The new semester is getting underway this week, and so I have spent quite a bit of time meeting with new and returning students, undergraduates and postgraduates, and talking about how to establish good work routines and maintain a healthy work-life balance. It is also a time for reflecting on my own work practices, and my goals for the coming year.
Keeping up the research during semester time is every academic’s challenge. This semester I have little teaching, as I am finishing off my Story of Story in South Asia research project. Even so, with meetings and tutees and dissertation students and so on, my diary is a lot more full than it was during the summer.
In terms of goals this semester is fairly clear: I am writing a book. It is more than halfway done, and really starting to come together, but there is still a way to go before I can call it complete. Maintaining progress on this book is priority number 1. I want to have a full and tidy draft by Christmas.
But, as I know too well, being clear about what you should be doing is not the same as actually doing it! So, as in previous years, I am setting myself some clear guidelines for how to work. As I advise the students, it is good to think in terms of regular work practices and routines, rather than grand goals:
- Mornings, I know, are my best brain time. If I need to write, I must write in the mornings. Therefore, as far as is possible, I am scheduling all meetings and supervisions for the afternoons. Also, all non-urgent admin tasks will have to wait until after 3pm.
- For many academics, writing is the thing that never seems to happen, but for me it is reading. I have a lot of sources I need to get through even at this stage in the book project, and so I have committed to a minimum of one hour’s concentrated reading every day, even on the busiest of busy days.
- When I am working on a big writing project, my languages can get a bit rusty. I therefore aim to do some Sanskrit or Pali (or indeed Prakrit) at least twice a week. I have a bit of Avadānaśataka translation work on the side, so it will probably be that for now.
- I will not work weekends. I have been pretty firm about this for many years, but it is worth re-resolving every semester, even if it shocks some of my colleagues! For me, this has always been a sensible position, since if I work weekends I am far less productive during the week. I also get very grumpy, and that is always counter-productive.
So these are my resolutions. I’d better get reading…
Wishing everybody a happy and productive autumn!