ReaderWriterVille

Blog in progress

Tag: productivity

2020: News/Infotainment Detox

Like so many other people, I’m exhausted and stressed by reading the news every day but I don’t seem to be able to stop. I’ve written before about how frustrating I find the conflation of reported news, speculation, and opinion/analysis. I can’t count the number of times I’ve started to read a story only to find that it’s not actual news, just someone’s take on what might happen given particular scenarios.

Last month, I proposed a news detox to TheHusband, who has been in the same stress boat. I suggested that we completely avoid reading the news online and return to the old ways of acquiring information: the television, radio, and printed newspapers and magazines. This would be a big change for us, because both of us read news sites more than any other on our phones and computers. But after the daily frenzy of impeachment “reporting” we had to do something. Impeachment was a textbook case of the problem: there was actual news, as in hearings, votes, etc., but that took up a minority of the virtual inches devoted to the subject. So much of the coverage was about what might happen, how it might affect the Democratic race for the nomination, and so on.

We started in mid-December and set some ground rules. We decided that we could continue to read the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times because they have clearly delineated news vs. opinion sections, and they have very little gossip fluff of any kind. We also allowed ourselves to check in on local newspapers for similar reasons. We could read the front page of any paper as long as we didn’t click through on an article. And I kept reading sports and book sections. So we weren’t completely offline for news.

At first it was pretty disorienting. It turns out we spent a LOT of time on The Washington Post (both of us), the Guardian (me) and CNN and BBC’s mobile versions (mostly TheH). The WSJ and the FT take a lot less time to read online, too, so we were done pretty much when our morning tea was finished. Over the rest of the day we had to find other sources of timepass, which meant reading more on our ereaders, me knitting, and even playing card and board games.

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2020: Wardrobe adjustments

I’m trying a few new strategies this year and I’m planning to write posts on them so that I can go back and revisit how I’m doing in a few months. First up: changes I’ve made to my closet. I decluttered using the Marie Kondo method back in 2015, but now my closet and drawers are full again and I need to purge a bunch of stuff. I also discovered technical clothing last spring and summer, mostly because of one-bagging the Wales vacation and then going minimal on weekend trips. But I also like having clothes that I can wear for a while and that all go together. I wear a lot of neutral colors, but I’ve been buying a few individual pieces in brighter shades to mix things up.

I decided to try a version of a capsule wardrobe called Project 333. The idea is that you have 33 pieces that you wear for thee months and then you choose another 33 for the next three months, etc. It’s more season-friendly, which is handy for people like me who live in places with well-defined seasons. I thought about doing the uniform thing, wearing one outfit all the time, but I can’t see teaching in the same clothes over and over. I’m still scarred by a friend’s teaching evaluations where her clothes were critiqued for not being varied enough. I’ve received evaluations that made observations about my clothes and even my jewelry; they were friendly ones but it’s a bit weird to me that students would notice and comment.

I expanded the 33-item requirement a bit by not counting cold-weather accessories (gloves, hats, and outdoor-only scarves) and jewelry. For the latter I’ll stick to a small rotation which is what I usually do anyway. But I wear multiple bracelets at a time and those add up fast. The point, I think, is to reduce choice, which I practice without really thinking about it. I have a bunch of jewelry but I tend to cycle through rather than making new choices every day. And according to the rules I don’t have to count loungewear, exercise clothes, and underclothing in the 33.

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Weeknote 21

It’s now November. Where did October go? I failed to write any Weeknotes so I’ll never know.

WORK

Classes are into the final stretch, and we are all feeling it. Grading keeps arriving and I keep falling behind. The classes themselves are fine, and the students are hanging in there. But 14 and 15-week semesters are LONG, y’all. Still, Thanksgiving week is right around a couple of corners.

My administrative responsibilities are almost over! We had The Big Memo and The Big Meeting About The Memo and the forces of good prevailed. And you’d better believe I had TheH pick up a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Three years of trying and we finally got past the biggest hurdle.

Other administrative decisions were also made, some of which will have the effect of reducing my likelihood of being called on to do administrative work. Which is all to the good. I don’t know that all the consequences of those decisions will be as positive, but from a MeMeMe perspective it’s at least a draw. I know I’m being vague but I don’t write details about my job here. Even though I have a tiny readership, you never know.

On the research and writing front, I presented a paper in a seminar and got fantastic feedback, the helpful kind that makes me want to keep working on it. So all in all, a good work week.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

My reading and watching has been dismal for the last few weeks, but I l managed to read three books on a weekend with plane flights and down time. I also managed to finally review my October TBR Challenge book in the last post, and I have two more books to review. One was a library hold that came in when a Booker longlist book was finally published here in the US, and it was excellent: Deborah Levy’s The Man Who Saw Everything. The first half left me with a meh feeling, and then the second half kicked in and it all made sense and was brilliant and insightful and all the other praise words. It’s not long, and it’s well worth your time. I also read Sarah Morgan’s newest, a Christmas novel called A Wedding in December and I liked it immensely. It’s women’s fiction but definitely has romance in it, in fact there are two romance storylines. It has plenty of humor and is set at a resort in Aspen but somehow everyone feels normal. I know the holidays are coming when a new holiday-set romance by Morgan appears.

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Weeknote 20

I should just have a standard opening for September: “work is kicking my ass. again. I’ll be back to more regularly blogging soon.”

WORK

We are almost done with the month, which means I might just get my midday hours back. Classes are going reasonably well; the students are engaged and for the most part I am managing not to lecture them in the seminars. I’ve found a rhythm for my law school JSD class, which helps.

I’m almost done with my immediate administrative responsibilities (how often have I typed that sentence?) and now it’s about making sure the stuff that’s been planned is implemented properly. Luckily we have a great staff to support us so it should be fine. I have a few more meetings to set up and a bunch of job talks to attend in October, but at least the faculty meetings are slowing down. Did I mention I had all of three free lunchtimes (our usual meeting and department event time) in September? One got filled at short notice so I went down to two. Come on, October.

I did get my paper revisions done so that it can be sent out, again. Let’s hope for a smooth review process and that it isn’t desk-rejected as not appropriate for the journal. It is turning out to be harder to place than I expected, for a variety of reasons, although it’s morphed into something that looks like other articles in a literature I didn’t foresee, so that’s promising.

With that paper gone I can turn to revisions on another piece of work that I’m refashioning to present in a seminar in early November. It will undoubtedly wind up taking more time than I think it will. Oh, and I have two dissertations to read for defenses in the next two months, neither of which are in political science. Good times.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

I’m reading more from the Booker shortlist and I’m about two-thirds of the way through Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte. I’m enjoying it immensely, far more than I thought I would. It’s been ages since I read Rushdie and I’d forgotten how joyous his writing can be. The reviews have been mixed and I can see why, but I’m along for the ride and the bagginess and occasional literary self-indulgence doesn’t bother me. It is very much a novel about where we are now, but written by someone who has seen a lot of life and is coming to terms with age. So the Quixote angle makes sense.

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Weeknote 19

I meant to write a post at the beginning of the week. Hah. It’s already Friday and I’m not sure where the days went.

WORK

It’s he start of school, which means finishing up the syllabi (always at the last minute for me, always), remembering to hit the “publish” button in Canvas if you want the students to have access, and negotiating a waitlist that is almost as long as the size of the seminar. I drove a few students away with the class requirements, but not enough. I’m almost there, though. The annual meetings always disrupt this process because we teach a class or two and then go away for the rest of the week and then come back and have Labor Day off. I wish we started on the Tuesday after, the way sensible east coast universities do. But the midwest schools have a long semester calendar. Thanks, annoying accreditation association.

I don’t always go to the meetings because they’re disruptive, but this year I had to go and I wound up having a good time. Did the work I needed to do and got to spend time with old friends.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel for my committee’s work, at least for this iteration. We’re not done by any means but we’re winding down for a while. But there are still visits to confirm and plan (so many emails) and memos to write. But I’m not behind. It’s a miracle.

My grad classes are starting out well and the students look interesting and engaged. One of them is half lecture, half seminar, and the other is all seminar. Come to think of it, I’m mostly teaching in seminar format this semester. That’s unusual for me.

READING/WATCHING/LISTENING

Reading, what is that? I did not come anywhere near finishing my 20 Books of Summer challenge, although I enjoyed what I did read and I started a bunch of the books on the list. Barb was so right when she said it was a challenging list. I’m not sure why I read less this summer than last year. Part of it was that our holiday didn’t have much reading time, and I think the other part is that I was working more this summer than I was last year, so there was more academic reading in my schedule. And the Booker reading swallowed a big chunk of time. Still, I enjoyed the challenge and I’ll definitely keep on with the list. I’ll write up a separate post soon.

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