I’m busy, I hate even more that people won’t respect my schedule.  Part of the issue is that I am technically only part time at my job.  If you’ve ever had to work part time at a job without a very explicit schedule, you can forget that.  People want things done on their schedule, and when you’re gone you’re taking “time off.”  Apparently raising two kids and a PhD is “time off.”  I’m jealous of those people who actually get to take vacations on their time off.

A lot of times the outright rejection of working on a dissertation isn’t verbalized.  Kids, in particular, really don’t get that you have other things to do besides take care of their needs night and day.  Not that I can blame them as I sure wouldn’t mind if my mom showed up to clean my house once in a while.  (I know, Mom…you’re busy, too.)

Admittedly, doing all of this is a choice.  It’s just unfortunate that a lot of people don’t respect that choice.  It’s particularly frustrating when people want you to do things that they’re capable of doing but are “too busy” to do themselves.  It seems that rather than get into a verbal sparring match with them about how they disagree with my priorities, it’s just easier to say, “I’m busy.”

Let me drop everything and work on YOUR problem March 23, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, engineering, family, grad school, work.
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I appreciate the fact that I have very respectful and polite colleagues.  I particularly appreciate it when it comes to my schedule.  I only work half-time, and most of them have been very good about making sure to schedule things for when I am there.  On those occasions where things had to be scheduled when I was supposed to be gone, my supervisor has usually asked me first to make sure there’s no conflict.  My hours are pretty flexible, as well, so if I have to stay late one day, I can take time off the following day or something similar.

Still, I hate having things change around too much.  Changes in schedule seriously seem to affect my concentration, and changes in routine just don’t sit well with me.  I can certainly deal, but it always seems to throw me off.

In the past month and a half, things have gotten much worse, schedule-wise.  I’ve had to do a lot of changing schedules because of some PR that the university has been doing both on my research at work as well as my dissertation project.  I have gotten to the point that I now am dressing up half the time when I go to work because, more than once, I’ve gotten a call in the morning that they’d like me to talk to a reporter or in the afternoon.  Half the time, I wasn’t even dressed like a nerdy engineer – t-shirt and jeans was it.  It’s a good thing I live close to campus because I’ve had to make emergency wardrobe trips.  However, despite all of the rearrangements, if I’ve said I had a conflict, no one has ever asked me to change anything.  People have been willing to work around my schedule, which has been awesome.

The only real problem I hit is when deadlines show up.  If the deadline is looming but not close enough that I can adjust a schedule for the week, that sometimes sucks time out of dissertation work (although I am getting more and more protective of that as time goes on, simply because it’s so easy to let it slide).  What’s worse is when there are deadlines at work and the kids suddenly have a million and one extra activities as well.  And I really hate it when someone gives me ‘vague’ deadlines, like “as soon as humanly possible”.  I usually tell them what is humanly possible for me, but I suspect that on a couple of occasions, they felt as though they could do the same thing faster.  It’s possible they could…but it’s also possible that, if they had the same schedule constraints I do, they might not.  As cliche as it is, I go back to Stephen Covey’s 7 habits book.  In it, he says he schedules everything out, and if someone drops something in your lap, you ask them what other thing you should get rid of to fit in this deadline.  (Maybe it’s surprising, but my supervisor is very open to shifting priorities when it’s necessary.  Other people…not so much.)

How do you deal with shifts in schedule and sudden deadlines?

You know it’s a bad meeting when… December 6, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, teaching, work.
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I don’t know if it’s the sign of a teacher who enjoys her job or if it’s a sign the meeting is really boring.

I’ve not been able to make a regular meeting at work because it was at the same time as one of my classes this semester.  Last week was the last meeting of that section, so I made it to the work-related meeting for the first time since August.  As it turns out, twenty minutes into it, I wished I was in class instead.

Now I have another reason to miss teaching this spring.

The Morning Person July 16, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, work.
Tags: , morning person, , , ,

I was the kind of person that went to bed by 9 and got up at 5.  While this schedule worked great as a high school student, but I found that the college culture, especially in dorms, was far more rewarding for those who are night owls.  However, when I returned to college to finish my bachelor’s degree, I started back on this schedule and found that I was more productive.

Then I met my husband, who, unfortunately for me, is much more of a night owl.  Bedtime at 11 pm or later became the norm.  And I’ve been struggling for a long time with the fact that I’m usually asleep during my most productive hours.

As I mentioned on my EngineerBlogs post earlier this week, I’ve been working some funky hours.  Namely, my son’s babysitter was on vacation during the past week.  In order for me to get any time at all in at work, I had to go in around 6 and leave around 8 so that my husband could get in his time.  Not surprisingly, I really enjoyed this, although I did struggle with getting to sleep at a reasonable time.  I found that I accomplished as much in those two hours as four hours during normal working hours.  I suspect some of this is because I had no meetings and no coworkers to deal with, although I don’t think that’s all of it.

After this past week, I’ve decided that I’m going to keep doing this, using those early morning hours for work on my dissertation.  Not that I don’t want to be productive at work, but I often struggle to work on my dissertation in the evenings or afternoons.  I find that other things will get scheduled over the times I want to be working or that I’m working well after I’ve run out of steam.  I think I will accomplish a lot more by shifting my hours to a time when nearly everyone else is asleep.

Now I just have to find a way to get to bed with all the noise and distractions of neighbors doing yard work and kids and husband who like to be up later than I.

So what are your productive hours?  Are you one of the lucky ones who is most productive in the middle of the day?

Semester? What’s that? January 20, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, grad school.
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This ‘regular job’ thing has had an interesting effect on my perspective of time. This is the first year in many where I haven’t had to worry about class schedules and exams and grading.

Wow. Now I am getting an inkling of why people really would prefer to work than go to school.

I was reading around and someone made a reference to how things are going this semester, and I did a double take. I had to think about where we are the semester, how much time has passed since the beginning of the semester, etc.

While I work at the university, I am now staff. The ‘semester’ is the time when the undergrads are around some of the time. In the summer, they’re around all the time. During Christmas and spring breaks, very little. Finals, not at all. But there is only one student I work with on a regular basis. Otherwise, I really don’t pay much attention to them because I don’t interact with them much. The grad students are around most of the time as are the other staff.

I have to admit that I like working. There are deadlines to deal with and things that need to be done, but it’s nice to go home at night and not feel like the world is going to fall on me if I don’t have a homework set done. If I really feel like it, going to bed early doesn’t induce a huge wave of guilt. Except, of course, the dissertation is still there, so it’s not like there is no working…just not the stress of getting something done the next day…or even by the end of the semester.

My schedule instead revolves around meetings, lunch breaks, and project deadlines.

Yeah, I guess I got burned out on classwork. I really am having fun with my job and doing my dissertation work. I think homework is for the birds right now, and I’m glad I don’t have to feel like I’m running around like a decapitated chicken trying to get to my classes or be ready to teach. I feel like, for the first time in a long time, I can afford to focus on a single thing and spend a few good hours on it. I imagine that I will start to miss school sooner or later, but right now I’m just feeling relief.


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