The first week of a new semester always leaves me with mixed emotions. I love the promise and opportunity of new classes of students, of 15 weeks full of writing and learning and thinking. I hate the shuffle of getting down a new schedule and learning how my biorhythms match up (or, as often happens, don't) with my obligations. I'm always mindful of my time, how I use it, and how I can better take advantage of my body's natural ebb and flow of energy. This recent article on Prof. Hacker detailed just how sensitive we are to gradual changes in our daily routines.
Learning my best work flow hasn't been easy. It wasn't until my third year of doctoral study that I realized I wasn't like most of my friends. Staying up until 2 a.m. to read and write was just painful. Sleeping until 10 a.m. made me cranky and sore, and I found that I couldn't think clearly for a full two hours after waking. The lifestyle of the lone, night-owl scholar held no appeal.
As Golden Girls as it sounds, I started going to bed at 10 p.m. I was in pajamas and reading by 9:30. Going to bed so early meant that I could wake at 6:30 or 7:00 without much difficulty, so I could get to my office by 8:00. I kept banker's hours, and I found that I could take weekends (yes, full weekends!) off, as long as I kept my 8-5, Monday-through-Friday schedule. It didn't appeal to many of my colleagues--just as their late nights didn't appeal to me--but I found that my work schedule was as intimate as my writing process. It had to be tailored to me.
So this last month has been a process in refining my new work schedule, and things are falling into place. I go to bed by 10:00. I'm up by 6:30 and in the office by 8 or 8:30. I have a pretty cool YMCA 4 minutes from my office, so I can clock in my 8 or 9 hours and then go to the gym.Some days (today) it's a practice in self-talk to get there, but I usually go, and I'm usually glad that I do. I sleep better on the days I work out, and the stretching and strength and core work keep the sore shoulders and back at bay.
New semesters are always tough, and this one is made a little tougher by the addition of new job responsibilities and a new space, but knowing how my mind and body respond to time has eased the transition.